Pay Up: Self-Inflicted Penalties When We’re in Too Deep

If it weren’t for my frugal, old-fashioned Mom and her strong take on living within your means and paying for only what you can afford, I might’ve completely bought in to the narrative that surrounded me in the media, my community, and from my peers.

More = Happiness. Get more. If you can’t afford more, borrow money to get more.

As soon as I turned 18, my mailbox was flooded with offers of credit cards. Now that my son is 18, the same is happening to him. Everyone and anyone wants to loan him money, and the confusing, risky terms of the loans are explained in itsy-bitsy type on the lower half of the back page of the offer.

My Mom tried her hardest to get through to me, and in a lot of ways, she did. But I still made some mistakes.  As it turns out, it is really easy to get in too deep—whether it’s with debt, or time commitments, or other stressors that we take on willingly. It takes almost no effort to say “yes” to too much. But later, having too much takes a toll. And the cost doesn’t only come out of our pockets:

  • We pay with our time. Having too much means we have to work harder just to stay afloat. We take extra shifts at work to pay down that nasty credit card bill.
  • We pay with sleep (or lack of it). I never realized how my sleep was interrupted by a.) lying awake worrying about money and b.) having crazy dreams about being chased or falling off cliffs.
  • We pay with relationships. Sometimes I had to exclude myself from fun events because going out to eat or seeing a show just wasn’t in the budget. That meant missing out on fun times with friends or loved ones.
  • We pay with our health. Worrying takes a toll on your body. For me, it’s headaches. But our bodies have all kinds of ways to make us feel miserable when we’ve got too much going on.

It’s going to take a while to turn the tide, but instead of paying my debt collectors, I’m starting to pay myself with time for quality experiences, paying my loved ones with my time, and for goodness’ sake, no more dreams about driving over cliffs in the desert! Momma needs her sleep.

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