Job loss. A lay off. Fraud. Getting fired. Robbery. Legal Issues. Credit card debt. In a moment, any of these instantaneous events can shatter your financial plan. At times these events do not come alone, but they come in groups – event after event. Unfortunately, life is filled with disappointment, frustration, and surprise. So what do you do when you get the pink slip? How do you wade through a series of financial failures?
“10% is what happens and 90% is how you react.”
Remember this quote during a family financial melt down. Nerves wear thin and perspective is tainted. If couples do not proceed with caution, there might be even more losses (in addition to financial losses) on the way.
12 Action Items For Couples During A Financial Crisis
Talk openly, communicate, and set goals
Financial difficulty brings a slew of questions: What are we going to do now? How will we pay the bills? Should we consider bankruptcy? What if “x” happens? While all these questions are buzzing around, talk with your spouse and communicate. Decide on a direction you both support and start looking forward. Commit to moving through the process together, not alone.
Prioritize together by asking “What is most important to you?”
What things do you value the most? What people do you need around you? If I lost “x”, things would be even worse. Write the items in a list. For example, food, household, transport … Take your very first dollar and apply it to #1 on your list. Go in order no matter how loudly someone else says they need to get paid. If you are not budgeting you need to start. Here are some free budget worksheets to help. In case you find it helpful, here is a sneak peak into how my family budgets.
Switch to survival mode
Bring in the spending tsar who reduces spending to absolute necessities. I suggest you write your needs list and then cut out half the stuff. This is the time to get the most mileage out of every single dollar. While your life might feel completely out of control this is still one area you can control. Spend carefully and intentionally. This might be a good time to sell your stuff on ebay.
You will experience a bunch of emotions from bitterness to guilt to frustration. The emotions will impact your relationship with your spouse, your children, your extended family, your friends, and your faith. Did I miss anything? You may be tempted to lash out to find a place to release your frustration. When you talk about your emotions, use phrases like, “I feel …” This makes others less defensive.
At this point, once things are damaged, it is not the time to figure out who is to blame. This will only serve to push your spouse away. Your frayed nerves will do more damage than good if you let them run rampant. There will be a time for reflection and debriefing, but in the midst of the chaos you will do more harm than good if you start to play the blame game.
Accepting help is difficult because of one reason – pride. Perhaps you will have a new favorite Bible verse “It is better to give than receive.” God may once again put you in the position of the giver, but for now this might just be your time to receive. Standing together is a function of community, and in this case standing alone is a sign of selfishness.
If you allow it financial concern can completely consume you. Schedule time in your day to focus your energy on other chores or tasks. Removing yourself from the worry and strain will help remove the burden.
Turn to your faith
When the world seems to be falling apart you will need a Rock upon which to stand. Continue or begin a habit of daily devotionals and seek the will and presence of God. (Check out these encouraging bible verses)
Count your blessings
Yes, count your blessings. Things may be bad, or awful, or even horrible. But are there probably still many blessings in your life? Focusing solely on the problems and your lack of stuff will only cause depression. Remember that around every corner there is a blessing, if you are looking for it.
Don’t be afraid to dream
If you have just lost a job, this is a great chance to dream. What am I passionate about doing? What have I always wanted to try? This crisis might simply be a hidden opportunity. Look ahead and have some direction. The time may be right for turning a hobby into a business or even trying a new way to make money. Just be sure to ask the right questions to reduce risk.
These circumstances might just be the greatest blessing in your life (in a few years). Journaling helps learn all the important lessons that the school of life is trying to teach. If hindsight is 20/20, don’t you want to have a chronicle that details exactly what was going on and exactly how the problem was resolved?
Stay in control
You may be tempted to throw up your hands and say “I don’t care anymore.” Creditors want to drive you to this state where you just give them what they want to get you off their back. Remember, you don’t need to answer the phone. Whatever you do make sure you break the debt cycle by refusing to take on more debt. Digging deeper is not your solution. Don’t be a good person who make bad money choices.
While a series of financial tragedies can be extremely difficult, your responses during this time will determine a large portion of the situation’s solution.
Photo by Valeriana Solaris.