A Picture is Worth Thousands

Gail Vaz-Oxlade, from ‘Til Debt do us Part, lives in my head. Her distinctive voice periodically chirps up and asks, “Do you really need that ?” or “Are you doing all you can to get debt free?”. Really. I have enough weird thoughts going on in my busy little cranium – do I need a financial expert in there too ? Apparently I do.

The husband and I have been in various states of education for the past 7 years. He for his apprenticeship as an industrial millwright and I for my post-graduate in corporate communications. This does not come without a price though the bank calls it “good debt”. Before that, we had two kids pretty quickly after getting married. They aren’t cheap either though I would say they are good debt too. Add to that my low paying jobs and fluctuating employment and we can safely say that adding to our 401k wasn’t really a priority.  No fancy cars. No flashy TV’s. No toes touching foreign soil. But those darn kids keep needing to be fed and clothed and a roof kept over their heads. Though we have the “million dollar family”, I’ve yet to receive a stipend.

So now we are in money management mode. We are both as securely employed as one can be now a days. We are both educated enough that we can stop amassing that particular form of “good debt”. What we need to do is focus on what our education has given us: a future. And that pesky Gail isn’t going to stop harping until we do. Enter Quicken: the financial software that put our finances in to a picture that can’t be ignored.  I needed to quiet her down somehow and this seemed the best way. I hope she’s happy.

I think this has been one of the best things I’ve ever done in terms of getting a handle on our finances. Why ? I’m a visual person. Numbers ? They are abstract and don’t really present a picture that I can relate to. I know that sounds weird but the impact of debt and spending is much easier to ignore when it’s in a boring statement. Charts and tables bring it all in to crystal clear focus that even DaVinci couldn’t top. That Mona Lisa and her smug little smile ? I bet she was debt free and that little smile is her way of gloating over the rest of us schmucks trying to wade out of the weeds.

Who’s to thank for this financial epiphany ? Gail Vaz-Oxlade. I admire her straight shooting, no nonsense,  call a spade a spade personality. I respond to that. If you are wishy washy with me, I will dismiss you.  One of the reasons I watch that show is periodically someone is in worse shape than we are. I experience a bit of Schadenfreude. Not nice I know but I have to get my thrills somewhere. What I really enjoy about the show ? When those people, who give me my superiority fix, get themselves out of their financial jam. They work hard with the plan to secure a future that doesn’t include the panic attacks and homelessness they faced at the beginning of their journey.  They show me that my situation is not all that bad and that I have the power to fix it. Now that I respond to. And despite my nasty Schadenfreude moment, I cheer for them as loudly as if it were my own success.

I hope to hear Gail in my head for a long time. She is helping me to see that our situation is not unusual. She is prodding me towards some education about finances that I might not have otherwise undertaken. She is showing me that our future is ours to change and improve. As I am writing this, the mail arrived. My son grabbed it for me and one envelope from the government looked suspiciously positive. Inside ? Back payment for Child Tax Benefit. Coincidence ? I think not. The universe is just letting me know that it’s listening and to keep working hard. Now which debt should I pay off first ? I think Gail would be proud.

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