Thursday, August 8, 2013

You've Got Mail

Financial troubles and a tendency towards disorganization share a strong commonality, I think. One of the hardest parts of digging ourselves out of debt has been figuring out what we owe and to who. Some of our old debts have gone into collections, like our old satellite tv and internet accounts, and, as I just learned yesterday, an unpaid speeding ticket I got last year. 
I handle most of the finances in our household, and over the years I developed a dangerous habit of avoidance when money was causing me stress, which was most of the time. I left mail unopened, I didn't clear up small debts to creditors I no longer obtained services from, and I generally let things slide until one thing or another would catch fire and I'd scramble to put it out, then continue to ignore the rest. I'd wait until the cable got cut off to pay the bill, or until something came in an ominous pink envelope from a utilities company instead of the usual white. 
I am really trying to change my stripes now, and to figure out where this defense mechanism of avoidance comes from in my life. I do it in my personal relationships, my finances, everything that is most important to me, it seems. So fixing our finances is as much about soul searching and personal character development as it is about balancing a budget sheet, for me anyway. 

It's never easy digging yourself out from a mess. Yesterday I set up an automatic payment to pay off my speeding ticket after my paycheque would be automatically deposited into our account this morning. I got up, made breakfast for my son, turned on Thomas the Train for him, and sat down at the computer to double check that everything had happened correctly in cyberspace overnight. Yes, my paycheque had come in at midnight, and yes, the ticket payment had already been processed. I picked up my BlackBerry and called the 1-800 number on my pink overdue notice to report the payment. They couldn't find my file. They couldn't find my name or address. They couldn't find my ticket. Nothing. I was on hold for about 20 minutes until the pleasant but very inexperienced-sounding (I'm being as nice as I can) girl on the other end said she'd have her supervisor call me back within the hour. Now I'm waiting to find out where, in fact, my 223 dollars was whisked away to this morning. 

I also paid off a small old debt to our old internet provider this morning, which did go through properly. That feels good. It's money out of our pocket at a tough time, but I know the only way things are going to get better is to get all of these monkeys off our backs one at a time, so we can start moving forward instead of floundering around from month to month. 

My new goal is to pick up the mail everyday, and to open it before I enter the house. No more stacks of unopened mail sitting in the mail box or shoved in a corner. That's a simple change I can make that may cause me some minor day to day stress (I have developed a subconscious negative gut-reaction to the mailbox), but it's the first step in stopping small problems from turning into fires. 

I'm off to change out of my pajamas and take the dog for a walk- down the street to the mailbox. 

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