“I Picked Up The Phone:” How One Frugalista Chose Financial Freedom Over Financial Fear and Shame

Covering mouth with a dollar banknoteby Natasha Gordon

Often times we avoid facing situations because of the fear that we have created in our minds. In my case, it was the catastrophe that would happen when I answered the phone from my student loan officer. I swore that they would tell me that I had to pay the full amount by the 15th or else they were going to take my arms off. Extreme, I know. But I was truly insecure about dealing with this large debt I had accumulated from simply attaining the American Dream, an education.

The self-realization all started with a casual invite to a FabNFrugal Financial Genealogy Session by the creator herself, Kara Stevens. Upon arrival, I had some ambivalent emotions about finances and my student loans. A part of me wanted to answer the phone, but I was overwhelmed by the overall debt amount.  I didn’t want to face it because in my mind it seemed unfixable. However, the FabNFrugal session gave me the opportunity to put into words my financial behavior as well as create small financial goals, my biggest concern area being my student loan.

Kara strongly encouraged that our goals not be general but specific to action. There is where I made the vow to “ANSWER THE PHONE”.  She probed “When?” and I committed to Monday, it was Saturday, so I had some time to renege.

Monday came and I stared at the phone for some time before I dialed. The thoughts that ran through my mind were utterly ridiculous, “But you don’t have any disposable money? Where are you going to get the money from? You have car insurance in 2 days. What if they ask you for an itemized inventory of your spending? Do you deserve a vacation?”

Where did this fear come from? I had created hysteria about the payment of this loan. Payment of this loan somehow became a vision of defeat. I was caught and it was time to pay (cue sad music).

I pushed through the fear, and dialed. The usual, “This is so and so from so and so and we are attempting to collect payment for loan…., this call is fully confidential blah blah blah”. It was a blur for the most part, I was eager to hear the “bad news”– more financial restrictions. As the agent pried into my life like a knife on warm butter, I was ready to honorably answer how I spent my money. I had no shame in apologizing for my negligence because I was ready to accept my actions and move forward.

As I write this post, I write it with nostalgia: during the “dreaded” phone call, the loan officers showed that she understood my income and expenses. She was also accommodating when it came to my payment plans as it relates to the bigger picture of my financial life. There was no “KABOOM”.

My first payment put me in a tight spot, but the subsequent payments were extremely below what I had budgeted to pay. Now I am able to pay more on the interest. It was at that moment that I realized paying my student loan wasn’t a defeat in being more financial restricted, but a victory towards conquering my debt.

Some tips from my experience:

Accept your Financial Irresponsibility. Come to peace with the fact that you avoided your financial responsibility but you are ready to accept it and move on.

Be Honest about Your Financial Spending. Make a list of the things you spend your money on. Itemize the list into needs and wants. Make cuts where necessary.

Answer the Phone. Stop missing important phone calls from family members or friends because you “screen calls”.

Set a Payment Plan. Even if it’s $50 towards a loan, you are now $50 closer to your financial freedom. Small amounts are still great gains!

Frugalistas: What financial debt are you avoiding?

 

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