Recovering from financial calamity is fraught with con men, pyramid schemes, get-rich-quick guides, and work-from-home advice. Each of these examples provides a “solution” to debt. With their help, they suggest you can recover and live a better future.
When I was in debt, I wanted a quick fix. Unlike consumption, where it was effortless to swipe a credit card, recovering from debt meant putting the breaks on everything. All the momentum – from advertisements to cultural upbringing to environmental expectations to relationships – was moving me in one direction. I needed to stop, and didn’t know how or who to turn to.
Unfortunately, many of these methods fail to help people in need. They miss the mark, take advantage of those with less, and tend to only work for a small portion of the population.
A couple years ago, I remember wading through my Gmail spam folder, wishing that loan payment and relief emails were true. They marketed special exemptions and “secret” deals to wipe the slate. These clear scams seemed like magical oases of monetary support. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could click three times and my debt would wash away?
The reality is we share two equations for our financial lives:
Income – Expenses = Net Income/Loss
Free Time – Work = Net Free Time
We all know it, but how we approach these solutions varies greatly. We can add to our income through wealth, jobs, or advocating for pay raises. Similarly, we can reduce our expenses by cutting cell phone bills, reducing energy expenditures, or selling a car. What remains is our net (total) positive or negative number. If we are all constrained by these equations, creativity must occur on both ends – with income and expenses.
Today, I advocate for people to reduce expenditures before adding on more income opportunities. Frugality helps people minimize spending and prevent spending – thus heightening net income. By removing expenses, we tend to simplify our lives and work less. Hence, those who pursue frugality first are able to free up time.
While I realize the necessity of work, we live in an overworked and underpaid society. If we can manage to spend less, our lives can be fuller – across economic strata. Free time is a dying quotient across age groups. Even children have less time for recess! Fun, free play is at the heart of creative discovery. When we’re overworked, stress levels spike and life becomes a dull day of shower, eat, wash, repeat.
Before pursuing scams and “special offers” that tack on more qualifiers and hoops, consider reducing your workload by removing anything extraneous. Subtraction is easier and safer than working longer hours, picking up a second job, or working on side jobs. Likewise, it helps you stay psychologically and medically well – not overworked and near the brink.
Start with frugality. Remove all the superfluous from your budgets and lifestyle. Likely, there’s room for less.
If that’s not enough, then start hustling.