A Much-Needed Financial Slap in the Face

Financially, I’m coasting. I’m comfortable. And I know it’s dangerous.

I once knew what it felt like to survive on $1,000 a month. I’m making five times that now. Financially, my life is a cake walk. Technically, I can afford almost anything I want.

I don’t hesitate to pick up a three-dollar cup of coffee in the morning. I can afford it.

I don’t stop myself from impulsively buying the dress I saw in the window at Banana Republic. I can afford it.

I don’t scrutinize everything that goes into my shopping cart at the grocery store. I can afford it.

When I was living on $1,000 a month, each dollar I spent mattered. Each decision I made about where to and where not to spend my money, hurt like hell.

But with that oppressive $1,000-a-month ceiling removed, I’ve gotten lazy. I’m less aware, less in-tune with my money. My financial choices don’t hurt as much, so I ignore the little leaks in my spending. I can afford it.

That needs to stop.

Masochistic as it sounds, I want to remember that pain – that financial constraint, that twinge of regret because I had to make a difficult choice with my money.

Most importantly, I want to remember the pain so that I have the motivation to never go back to hit my financial rock bottom again. Ever.

I remember life right after college… the trips to the grocery store, the decisions to fore-go fresh produce to save a few bucks. I remember the moments of hesitation in the pharmacy line, asking myself a question that no one should have to ask themselves: “Can I really afford my medication right now?”

I think about these moments, and I get uncomfortable. And it helps me shake off my complacency.

I remember what it feels like to have money limit the way I want to live my life.

It reminds me that I will do everything in my power to never relive that again.

These memories are enough to keep me going, to stock away enough money for those “just in case moments,” to negotiate my ass off when it comes to my salary and to squeeze value out of every last dollar that comes my way.

It also reminds me that I can overcome anything with my money. Through hard work, sweat and lots of tears, and despite my excuses and the circumstances stacked against me, I’ve managed to shape my own financial future. I have the luxury of feeling complacent.

These memories remind me that I can manifest my own financial destiny. Economy be damned.

Harness that feeling and light a fire.

If you’ve ever experienced that kind of financial pain or you find yourself in that place right now, harness that feeling. Recognize it. Embrace it. Then use it.

Use the financial friction and tension in your life as fuel to light a fire. Take that pain and use it to make a big, bold change in your life.

Most importantly, share your story – tell others about the pain you’ve gone through and spread that fire, that motivation to everyone else. Above all else, help save others from going through what you have.

Pain subsides with time. It’s easy to forget those financially painful moments from the past and it’s easy to become complacent now.

So if you need it, give yourself a figurative slap-in-the-face, just as a reminder that you’re in control of your future and every single dollar that comes your way.

Use them wisely and don’t get too comfortable.

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14 thoughts on “A Much-Needed Financial Slap in the Face

  1. Money Beagle

    You can put in some forced savings by increasing your retirement contributions. That way you don’t see the money but the upside is that it’s being stashed away for later…much better than the old $1k / month days!

  2. Agatha

    Where were you this morning when I paid $3.55 for a small birthday card? I wanted to slap myself in the face for that. What a waste! Thanks for the reminder to be conscious of the little things that surely add up

    1. Stephanie Halligan Post author

      Ugh, don’t even get me started on birthday cards, haha. Who should have to pay $4 for a folded piece of cardboard?

      1. Sarah G

        I’m a letterpress card junkie, so I’d have to say that as long as you spend that $4 for a handmade or locally made card, that $4 can be justified much more easily. Supporting your local arts economy is a worthwhile contribution!

  3. Tackling Our Debt

    You’re a very smart woman Stephanie! Yes, it is easy to start spending when we have a nice pay each month, but you have a lot of experience when it comes to managing your money and I’m sure you won’t lose control of your money, or start spending needlessly.

  4. Meecho

    After reading your “Confessions of a Cheapskate” post and having it resonate with my past, and then this post, I recognize many of the same mental jujutsu tactics in myself.

    I didn’t realize how often I tell myself “I can afford it” as well. Too much!

    Coming from a place where one can’t afford something to a place where one can — it’s a shift in power, personally. With great power comes great responsibility 🙂

    Your financial constraints/boundaries have shifted away from the force of external factors to the control of your internal forces.

    It’s no longer a question of whether you can afford something. It’s now a question of “Is this really how I want to spend my money?”

    Enjoyed reading. Best of luck honing and controlling those internal forces 🙂

  5. Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals

    You know what I do when I feel like this? I transfer a huge chunk of the money in my checking account to my Roth or my kids’ 529 plans – that way, I still “have” it, but I can’t access it. It forces me to return to my budgeting roots, by making me artificially poor again!

  6. Sage

    Three kids, all with disabilities. Abuse and poor education at school and now I
    home educate. I work at night and all day and night. I’m not a careless spender but a trip to the dentist would be nice. We do not qualify for grants or any funding for special programs, technology or advocacy because we make above the
    poverty level. I do not need a $3.00 cup of coffee nor a financial slap in the face.
    Would I do better if I gave up working around the clock and got 8 hours of sleep?

    1. Stephanie Halligan Post author

      It’s true – not everyone needs this kind of reality check. It’s for those that have gotten careless.


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