Playing Their Game vs. Survival Mode

A few weeks ago, after we received our tax return, I came up with a very reasonable, responsible plan to pay off some of our credit card debt with a substantial portion of the amount. I even projected my plan into next year with the goal of eventually paying of our debt entirely.

I’m sure my current position as budgeting instructor has contributed significantly to my fabulous life strategy.

Playin’ the game to win, baby.

But here’s what happened.

Real life and the cyber world conspired to place within earshot one too many conversations about the end of civilization as we know it. Since making my brilliant plan, but luckily not yet sending in the check, I’ve heard lots of talk of global warming/peak oil consumption/terrorists getting nukes/ and other nail biting scenarios in which the fire pit out back becomes the hearth of our home and whatever seeds a person happened to buy for their garden lately is what they’re gonna eat for the next, well, forever.

My thought has shifted to: I’m gonna waste the bird we have in our hand on something pretend like a credit score?

A game changing world event could come along any second. And if it does, are the credit card people going to be banging on my door? No, they’re gonna be in their own corner of the planet, trying to build a fire pit in their backyard. Wishing they’d bought seeds instead of another yacht.

So I can blow a wad on paying them back, or I can spend that money on real items that might help my family survive in our own corner.

Even more than the actual money is how I FEEL about each decision. When I was in the mind frame of paying a lot toward credit cards: trapped, small, controlled, sad, resigned, low. I’m never going to win the game. It’s definitely rigged. Once you’ve agreed to play, you’ve lost. You can lose more or less, you have some control over how far you’re gonna bend over, but you’re gonna lose.

Once I entertained the possibility of continuing to pay a bit more than the monthly minimum (after all, I’m not out to default on my agreements) and invest the rest in our life and our actual future: alive!, powerful, engaged, real.

I’m sure the credit card companies would be thrilled with this plan. After all, the longer it takes me to pay them off, the more they get.

But if the ship goes down, I’m swimming away without looking back. They can keep their numbers and their scores and we’ll just call it good.

And even if it means paying more in the long run, it might be worth it to buy this feeling of control.

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6 responses to “Playing Their Game vs. Survival Mode

  1. I agree that the way you feel about your decision is so important. Of course, I walked away from debt of my own way back, and I’ve still got the shitty credit score to show for it.

    Joshua and I frequently talk about what kind of “investing” makes sense. There’s the investing that’s paying off debt sooner so you pay less in the long run. There’s the investing that’s putting your money somewhere where it magically (evilly) turns into more money. And there’s the investing that’s buying things made out of stone and cast iron, things that make grain into food, things that make heat without electricity. We do some of all three kinds of investing, and we’re always questioning the balance.

    Keep in mind that while there are some kinds of disasters where it instantaneously all goes to shit, the more realistic possibility is a slow, creeping decline, where it would probably suit you well to have those “real items that might help my family survive” but the moneylenders will also be knocking on your door and credit scores will still be important. So, think about balance and about not burning bridges.

    • That’s excellent advice, everything in balance. As I say I won’t do anything to damage our credit (at this point) but simply won’t follow through with my plan to throw gobs of money at them just to get out from under at this moment. I guess my change in strategy isn’t all that radical, it just feels that way!

  2. Absolutely! You go girl!! 🙂 (Incidentially, I asked for a definite lead about a money issue I’ve been thinking about – and I got to read this!)
    From your NDSOO mate!

  3. Yes I definitely agree that how you feel about debt very much dictates how you respond to it. Then again, the logical part of me, also thinks that everything is a state of mind that we can control.
    I personally have found it much easier to move forward upon clearing our debt (we have been lucky). But we have also had to learn to live on half our salary (that took a lot of work, a huge amount of discipline, and a lot of “No’s”!). Although our income has increased now, we still take care very much ‘needs-based’ approach.
    At the end of the day, we can only do what we think is right and best for us. *hugs*

    • I think a lot of my initial plan sounded good because I can almost literally (in my imagination, anyway) feel our debt weighing on us. It is very physical. I can completely understand how having a clean slate would be an inspiration to move forward. I think I was operating under the assumption that this would be the best things for us, financially as well as mentally/emotionally, and then I “tried on” another possibility and it felt like the whole world opened up.

      Sometimes I don’t know if it’s better to try to control our thoughts and emotions so that we can make the most logical, reasonable decision, or if we should just work with what we think and feel and let it guide us to the best solution. Sometimes I want to think that intuition and internal response are what help us on the path, and that trying to follow cookie cutter advice about what a consumer “should” do and about what credit card companies demand and all the rest just makes a person into a robot of sorts.

      In my example – should I ignore my feelings of being trapped and used and just pay off things as fast as possible, focusing on that feeling of becoming lighter; or should I ignore the feeling of weight and focus on the feeling of expanded reality that opens up when I spend that money on my real life?

      Not trying to get anyone to answer this for me, just to say I think these are the personal emotions/sensations I’m dealing with and that I have to either choose between or someone control/eliminate.

      I appreciate all the help in thinking this through!

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