Q: How can I get out from under a hopeless amount of credit card debt? I'm spending more than I'm earning every month, and sinking deeper and deeper into the hole. Help?
Jim: At this point, your greatest enemy is inertia. The worst thing would be to allow the momentum of the pattern you're in, and your personal fears, to carry you further into financial bondage.
So what you should do is whatever it takes. Begin by attacking both the income and the expense sides of your financial equation. If possible, take extra work/jobs. Sell as many of your possessions as you can stand to part with. Cut spending to the bone. Deny yourself small pleasures and luxuries. You'll be glad you did once you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
If your situation is really desperate, you may have to sell an asset (or several) that you prize dearly and "downsize." Another strategy would entail increasing your monthly payments while destroying your credit cards (i.e., no further debt). Choose your highest spending priority -- savings, debt reduction, etc. -- and make those payments first in order to accomplish at least one financial goal each month. Your remaining expenses will then have to fall within your remaining monthly funds. That's a "de facto" budget.
Most of all, be encouraged. No matter how hopeless your situation appears, it can be improved -- often with very small and simple initial steps. Poor finances can make a person feel bad about every aspect of his life. That's why it's so important to do something, however insignificant that something may seem, to begin reversing the trend. The effort will give you a sense of accomplishment, self-worth and control. Once you're moving in the right direction, you can build on your success by learning how to spend less than you earn over a long period of time.
Our website (noted below) has plenty of information and referrals for good financial practices. And if you'd like to discuss your situation with our Counseling Department, call 800-232-6459. I wish you the best.
Q: I'm a single mom with four young children. I think I'm ready to start dating again. My kids need a dad, and I'd love to have a husband. But I'm scared this marriage will end up like my last one. Any advice?
Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: My heart goes out to you; your situation is common for many single mothers. Finding the right husband and a good father for your children could mean a whole new future for all of you. On the other hand, the wrong person could make the challenges you're facing even worse.
My advice is to move forward very carefully. Dating when you have children can be complicated. Don't be tempted to rush into a serious relationship. Marriage is meant to be a lifelong commitment, not something to make a rash decision about. Let relationships develop naturally, and make sure your friends and family help you notice potential character flaws about the men you date that you might not otherwise see.
Also, keep this in mind: It can be traumatic for children when a parent cycles through one relationship after another. So if you choose to date, be diligent about protecting your children's hearts. If you do get married someday, the man you're with will not only be marrying you, but your children as well. It's worth the trouble it takes to slow down and find someone who will treat them -- and you -- with the love and respect you deserve.
For more tips on all these issues, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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