Lessons from Hot Broke Messes

As a first-generation college graduate and daughter of immigrant parents, Nancy Trejos had definitely set herself up for financial success. She graduated from the prestigious Georgetown University and worked for both the Los Angeles Times and Latina Magazine. She soon became the personal finance columnist for The Washington Post.

In her recently released book, Hot (broke) Messes: How to Have Your Latte and Drink It Too, Trejos discusses how despite her career success she was drowning in credit card debt. She admits to living well beyond her means - including impulse buying and emotional spending. Her “keeping up with the Joneses” lifestyle caused her to fall behind on many bills, could not pay her rent, and reluctantly having to ask her parents for help.

Trejos eventually sought the help she needed to get out of debt. Below are a few lessons from Trejos’ book and tips on how you too can achieve financial freedom.

Use credit sparingly. Credit cards offer the convenience of buy now, pay later. Studies have shown that people are more inclined to spend more money using a credit card rather than paying with cash. While using credit may be tempting, learn to say “no” to your wants. Be resourceful and save for major purchases. Pay with cash instead. Having credit is beneficial, but if it’s too tempting only have one for emergencies and put it somewhere that is out of reach and out of sight.

Find a new perspective. Many people get into debt trying to finance a lavish lifestyle through credit cards. Wanting to live a comfortable life is definitely understandable, but not at the expense of your own financial and emotional health. Evaluate the psychological need to live a certain lifestyle and seek to resolve those feelings.

Develop financial objectives. Every three to six months sit down and write down financial objectives and goals you want to achieve. Maybe you had a rough last quarter and need to pay off existing debt or maybe you want to plan a vacation or start saving for something big. Take a look at your budget, evaluate your situation, and decide your next move. This way you will stay current with your finances and be able to plan ahead.

Create a spending plan. Decide how you will spend money each week. Once you purchase household supplies, such as groceries determine how much you will need for other weekly expenses. A good way to do this is write down everything you purchase each day. To help cut spending commit to taking out $20 and use that for any extra weekly expenses such as lunch out with co-workers, etc.

Get help. Trejos saw she needed help and got it. For her a financial planner was the best way to go. This may be an option for you. Or, you may find you’ve gotten in too deep and need a credit counselor. Whatever your situation is don’t continue to deny or ignore your situation, get help now!

Renee McGruder is a former communications coordinator and grant writer at MMI.