Hi, my name is Elle and I’ve had a financial fail with helping others.
Sounds weird, doesn’t it?
But when I was in college I would use my credits cards to treat friends and family or help them out by covering for an emergency or unexpected bill that hit them. It felt good to bail others out or have some fun with my loved ones, but my generosity was killing my finances and really didn’t help anyone.
Giving Until It Hurts
The obvious effect on putting things on my credit cards was on my finances – I was getting into more and more debt. For small things like a night out, it was easy to pay it off, but some of the bigger ones took longer.
At that time I was a working college student – my income was limited and the cards offered were especially high interest. I’m ironically grateful that they had relatively small credit limits or my situation could’ve been much worse!
Still, when I got my bills in mail, I was becoming more and more stressed as the balances grew.
It also didn’t help that some friends who had ’emergencies’ were still out and about, spending money, and having fun (yet had a hard time paying me back).
It hurt me and I was ticked off that I took extra work to pay down the credit card bill. These treats and loans were making me unhappy to say the least.
Getting Rid of Debt and Bad Habits
Looking back, I have to acknowledge that spending on the credit cards, no matter how well intention, didn’t really benefit anyone.
There were some loved ones who consistently needed help, so my loan or ‘bail out’ really was enabling them to continue to not realistically budget for themselves.
Those times I treated my loved ones were fun, but we really could’ve still gotten together and spent little or no money. Getting together for coffee can be just as satisfying as eating out at a seaside restaurant. It’s the company, not the food that matters.
Long story short, I saw that using my credit cards was the wrong way to go about helping. I wanted to to do better and that meant change.
Learning from My Mistakes
The first step was to accept responsibility for what I did – spending money I really didn’t have.
Next, I had to remove the temptation of spending, at least until I could establish better financial habits. Instead of bringing my credit cards with me, I kept them tucked away.
Once that was done, I could focus on paying off that debt. I went all Dave Ramsey and used a debt snowball to get pay them off one by one.
Rather than loaning to family and friends, I’ll give a gift. We have no expectation of getting it back and it’s an amount we are comfortable with.
It’s not a perfect system and yes, I have broken my own rule (didn’t turn out well), but these changes have allowed me to give from the heart and keep our precious and cherished relationships positive.
Giving From the Heart and Truly Helping
Let me be clear – I do not regret helping others. I believe there is profound joy in sharing what you have with others.
I now understand that by taking care of my finances, I am in a better position to lend a helping hand with others. I also understand that helping loved ones doesn’t always have to involve money. I can give my expertise, time, and my ears when friends and family need them.
Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second.