85: Camping on the Couch

85: Camping on the Couch

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People

Camping on the Couch

Life begins on the other side of despair.

~Jean-Paul Sartre

Fighting back the tears, I faked confidence. Kristin was six, Kara was four, and we were pretending to camp. The living room sleeper sofa was pulled out and we were giggling as we shined flashlights in each other’s faces under our pretend tent, a warm blanket.

It was January in North Carolina and it was cold and snowing outside. The temperature indoors was not much warmer because our electricity had been cut off. Camping in the warmest room of our home was the only way I could think of to shield my children from the realization that we had no lights or heat.

We happened to be alone because my husband was working. There had been times before when money was tight, but this was different—it would be a turning point in our lives. I was genuinely scared about what would happen if we didn’t turn our finances around. I was almost as frightened that my precious children would realize how afraid I was.

The next morning, a trip to the pawn shop temporarily solved the problem. We had put a Band-Aid on a major mess.

Immediately afterward, we created an action plan so that there never would be a moment of fear attached to finances again.

Step 1—We decided to make gaining control of our finances a positive experience. We decided to control our future. The decision was not easy, but once the commitment was made we decided it would be a fun game.

Step 2—We made a list of financial liabilities. We had to get a clear grasp of exactly what our expenses were each month. We decided how every penny of a paycheck would be spent prior to receiving it. This made us less likely to run out of money before the essential bills were paid. It encouraged us as we watched our debts diminish.

Step 3—We looked for ways to save money. Non-essential spending was cut to a minimum, we used coupons, eating out was treated like a luxury, and we looked to see if competing companies might provide a way for us to reduce essential bills.

Step 4—We sought information that would turbo-charge our recovery process. We began to truly study money for the first time. Reading books on how to regain control of our finances and attending seminars became exciting. We took advantage of the immense amount of information available.

Our situation did not change overnight, but it was never again that dire.

Many of the new habits became a permanent part of our lifestyle. We had to reevaluate what was more important, living for the minute or a simplified lifestyle that radically reduced stress.

Kristin and Kara never understood that our camping adventure was traumatic to me. Now, when we camp, we do it outside as a family.

~Laura Harris

More stories from our partners