You see if there's one thing I've discovered about people it's that most of them are actually quite nice. We want our friends and loved ones to be happy, we want them to be comfortable, we don't want them to struggle. Think about your friends, family, colleagues, people you love. Would you suddenly think less of them if one day they confessed that they couldn't pay their bills or afford to buy food this week? Of course not; if anything we would rush to help if we could. Not having enough money doesn't automatically make you bad with money or a bad person! And that is why we need to make money and people's lack of it not only an acceptable topic of conversation but a comfortable one.
Through the past two hellish years there is one thing which has got me through time and time again. Other people. I highly recommend talking to them about stuff. I've never been one to do things by halves but last year I found myself in what I thought was an impossible situation. I believed I had done everything I could to be able to make my mortgage payments and pay my bills. I had sold almost everything I owned but still couldn't make ends meet and could never imagine being able to do so again. I thought I had no choice but to go to the bank, cap in hand and sell my house. I was petrified. There was only one other thing I thought of that I could try. I remembered an old school friend on the other side of the world telling me via Facebook that he had gone bankrupt the year before. Surely he would know the procedure and maybe even have some advice to make such a painful process a little easier, right? He was no dropout either; like me he was a perfectly intelligent and presentable human being, with a good job and qualifications who had also simply been dealt a rather crappy hand after his marriage broke up.
I could have just messaged him privately - but then I thought 'Hang on, if there's one person among my 600 or so Facebook friends who has been through this, maybe there is more? As far as I was concerned, if anyone out there had even just one idea or piece of advice that I hadn't tried, it was worth baring my soul for. So, to the absolute horror of some on my friends list, I wrote a heartfelt and desperate post. Something along the lines of 'I have 24 hours to find a way to hold on to my house. If anyone has ANYTHING - a tip, a suggestion or an experience they are willing to share that I may not have tried, please let me know'. That's the in-a-nutshell version, the real one was much better! And within seconds, help began flooding in. It was unbelievable. I thought I had tried everything yet it turned out there was at least a dozen things I hadn't tried or even heard of. All of a sudden I had a huge pool of advice to dip into and by the end of the afternoon, not only had I held onto my house, I had secured it for another six months. I even had two job offers!
As you can imagine, I can't put into words how grateful I was. The funny thing was, people were writing to thank ME! Turned out a good 20 - 30 of my Facebook friends had suffered with terrible money struggles at one time or another. Several of them had also come perilously close to losing their homes; much closer than I had. They thanked me because they had never told anyone, they were too embarrassed but now they could also benefit from the tips, advice and support I was given. Sure, there were a few people whose jaws dropped in horror and distaste and thought 'What the hell is she DOING?! How EMBARRASSING!' To them I say lucky you; you obviously have never been where I have. In all honesty it's probably the best and most valuable Facebook post I've ever written. And hey - I got some brilliant financial advice, from everyone including bank managers and mortgage brokers, all for free!
A lovely lady called Caroline commented recently on my Facebook page how open I was. That's just me, I've never known how to be any other way but even so, I'm far more comfortable talking about money trials and tribulations to people I don't know than those I see every day. Which is wrong because many people around us are worth their weight in gold. The day after my week of living on $6.35 ended, a work mate asked if he could borrow $25 just until tomorrow as he had lost his bank card. I wanted to cry - that $25 I had in my pocket was all the money I had in the world. But I didn't want to tell him that. I knew he would give it back the next day as promised and besides, I could do without it for another day. However when I forgot myself for a moment and casually mentioned in conversation last week that I had managed on $6 his reaction surprised me. 'Do you want me to come over and slap you?!' he said. 'Why didn't you tell me you were struggling? What the hell did you lend me money for!'
I had known this chap no more than a couple of months, if that but in between clearing glasses and serving customers, he got me to tell me all the people I owed money to, how much and my predicted weekly income, as well as my regular bills. He took the scraps of paper home and I didn't think too much more about it. I walked into work the following night and he presented me with a black, hardcover diary. 'This is your new budget', he said. 'Stick to it and you will be debt free in 11 weeks'. I couldn't believe that someone would go to the trouble of doing that for me - but he had. Thanks to him I paid off five debts today and am a week closer to being debt free than I would have been if I had never accidentally opened my mouth. He's the same guy who gave me my Peppa Pig! She sits on my desk and keeps me focused on my goal. Who would have thought a stuffed pink animal would turn out to be such a great financial motivator? Whatever works I guess!