With all due respect to Dr. Phil, when I read his advice to those drowning in debt, I wanted his money back. I thought his shtick was that he’s tough – a real straight shooter who drills the point into the heads of people.
While I do understand the emotional problems associated with some shopaholics, others are basically trifling and need to be called on it.
And before you remind me, yes, I myself deserve a tongue lashing for my own financial pitiful; however, I was only trying to get an education. I didn’t get into debt trying to live suburban dreams with section 8 income.
I only took one class in psychology, and have entertained the idea of stripping for supplemental income, but I’ve caught a few episodes of Suze Orman so I think I can offer some solid advice so here we go:
1. Remember how much money you actually have.
Why are you buying things you can’t afford? To impress people you don’t know or probably don’t even like. Why bother keeping up with the Jones’ when they’re likely trying to keep themselves from being forced to eat oatmeal for dinner in the dark?
If you know you don’t have it quit pretending to.
2. Pay your bills.
This should go without saying, but as default rates continue to climb, I’ve heard from individuals I know personally who have developed a convenient form of amnesia. Unfortunately, some people would love to pay their bills only they can’t. I completely understand.
If you’ve lost your job, at least call your creditors and try to work something out.
Let’s not pretend you have no means to communicate them: Nowadays if you even think about being late on a bill, you will receive a courtesy call. Just yesterday a friend told me his lender sent him a text message. Talk to them, and at least make an effort.
For those simply being irresponsible, remember this: When you pawn your flat screen to pay your credit card, Rent-a-Center will play you just as bad as you tried to play those credit card companies.
3. Learn to go without.
I went to the mall twice last year. I made it a mission to pay off most of my credit card debt last year and I accomplished that goal by acting as if the mall had assassins at the entrance door ready to shoot on command if I walked in there trying to buy something. When I did bother to go shopping, I only went during a big sale. I have learned to mix and match old and new clothes. So can you.
Besides look at the trends now: Half of these people look crazy already. No sense in going into additional debt to look like 1991. We had a recession then, too.
4. Grow up.
This is related to #2 and #3, but if you have a bill in a child’s name, not only should you go to jail, but someone ought to call CPS.
5. Embrace your inner cynic.
This goes out to the younger readers in particular. By now you should realize most rappers are living off a loan from their label. These days, however, reality shows are taking over in terms of selling the biggest false sense of reality to audiences.
I see a lot of these characters. Everyone looks so posh, so happy…so paid. As much as I enjoy watching “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” the average unmarried or divorced Jane Doe could pull out the change from their purse and compete with the Mrs. Foreclosures and Ms. Late Payments featured on the show (sans the new cast member).
Don’t let people on cable who can’t afford it sway you into thinking you have to keep up with a certain type of lifestyle.
I hope this helps. I may have failed sensitivity training, but at least I won’t be getting the side-eye from creditors for the next seven years.
Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.