Practical Step Two: Shortfall

Now that you have completed step one by taking inventory when all the ish hit the fan in your life through health challenges or job loss you are ready for step two.

I hinted about this in step one, but to complete step two you need to create a complete shortfall list. Don’t get lost in the weeds about how you don’t know how long you’ll be ill or how long you’ll be out of a job, just pick a reasonable amount of time and work from there.

For me in- my current situation – I chose until the end of this year. My hope is to have recovered from heart surgery and received a diagnosis regarding my other health issues from the neurologist and start 2020 with a fresh plan and a new verve. If that doesn’t happen? We’ll deal with it then by following the same practical steps we are working through right now, with a new set of circumstances.

Since I purchased my home in 2012 and began living independently, this is the 4th time I have had to stop working in order to have surgery/medical recovery. That means in the last 7 years I have lost income on 4 separate occasions for 3-6 months.

Yet, I am still here. In my house. With nearly paid off consumer debt and a house with a lower mortgage balance – now sans PMI! With a car I own outright, and a paid off parent plus loan. Yes, I am currently asking for assistance. Because now I am confident enough to ask for help and believe – through grace – that I am deserving of it*. Prior to this? I did it all on my own. Sometimes that’s empowering, but sometimes, it’s lonely and a protective mechanism. People can’t reject and judge you if you don’t try to connect. You are taking away bonding and community building opportunities. People generally want to help – they just don’t know how. If we all help each other, just a little, when we need it – we are stronger together. And we don’t have to feel alone in our troubles anymore.

When I am able, I flex my frugal MMM muscles and penny pinching while generously paying off my debt even on a prohibitively low income. I’m very lucky. Not everyone can do what I have been able to do just through privilege, differing personal abilities or struggles. What I do on the regular has helped me get ahead despite all the recurrent episodes of trouble. Imagine what my finances would look like today if I hadn’t worked to better them during my good times? Could I weather this storm as well as I hope to?

Unfortunately, you too may have to take a step back after your two steps forward. If you’ve made huge headway on your debt free/fi journey you may have to acquire some debt to live. I’ve done it. You can get through this, but practice mindfulness and awareness. The more you acquire during this time, the harder you will have to work in the future to get back to where you were. If you are knee deep on your debt free / fi journey you have already done a lot of the hard work of reigning in your spending and knowing what your budget looks like. That will help you a lot in this process.

So, back to your short fall list. You have it? I’m an excel fan, so I definitely have a spreadsheet that lists my absolutely bare bones necessity budget next to my regular budget. It is easy enough to pull from that to create a short fall list.

If spreadsheets aren’t for you, just grab a pen and paper and get to it! I recommend taking it down to at least one level with subcategories. You don’t have to go further than than that – unless you want to. Um, or are me – but this will help prepare you for the next step.

What is great about looking micro and breaking down into subcategories? Those problems are small enough to often be solvable and every win will make you feel empowered and grant some self efficacy in what feels like a moment of your life that is out of control.

Are you ready? You’ve completed step one and now two? You have your shortfall list? Step three is coming soon!


*This is where I take a moment to plug some amazing female authors who have helped me grow as a person. Amanda Palmer wrote, “The Art of Asking,” which is the only reason I felt able to reach out and ask for help during this difficult time.
Brené Brown and her writing on shame, vulnerability and bravery. Please take the time to watch her Ted talk on youtube, her recent Netflix special, and to read any of her books. These books have changed my life for the better. I’m more than I have ever been, and am working to be the most me I can.

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