Forced into frugality and loving it!

frugalityVillage1 Forced into frugality and loving it!Photo: coneslayer

An amazing thing happened to my family and I while traveling the byways of credit and financial hell; we learned how to be frugal! Granted, while I was making a solid 6 figures a year, frugal to our family meant deciding to go to the Outback Steakhouse instead of Morton’s Steakhouse, or buying some new clothing items at Marshall’s or TJ Max instead of Macy’s or Saks.

If frugal is defined as sparing or economical with regard to resources such as money or food, truly I was neither sparing nor economical!  When your new economic reality becomes living day to day, frugality becomes a ‘lifestyle’.  In fact, Economists have created a new term for this condition as millions have been forced into living this very way; Forced Frugality.

When Life Gives You Lemons….

As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  And that’s exactly what we did.  I learned the true meaning of frugality is being smart with the resources you do have!  One of the early blogs I read as I tried to wrap my mind around our new “lifestyle” was Katy Wolk-Stanley’s “The Non-Consumer Advocate” blog.    As she says in her About Katy section, “I am here to help people learn to live on less” and I needed all the learning I could get!

What immediately struck me about Katy’s blog was her tagline; “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”.  This was not my first exposure to this mantra since I had read it in an article printed in the Chicago Tribune and written by  Gregory Karp on June 26, 2011 titled, Spending Smart: Living Frugally, being happy the Amish Way.  However, the way it now resonated with me… was new!  There was a deep emotional and physical connection to those words because my family and I were now living them!

True Abundance In Simplicity

Lorilee Craker, author of the book “Money Secrets of the Amish: Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing and Saving” said that culturally, the Amish are so different from us because they are always hunkered down. It’s not, ‘Live it up’ and then, ‘Oh my gosh, we have no money’.  Well, I can tell you that we were never ‘living it up’ nor did we just wake up one day and say, “Oh my gosh, we have no money!”  But…we were definitely not hunkering down either!

What we did was spend money unwisely like tomorrow was guaranteed, being less than intelligent with our money making decisions, until I woke up and said, “Oh my gosh, we are heading toward financial ruin”!  This blog is all about sharing my story and experiences of surviving credit and financial hell and you can read more about that journey throughout my other posts.  The only thing that mattered once caught in that financial storm, was circling the wagons and surviving.  Especially with two young children aboard that wagon!

Learning How to Be Happy the Amish Way

Craker went on to say in Gregory Karp’s article that many Amish enjoy their frugality and many seem to benefit from an inner peace that other Americans will never find as they attempt to keep up with the Joneses.  “They’re not stressed out like we are. They’re not wondering, ‘How am I going to make my car payment”, she said. “They’re secure. They sleep peacefully because they know there’s money in the bank.”

Have you ever had a moment where suddenly everything becomes clear to you, the clouds move on, and you find some direction and inspiration?  That’s what happened to me as I was forced into being frugal!  As I said in my very first post; it is what it is…but will become what you make it!  Excuse my French, but I no longer give a crap about the Joneses and what they have or think!  My only concern became my family, having inner peace, and sleeping well at night!  Maybe you know what I’m talking about icon smile Forced into frugality and loving it!

Frugality Is the New Cool

Yeah, OK, so I was forced into frugality.  But I have accepted it like nothing I have ever accepted before in my life!  Do you know why?  Well again, if frugality is defined as sparing or economical with regard to resources such as money or food, doesn’t that mean learning how to better manage those resources and fine-tuning your personal values along the way; finding out what’s important to you?  You better believe it does, which lends itself directly to step #1 of my 3 Steps You Must Take To Recover From Credit And Financial Hell post: change your mindset! And that’s exactly what I did!

I realized that being frugal wasn’t a label or a title someone gives you for being cheap.  That’s a false perception of what the word really means!  Hell, after letting everyone know my personal story of success and fortune, collapse and reinvention, there are probably a lot of our closest friends who now look at our lifestyle and feel sorry for us, like we’re suffering or something.   And if they do; so what!  I have found being frugal means learning good money and resource management and it’s a lifestyle we have fully embraced as a family!  You need to remember and be conscious of the useful life of every single thing you have at your disposal; food, supplies, money, clothing – everything!

Craker said the mantra described the Amish’s reluctance to replace anything before it’s fully used and when it seems kaput, they look for ways to fix it or re-purpose it.  Before, I was in the habit of simply throwing things away.  Something broke – throw it away.  Something not as shiny and new as it once was – throw it away.  Fact is, we live in a “throw it away” society and I was gladly participating in it…but not anymore!

Welcome To The Village Of Frugality

One of the best parts of being frugal is the lesson we are teaching our children by creating a culture of frugality in our little village.  Our children not only know they have to make do with what they have, but more importantly, they know and understand why!  It’s also more than just a “live-within-your-means mind-set”;  it’s an “embrace frugality” moment where they understand we are trying to make our lives better.

Frugality forced us to allocate our resources on goods and services that would provide us with the best value because having lived through credit and financial hell, we weren’t sure when the next time would come for us to purchase anything new again. This was a really scary time in our lives but it made me personally understand that new doesn’t mean ‘better’, that old or used doesn’t mean ‘not useful‘, and that being frugal doesn’t mean being cheap!  To the contrary; being frugal is the smartest thing we have ever done…even if we were forced into it!

Have you been forced into being frugal?  What lessons can you share about being frugal and how has it made your life better?  Please lend your voice to this important conversation icon smile Forced into frugality and loving it!


3 Steps You Must Take To Recover From Credit and Financial Hell

Changes 3 Steps You Must Take To Recover From Credit and Financial Hell

It’s been 3 and half months since I started the Amateur Consumer Blog and created the Better Credit Blueprint video series.   But it’s been 2 year since I started this long and arduous road back from credit and financial hell!  As I have shared my stories and experiences of being pushed off the financial grid and being treated as “less than”, I discovered from those very experiences that there are 3 steps you must take in order to recover from credit and financial hell!

Step #1: Change Your Mindset

If you want to change your life, you have to start by changing your mindset first because your mind will decide what type of changes you can, and will make in your life. As I said in my very first blog post; you have to come to the realization that “it is what it is” and there is nothing you can do about the road behind you.  But there is definitely something you can do about the road ahead of you and that’s where you need to understand that you can’t change your circumstances with the same mindset that helped get you into them in the first place.  Truly, it will become what you make it!

One of the best blog posts I have read recently was from the Marc and Angel Hack Life Blog titled “10 Habits You Must Quit to Be Happy”.  Let me share habit #6 from that list:  Quit talking down to yourself.

Nothing will bring you down quicker than berating yourself.  The mind is a superb instrument if used right, but when used incorrectly, it becomes very destructive.  Be aware of your mental self-talk.  We all talk silently to ourselves in our heads, but we aren’t always conscious of what we’re saying or how it’s affecting us.

As Henry Ford once stated, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”  One of the major causes of why we fail is due to self-doubt and negative self-talk.  The way to overcome negative thoughts and destructive emotions is to develop opposing, positive emotions that are stronger and more powerful.  Listen to your self-talk and replace negative thoughts with positive ones, over time you will change the trajectory of your life.

And after all, isn’t this what you’re looking to do?  Change the trajectory of your life?  Start by changing your mindset!

Step #2: Secure Your Finances

I’d love to say this is the hardest of the 3 steps you must take but fact is; without taking the first step, step number two may not matter anyway!  I was a loan officer and mortgage broker for the better part of the last decade but after my bankruptcy, foreclosure, and overall financial meltdown, my credit went to hell with it and so did my mortgage career thanks to new credit requirements with the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System & Registry.  Truth be told; I was burned out and needed a new start anyway so I wasn’t entirely heartbroken about it!

For me, that new start really became a “restart”.  Since I had performed over 500 plus real estate transactions over the last decade, I went out and obtained my State of Florida Realtors License in 2011 to take advantage of that experience. But it took me until now, September 2012, to find my stride as well as a broker who knew my story of success and failure, collapse and reinvention, and wasn’t judging me because of it!  We all need a helping hand back up and honestly, I had to re-find my inner entrepreneur as well and learn how to “make money” again.  Which brings me back to the Marc and Angel Hack Life Blog and habit #7 you must quit to be happy; Quit running from your problems and fears.

Trust me, if everyone threw their problems in a pile for you to see, you would grab yours back.  Tackle your problems and fears swiftly, don’t run away from them.  The best solution is to face them head on no matter how powerful they may seem.

Fears, in particularly, stop you from taking chances and making decisions.  They keep you confined to just the small space where you feel completely comfortable.  But your life’s story is simply the culmination of many small, unique experiences, many of which require you to stretch your comfort zone.  Letting your fears and worries control you is not ‘living,’ it’s merely existing.

My fears and worries were definitely stopping me from taking chances!  I had forgotten that by definition, being an entrepreneur is being a “risk taker” and I was no longer willing to stretch my comfort zone.  I finally realized it was keeping me from taking control of my finances and I needed to stop ‘existing’ and start ‘living’  once again!  More importantly, my family was depending on it!  You must regain control of your earnings if you are to regain control of your finances as the second step to recovering from credit and financial hell.

Step #3: Accelerate the Process of Credit Recovery  

You may think you have to wait 7, 10, or more years for your credit to recover after bankruptcy, foreclosure, and financial hell; but you’d be wrong!  In fact, I’m going to tell you something you never hear any personal finance or credit guru tell you; your credit report will be even more screwed up because of it!  That’s right! And I’m talking from experience.  Don’t believe me?  Then click on the Better Credit Blueprint Tab and take my free video course where I show you exactly how chock-full of errors my credit report was!

Let’s be clear here:  I’m not talking about removing my bankruptcy, foreclosure, or tax liens from my credit.  I’m talking about making sure everything pertaining to those negative credit events on my credit report were being reported with 100% accuracy.  I’ve been in credit and lending for over 20 plus years and it absolutely makes a difference while rebuilding your credit after surviving credit and financial hell if liens are being reported as “paid” and show no monies due.  After a $1.6 million dollar bankruptcy, I also found many of my accounts included in the bankruptcy not reporting a “zero” balance or discharged in bankruptcy as they should have.

I found accounts included in the bankruptcy showing as active and currently delinquent with “past due” balances.  Hell, I even found accounts that weren’t even mine!  Unfortunately, if you have gone through credit and financial hell like I have, you may think you can do nothing about your credit and assume creditors, collectors, and the credit bureaus have reported everything accurately.  And again… you’d be wrong! In order to correct those errors and inaccuracies from your credit report, you need to learn how to perform a Credit Audit & Verification of your credit report which I show you how to do, step by step, in my free Better Credit Blueprint Video Series.

Let me share with you one more habit I had to stop doing from the  Marc and Angel Hack Life Blog – habit #9; Quit trying to be someone you’re not.

One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else.  Someone will always be prettier, someone will always be smarter, someone will always be younger,  but they will never be you.  Don’t change so people will like you.  Be yourself and the right people will love you, and you’ll love yourself more too.

By taking these 3 steps, you will begin the process of recovering from credit and financial hell.  By being yourself,  the “right” people will love you regardless of what you have been through and I”m talking from experience!  I have also found that I love myself a whole lot more too!

Are you recovering from credit and financial hell?  If so, did you take any of these same steps I did to get yourself pointed back in the right direction?  Were there other steps you took that helped you change your circumstances?  Please share your stories and experiences here with me  and if you haven’t already done so, visit the Mark and Angel Hack Life Blog and read the entire“10 Habits You Must Quit to Be Happy” post.  You’ll be glad you did (even if it does take you away from my blog. Just make sure to come back :))

What Does Your “Credit” Resume Say About You?

Credit Resume Post Picture1 1024x681 What Does Your Credit Resume Say About You?

Use to be when you got a job after graduating high school and college, you could depend on working and retiring at that job like our parents did.  Not anymore!  In fact, a Bureau Labor of Statistics news release published in September 2010 examined the number of jobs people born from 1957 to 1964 held from the ages of 18 to age 44.  Guess what that number was?   11 different jobs held from ages 18 to 44; that’s a new job for every 2.36 years!  If you are part of this statistic, think you need to make sure your resume is accurate and up to date?

You might be reading this post and currently be unemployed and looking for a job, or employed and looking for a better job to improve your economic reality.  You’ve got a resume; right?  Now imagine for a second that every bit of information contained in your resume was put there by someone else.  Would you want to make sure what they were saying about you was 100% accurate and true?  You better freaking believe it!

You would want to know things like “did they get my name and address right” or “did they have the correct dates of my employment listed”?  What if, god forbid, they put something derogatory in there that would stop you from getting that job or bettering your economic circumstances; would that piss you off?  I hope your blood is boiling at the thought of something like this actually happening…because it is!  Every single day…on your credit report!

Time To Grow Up

Let’s get something straight; if you don’t think your credit report is a resume, you need to change your mindset and become a better, more informed consumer!  Hell; let me take that one step further and say you need to learn how to become a Credit Adult!  This is exactly what Adam Levin pointed out in an article in the Huffington Post titled “5 Ways to Become a Credit Adult.”  In it, Adam states that a lot of people see credit — good, bad or indifferent — as something that happens to them, not something that can be nurtured and managed properly and, of course, protected.

He goes on to say something I’ve been pushing for years; no one has a greater knowledge of what you do, nor a greater stake in your financial security, than you!  So let’s go back to that resume question again; if every bit of information contained in your resume was put there by someone else, would you want to make sure what they were saying about you was 100% accurate and true?  What if you found errors and inaccuracies; would you want them fixed immediately?  Then why don’t you feel this way about your credit report?

Whose Report Is This Anyway?

Picture this scenario – but first FYI, while not blogging, I’m a realtor here in South Florida which actually pays the bills :).  I had a gentleman call me from a New York phone number who was moving here with his fiance and starting a new job on October 1st.  He told me he had already been in South Florida for 2 weeks and couldn’t find a place to rent.  Naturally, I asked him why he thought that was.  Any guess to the answer?  You got it; his credit!

So I asked him; did you think anyone would run a credit check on you? He answered yes.  To which I replied and….   He started explaining how this was wrong in his report , how that was wrong…  Here’s what I asked him next; did you use a resume to get your new job here in South Florida?  His answer was – yes!  I asked him if he checked the work of the person who created his resume for him to which he replied; what person?  It’s my resume – I did it!  If it sounds like he was getting a little annoyed with me, it’s because he was.  I asked him to bear with me a second because it was leading to a point he will use for the rest of his life.

So I then asked him if the credit report the realtors and landlords had pulled on him was his; to which he answered – of course!   I asked him since it was his report, how did it manage to have so many mistakes as he claimed, to which he replied; I didn’t create the report! My point exactly; you didn’t, someone else did!

LIGHT-BULB! What Does Your Credit Resume Say About You?

I asked him if he thought his resume gave employers an idea of who he was as a potential employee?  He answered yes.  So I asked him if he thought his credit report might create an economic reputation about him for potential landlords?  As Gru said in the movie Despicable Me; LIGHT-BULB!  The light bulb had just turned on in Mr. New York’s head and he realized something for the first time in his life; his credit report was his – but not created by him.  He needed to find out what was in it, what it was saying about him, and more importantly; if it was 100% accurate as the Fair Credit Reporting Act states it should be!

The moral of the story is this; credit report accuracy is first and foremost a consumer protection issue.  No one is a better guardian of your economic reputation than you so learn how to protect yourself!  You wouldn’t trust someone to create your resume without checking it, so why would you trust that the information being reported about you in your credit report is accurate and true? The answer is; you shouldn’t!  You might not have created the report, but the information contained in it is yours and will influence people to make decisions about you– just like your resume!

Ever have something like this happen to you?  Do you agree, or disagree, that your credit report is your economic resume?  Have you ever even thought about it in these terms?  This is a great topic to share with others so please pass it along by clicking on one of the social media buttons icon smile What Does Your Credit Resume Say About You?