How To Dig Yourself Out of a Hole

Step 1

Want to dig yourself out of a hole. I mean really want it. Want it because the pain of being in the hole is greater than the pain of getting out of it.

Step 2

Understand your current situation. What is the nature and depth of that hole you’re in?

Step 3

Make a plan. Grudgingly accept that the author’s broken record regarding planning is valid.

Step 4

Make choices every day that support your plan, not blow it all to hell. Digging yourself out is not a switch you flip; it’s multiple actions that compound over time.

Step 5

Notice it gets easier over time. Progress lifts the weight of the hole crashing in around you.

Step 6

Understand that you’re always fighting to stay out of that hole.

Here’s a financial example:

Mary Worth has $30,000 in credit card debt. It worries her because the credit card company may want a kidney in the future, and they likely have a right to it since they own her now. The sooner Mary pays off her debt, the safer her kidney will be.

The problem is that Mary has accepted the societal convention of spending all of her earnings and more to continue membership in the tribe. Additionally, conforming to peer expectations of alcoholic drink consumption has left her kidneys at reduced capacity. The loss of which would require serious changes to her evening activities. Mary needs both her kidneys.

Mary needs to allocate additional funds toward her credit card balance. However, her current work tedium and social obligations prohibit earning additional funds outside of her salary. So, Mary decides a faster solution is reducing funds spent on nebulous discretionary areas and redirecting these toward her credit card balance. But Mary only has a vague notion of how much she spends in certain nebulous discretionary areas.

But Mary is an avid reader and finds a newsletter buried in an internet rabbit hole. This newsletter provides an exercise wherein Mary must download six months of transactions from her banks and credit card accounts. Then assign a category to each transaction and total the categories to discover her average monthly spending in those nebulous discretionary areas.

Having completed the exercise and after the initial panic attack faded, Mary is able to identify $400 per month in travel spending that she could reduce without jeopardizing her position in the tribe. She would redirect these funds to make additional payments on the credit card debt. However, Mary is unclear how this $400 will find its new purpose. It is in danger of falling into a black hole of requited consumer desires. Fortuitously, Mary finds another article in that same internet rabbit hole that suggests she set up a separate account to hold this $400 per month prior to its transfer to the credit card company. Subsequent to each income delivery, Mary transfers her monthly reassignment to a separate holding account.

Mary begins to execute her new plan with gusto. “This is easy,” she thought, until the third week when old justifications crept back, enticing her to purchase a new technological enhancement that would boost her status within the peer group for eight to ten days or until overshadowed by someone else’s acquisition.

Requiring the movement of funds out of the account where they are earmarked for a specific purpose provided Mary a moment of friction that allowed her to reflect on the act she was about to complete. Recognizing the deviation, Mary became cognizant of old habits which would betray her plan. This self-knowledge curtailed future behaviors before they significantly derailed her better habits.

After 47 months, Mary set up the online payment that finally paid off the balance on her credit card. Mary’s kidney was safe. No longer requiring an extra monthly payment to her credit card, Mary was in the enviable position of deciding how to redeploy these funds. Would she revert to her old spending ways or create new financial resources with the $400 per month?

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