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Money problems come in all shapes and sizes.
Clearly, I am concerned about things like a COVID pandemic, war, civil unrest, and economic collapse. I’m a news junkie and am gifted (or cursed) with a vivid imagination. But personal things can cause a lot of upheaval when you are on a tight budget. And if Murphy’s Law holds true (and it often does) whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, generally at the worst possible time.
A financial emergency is pretty overwhelming, and how you adapt mentally can make a world of difference in the outcome.
Here’s an example of Murphy’s Law in action.
Take my SUV, for example. (Please, take it and give me a different one!) I was merrily driving down the road a few years back when I noticed that it was beginning to overheat. I pulled over, let it cool down, and limped in at 20 miles an hour to a nearby shop, hoping it was something little like a leaky radiator cap.
Alas, it was something big like leaky head gaskets. And by big, I mean about $2000. Oh, and another week or so without a vehicle.
My poor little emergency fund, that I had been cultivating and growing, was now kaput, along with a couple of weeks of pay. Imagine my delight.
I was seriously upset. In a funk. Blue as the moon. Which would, of course, get me precisely nowhere.
First, you have to improve your attitude.
If I had allowed myself to linger in that funk, all I would have done was think about what I was missing, how I was stuck at home, and how awful things were. Not productive.
I started feeling ever-so-slightly better when I thought to myself, “Hey, this is ‘practice’ for a real, genuine, can’t-leave-the-house disaster. I can write about this.”
Not much better, but better enough that I was not weeping into my coffee or planning a dramatic 10-mile walk to the nearest Starbucks so that I could plunge face-first into a gigantic Frappuccino for solace.
Then I started thinking about the stuff that I had really planned on getting before starting my no-grocery-store challenge. Like laundry detergent, for example. I was also going to hit the farmer’s market and stock up on some veggies that I don’t yet have growing at my place. Alas, what I had was…well, what I had.
Then I started thinking about the awesome ways I could deal with these things. And I felt inspired and energized because of the challenges. Also, I had something interesting to write about, because it is a sad reflection of the economy that many of us are in a situation very much like this, where one large unexpected expense can be temporarily life-altering.
While it still bit the big one that I had to spend $2000 on a vehicle repair, as soon as I changed my attitude and began thinking about solutions instead of problems, I felt a thousand times better and reverted to my normal optimistic self.
Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics. ~ Albert Einstein
Second, be creative in your solutions.
So, in response to the instant, “Oh my gosh, I’m stranded and I need so much stuff from the store” reaction, I began doing an inventory of what I have on hand to fulfill those needs.
I’d been planning to make my own laundry detergent for ages and had all of the supplies on hand in such abundance that I could wash clothes from now until the Second Coming and still have homemade laundry soap left over for those white robes. (You can read about making your own laundry detergent HERE.)
As far as the food was going, well, wants aren’t needs. We had a pantry, home-canned goods, and stuff in the freezer. I’m always well-stocked and we’d honestly have been perfectly well fed if we didn’t go to the store or farmer’s market for the next 6 months.
I realized that honestly, there isn’t one single thing I desperately needed that I can’t make or improvise. And maybe I’m weird but I find improvisation to be a lot of fun, and I get an actual “rush” when my make-shift solutions end up working really well.
You know that quote, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I really like that far better than the Murphy quote.
Third, there are usually some silver linings.
We had moved recently and now that we were on foot, my daughter and I decided to take a different route and go for a walk each day to explore our new area. This was some great Mom/kid time, good exercise, and we were able to learn more about our surroundings instead of always being too busy to go exploring.
In many personal catastrophes, there are similar perks if you look at them the right way.
- A loss of a job means you have more time to spend with your family.
- A financial crunch means that you might spend more time cooking wholesome ingredients from scratch instead of buying fast food or convenience items.
- Not having a vehicle means you save money because you have no place to spend money.
- If you have more time on your hands, no matter what the reason, you can get going on some of those projects you’ve been putting off.
- When you need something you can’t afford to pay for, sometimes you can learn a new skill and create it yourself.
- If the power goes out, the family comes together. There are no video games or TV shows or internet-surfing sessions to get in the way of hanging out. Memories are made of times like these.
Sometimes I’m astounded at the solutions my kids come up with. They are so bright and creative and those talents really shine in situations where problem-solving is necessary.
Challenges build character.
By learning to turn a negative situation into a more positive experience, we become stronger and more adaptable. That’s what survival is all about. The most well-read person on the planet will have difficulty adapting to troublesome times if they’ve never had to do so. How you react to those bad things that happen is the true definition of the person you are.
Personally, I choose happiness and optimism. The rain always stops falling eventually. And then the flowers can grow.
When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.
— Peter Marshall