professional woman sitting at her desk, knitting

The Secret to Staying Out of the Red and in the Black

When I am not writing about personal finance and consumer debt, I knit. Something about the gentle rhythm of yarn and needle calms my spirit and unwinds my brain.

professional woman sitting at her desk, knitting.

I have managed to finish a few projects, not because I’m a great knitter but because I can “tink” almost as well as I knit (knit spelled backward is tearing out).

Because all knitters make mistakes, tinking is a required skill for those who take the craft seriously. It doesn’t take too many oversized sweaters or undersized hats to figure out that the smallest error at the beginning of a project can produce disastrous results if not found and corrected.

Just two options

Money is a lot like knitting. By some miracle, all knitting consists of just two stitches: knit and purl. Likewise, with money you have two options: spend or save. And who among us can say they have never made a financial error? We all make mistakes but the secret to staying out of the red is correcting the little mistakes before they lead to disastrous results.

In both money management and in knitting, the more you practice, the fewer mistakes you’ll make. And, the more success you’ll enjoy.

If you’ve ever found yourself in the red, it is likely that you didn’t land in that position overnight. Rather, it was a series of small uncorrected mistakes that over time escalated to the crimson condition.

One small mistake

As a college freshman, I made the mistake of thinking I could get away with spending money before I actually had it. The first time I dared to write a check for more money than I had in my account, I was nervous. But I figured with any luck my next paycheck would get to the bank before the one I was about to write. It’s a chance I was willing to take.

Actually, my little plan worked perfectly. My paycheck did get there first and no one was the wiser. So, I pulled that stunt again and again. I got caught from time to time, but cleverly concluded I wasn’t really overdrawn—I was just under-deposited!

In time, I moved my antics from my checking account to a bevy of credit cards. I allowed myself to believe that as long as I could get away with it, it was okay to spend now. And pay and pay later.

Here’s my point: I didn’t start out in the red. But that one small mistake repeated over and again led to debilitating debt that changed my life. Had I corrected my thinking early on I could have saved myself from the disastrous results that were to follow.

Many people—in fact, the majority—aren’t in particularly serious financial trouble. They flirt with the red zone from time to time, teetering between red and black and spending all that they make. For them, being in the red is an attitude that keeps them from making financial progress. 

Simply wait

Waiting is a concept we are careful to teach our children. Too bad so few of us practice what we teach. Simply doing nothing—waiting—is likely the most efficient way to change your mind from red to black.

Wait to spend your tax refund until you actually have it in hand. Ditto for the next commission check or bonus. Wait to buy until you’ve saved the money to pay in full. Let money sit in the bank for a while. Savor the feeling of being in the black.

Thanks to the consumer credit industry, waiting to buy until you can pay in full has become socially archaic. But so what? Patience is a virtue. Waiting builds character. It’s good for the soul.

Now, if you will excuse me I need to get back to my knitting. I have a tiny mitten to finish for a very special little boy whose favorite color just happens to be red!

 

UP NEXT:

How to Help a Young Person Build a Good Credit Score

Everything You Need to Know About Storing Coffee

How to Make Breakfast a Required Subject

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Caught yourself reading all the way 'til the end? Why not share with a friend.

9 replies
    • Marlene D'Aboy
      Marlene D'Aboy says:

      He has tried almost everything and been denied. He was told he has to wait and then try again. I can’t see where that will do any good, I mean the waiting. Guess they want to discourage you. He is sending $10 a month to all the medical billings. He really can’t afford more than that.

      Reply
  1. Diana J Chatham
    Diana J Chatham says:

    Mary I LOVE your column and your advice. Think it should be required reading for all high school students!! I also share your love for knitting as I was taught by my grandmother over 55 years ago.
    When looking at the picture of the lady knitting, something did not look right. I reached over and grabbed my project to compare and I think she may have been holding the knitting backwards? Currently making hats for The Ships Project that get sent to the military so always have one on my needles. Thanks again for ALL you do to keep us headed in the right direction! Diana

    Reply
  2. Marlene D'Aboy
    Marlene D'Aboy says:

    I go along with everything that you said. But what about when you are 63 years old and do not receive Social Security yet or do not have medical insurance? My son who is that age had to call 911 five times on different dates to be rushed to the hospital. He couldn’t eat or drink anything because he threw it right back up. Extensive pains in stomach plus dehydration. In four of the times they could not find what his main problem was and gave him meds after containing the throwing up and sent him home. On the last time it was discovered he had a stomach obstruction and did a minor surgery thru his throat. He was sent home. So far medical bills are almost $200,000 without insurance. He only brings home $1900 a month. He has been sued by one hospital but sending a check of $10 to the others.

    Reply
  3. Marlene D'Aboy
    Marlene D'Aboy says:

    I go along with everything that you said. But what about when you are 63 years old and do not receive Social Security yet or do not have medical insurance? My son who is that age had to call 911 five times on different dates to be rushed to the hospital. He couldn’t eat or drink anything because he threw it right back up. Extensive pains in stomach plus dehydration. In four of the times they could not find what his main problem was and gave him meds after containing the throwing up and sent him home. On the last time it was discovered he had a stomach obstruction and did a minor surgery thru his throat. He was sent home. So far medical bills are almost $200,000 without insurance. He only brings home $1900 a month. He has been sued by one hospital but sending a check of $10 to the others. T

    Reply
      • cheryl shanks
        cheryl shanks says:

        And yet, those without insurance are faced with almost certain bankruptcy if they haven’t gotten any kind of contingency spending in place. The son should check to see if his hospital has a program called caremark. It will let him pay like a credit card, but keep him from being sued. Check the hospital’s charitable programs that they offer. Most offer some kind of help.

    • bobbi warren
      bobbi warren says:

      bobbi warren
      October 14, 2019 at 10:05 am
      Marlene,did your son go onto the healthcare.gov website for insurance? If he is low income, he might qualify for Medicaid.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *