Thursday, May 6, 2010

The ostrich syndrome

You know what I'm talking about.  The money is spent for the month and the bills keep coming in.  What do you do?  Throw them in a pile and don't open them of course.  It's just too depressing to open them and you don't have any money to pay them anyway.  Yes, it's a big temptation.  I've been there, I've done that.  I call it the ostrich syndrome.

Now doesn't that look silly?  Yes, that's how silly it is to not open the bills.  Sometimes we can avoid big consequences by making small phone calls.

Open the bills. You may find a pleasant surprise in that you may have already paid the bill and can throw the bill away.  Other possibilities are that your payment did not get applied and you need to review your account to see if the check has cleared and call immediately.  If you are unable to make the payment than add it to your list for monthend (or next payday).  You may need to call the company and make arrangements.  While you are In The Trenches I cannot overstress the importance of you taking charge of realistically deciding what you can and cannot pay.  You may need to disconnect the cable for a few months to get by.  Unless you have a clear and specific plan you may feel like someone with a tennis ball machine shooting out balls at you and will not know which one to hit first.

Checking accounts.  When you are In The Trenches it is even more important to watch everything closely.  Often times your account is carrying a very low balance and one fifty cent mistake can cost you $34 in overdraft fees.  And, if you are not watching closely these will mount up quickly costing hundreds of dollars that could have been used on bills or food.

In my experience it is best to not use a checking account (or debit card) for all your small daily expenses.  Better to use the account for bills only and do one withdrawl for cash expenses such as gas, a loaf of bread, or other in between times.  When you are looking at $20 and need to make it last though the month being aware of every dollar is important.  You've never been in this position?  Try it.  True frugal living comes from closely watching every expense.  If you are not doing it by necessity than try it by choice to establish the disciple needed tighten the belt.  Just like counting calories will help you lose weight, counting your dollars will help you become more economically aware.

Whether you are managing hundreds of dollars or thousands and whether you are doing it by necessity or choice it is important to watch every expense and catagory of expense closely to manage to your priorities and master your frugal living strategies.  Soon you will reach your goals if you do not put your head in the sand.

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