A Cautionary Tale about Financial Problems: A Reader Testimonial

Living above one’s means is surprisingly easy.  I’ve been there, done that — it just takes some time of not facing the reality, just conveniently avoiding to check the books.  I received the following testimonial from Katie Lupo about the trouble she got in:

I have to say that in my mid- to late twenties, life was really good. Well, I thought it was. I had a great job that paid well above what I should have been making at the time and I seemed to have the world at my fingertips. My main focus was climbing the corporate ladder and impressing the people I worked for. I wanted to prove that I “belonged” with them. I bought high-dollar work clothes, to impress. I bought rounds of drinks after-hours, to impress. I bought lunches, to impress. There was this incredible feeling of not only being able to keep up with the Joneses, but to BE the Joneses. For me, impressions were everything and I had the bills to prove it.

Obviously, it caught up to me. There is only so long you can continue kidding yourself — you have no business living a lifestyle that you can’t afford. I was ignoring the fact that as much as I wanted this to be my lifestyle, I couldn’t afford it. I truly had no concept of money management.

I can appreciate what I did wrong and what I had to do to fix it, but, it still stings, I enjoyed living large. Most of my friends are from “those times” and still live the lifestyle that I was trying to. It is hard to watch while friends take lavish vacations, buy new cars, and get other “toys” while I work my tail off to get out of debt and into a better place financially.

It is what it is. It took a couple of hard falls to realize that I couldn’t bounce right back up. I reached a point where I had to step back and determine my goals. What is it that I want now, and will it be the same goals five years from now? I had to appreciate the fact that at any moment things can change. Those people you were trying to impress move on. From a professional standpoint, I finally figured out the way to impress was not through money and expense accounts; it was through knowledge and experience.

Socially, it was a little hard to swallow. I won’t lie. It is still a struggle. I liked hosting great parties. I liked giving great gifts. But, no one is impressed by things that I can’t afford. I know that now.

I wish we could change the saying from, “Keeping up with the Joneses “to just, “Keeping up with ourselves.” Don’t worry about what they do and don’t do, have or don’t have; there is a pretty good chance that they have just as many struggles as you do. I know I can make my own lifestyle when I am debt free. One that suits me and is affordable for at least the next 50 years.

Thanks for sharing your story, Katie.  This reminds me of a time when I got into a financial trouble myself.  My wife and I were building a natural house (a tiny cottage, really) out in the country in our late 20s, and we were going, predictably, severely over budget.  But we just kept going because we told ourselves “but we need this.”  A few months of doing that, and we were deep in a 5-digit credit card debt.  Thankfully we never went so far as to not being able to make payments and now we’re completely recovered, but it’s a bitter memory in my book.  What we should’ve done was to take a good, hard look at what we were getting ourselves into, and adjusted our plans to a more sustainable direction.  Even if we had gotten into a hole, it wouldn’t have been quite as deep.

Katie is currently enrolled in the CareOne Debt Relief Services Debt Management Plan (DMP). You can read more about Katie’s experience in the My Journey out of Debt blog, within the CareOne Debt Relief Services Community. In her blog, Katie explores life without credit cards, living on a ‘real’ budget and making that adjustment from spender to saver.