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How to Get out of Debt: Beware of the Self-Justified Pity Party

Submitted by on December 16, 2013 – 12:52 am 70 Comments

self-pityI had the blessing of going to a dear friend’s house the other night for her annual Christmas cookie exchange.  I’d been invited for a few years now, but never went, for a variety of reasons.  This year, I decided I would make it come hell or high water, and what a super fun event it was.

This friend, an interior designer by trade with a heart for serving others, served us an 8-course hand-made elegant meal, in her tastefully decorated Victorian house, which she and her family have re-done largely by themselves from the shambles it was when they bought it nearly two years ago.

Then we proceeded to do the cookie event, which was a party in and of itself.  Prizes were awarded based on presentation and on taste.  We began the cookie portion by having each contestant present and explain their packaging concept, and wow – talk about creativity!  Then, after we had voted for two presentation winners, we began the tasting portion (yum!!) and voted on the two best cookies.  The prizes that my friend gave out for the winners were super cool: Four tastefully decorated burlap sacks stuffed with all kinds of awesome prizes, all based on different themes.  She must have spent at least $50 alone on each prize, not to mention a good couple of hundred bucks on food for all of us.

Obviously, a party of this magnitude is NOT on The Frugal Farmer family agenda right now as we work fervently to dig ourselves out of debt, and I found myself feeling a bit depressed sorry for myself while I was there.   Here we are, counting each penny, blah blah blah, and they are spending a good $500 just to bless their friends and family.  It didn’t seem fair, and I found myself having quite the pity party over the fact that we don’t have those same options right now.  After all, they completed the Dave Ramsey program a few years back, they made much more money than us, blah, blah, blah.

Then I got the psychological slap in the face I needed.  The logical side of me came out and started talking giving me the good tail chewing that I needed.  What did it say?  It said:

1.  Stop it!!!  They are where they are because of their choices, and you are where you are because of your choices.  Deal with it.  More importantly, that’s not what matters now.  What matters is that you ARE taking the steps to be in that same place, doing what you need to do to get out of debt, and that you WILL arrive there, should you choose to keep on this path.

2.  Be grateful.  Be grateful that you are blessed with such generous friends.  Be grateful that, unlike so many others, you’ve chosen to obey that nagging feeling and start your “get out of debt journey”.  Be grateful that you’ve got food to eat and a roof over your head and family/friends to share them with.  Most people in the world have it MUCH worse than you do.

3.  Turn it around.  Use your self-pity to catapult you forward into more action.  Use it to give your get out of debt journey a jumpstart. Decide in your heart that you don’t ever want to feel that way again, and take the steps necessary to give your journey a boost: sell some stuff, cut more expenses, seek out more side hustle income.  Take the energy you are wasting on self-pity and turn it into action to change your path.

At the end of the night, I remembered that we will indeed get out of debt someday.  Likely sooner rather than later if we keep pushing, and that then we’ll be in a place where we can also bless people’s socks off in whatever way the Lord leads us too.  And isn’t the thought of that much more fun than wallowing in self-pity?

 

70 Comments »

  • I think you’re looking at it from a great perspective Laurie. It is a lot about choices. OK there is some circumstance involved, but it’s also great you have generous friends who invite you to those kinds of parties. Man it sounded awesome as I was reading it. Everything in life is about perspective, isn’t it? You can turn almost anything around by viewing it differently.

    • Laurie says:

      Tonya, you are SO right!!! Perspective is so very important. It’s the old glass half full/glass half empty analogy. Which will we choose to see?

  • Great job at turning some negative thoughts into positive ones. I chuckled when you mentioned pity party as I am prone to throwing some of those for myself when I compare my situation to others. I think you hit the nail on the head with #1: we’ve all made our own choices which helped get us to where we are now. The important thing to remember is that it is also up to us to decide where we go from here. So make good choices going forward (which you clearly are)!

  • And don’t forget life isn’t about quid pro quos. I’m sure your friend didn’t put on the gathering in order to make sure that everyone else reciprocated in the same way. They did it to spend a wonderful evening with friends, and they succeeded. Enjoy the generosity of their hosting and make sure their efforts feel appreciated. That’s probably all they ask. =)

    • Laurie says:

      Exactly, Mrs. Pop!! Her whole entire goal was to bless others. She wanted absolutely nothing in return. Watching us being blessed, she was more giddy than we were! It was awesome, and I am so grateful that I got to be a part of it. 🙂

  • I love your honesty. That party really did sound amazing. It’s a far cry from the kinds of humble get-togethers we host! (We’re getting out of debt too.) I’m glad you were able to turn your “pity party” around and that you feel more inspired to reach debt-freedom because of your friend’s example. Since she went through the Ramsey steps, she would probably be interested in your debt-reduction too. Do you tell her about it? I believe that some day, you’ll be hosting your own great parties. Until then, all the best on your journey!

    • Laurie says:

      Yes, she’s aware of our journey out of debt too, and of course, totally supportive. I can’t wait until we’re at the point where we can bless others in ways like this too. It’s part of our motivation for reaching our debt-free status!

  • Definitely the right attitude here! It can be easy to feel sorry for yourself, but nobody is going to do anything to change that but you. I’ve started using wealthier family and friends as motivation to grown my wealth and change my situation. And while it may not seem like it, somebody could be envying the situation you’re in right now. But it sounds like you’ve got the right perspective :).

  • Dear Debt says:

    Sounds like they hosted an awesome party and at least you could take part. It’s nice to experience, even if you can’t do it yourself. I often get “triggered” by certain things like this and it’s really annoying. I will just have so much self-abuse, guilt and sadness about why my life isn’t where they are, or why did I decide to go to school, or just feeling that this is permanent and irrevocable. But then I have to throw some sense in and calm down. Everyone has their pile of crap. Maybe theirs isn’t debt, but it’s something. We all have our own issues to deal with and ours is debt, but we have a lot of things to be grateful for.

    • Laurie says:

      SO, so, true, Melanie, and so very important to remember. We all have lots that we could list to be grateful for, even if it isn’t necessarily the things we are focusing on at the time.

  • Mackenzie says:

    I like how you turned your thought process around, Laurie. It’s hard when those of us who are trying to climb out of debt, deal with negative thoughts and money and friendship. Great post!

  • I deal with a lot of the same emotions when I see others who are wealthier than we are, or have more interesting careers, or travel more, or have children while they are still a far off goal for my wife and me. Part of me thinks these emotions are a bit inevitable: the grass really does seem greener…why wouldn’t I be a bit jealous when someone seems like they’re doing better?

    I especially like your suggestion to feel gratitude as a coping mechanism: it’s almost always the right response, both logically (we really do have a lot to be thankful for) and emotionally (it works – it’s hard to feel jealousy and gratitude at the same time).

    • Laurie says:

      I think we all do to a certain extent. Part of living in a fallen world, you know? This is where, as you said, we need to use that gratitude as a coping mechanism – a way to fight back from the lies we tell ourselves. Thanks, DB40!

  • Comparing yourself to others is never ever a good idea. People are rarely in the same place in their lives, so it’s never a fair comparison. You only have to be better than who you were yesterday….!

    • Laurie says:

      “You only have to be better than who you were yesterday.” LOVE that, Travis!!! If we can focus on only comparing ourselves to ourselves, that’s when the real success can begin.

  • Great job being so in-tune to your inner thoughts. I think if you were not so insightful you might not have even actively realized WHY you were feeling bad. I still work on that, because if I don’t take time to figure out why I’m down in the dumps then I’m at risk of going home and taking it out on my hubby (poor guy!) or other family members.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s actually something I’ve been working on for some time – the WHY part, as I believe it’s key to helping us overcome our issues, whatever they may be. Love what you said about being at risk of taking it out on others too. For me, it’s more like being at risk of having a long meeting with a big pack of Oreo cookies or a ginormous bag of Doritos. 🙂

  • I have been know to have a pity party for myself every once in a while and it always involves eating too much of something I shouldn’t and bad clothing choices.

    They don’t last long but I am trying to avoid them because they sap all my energy and waste my time.

    Most of my friends are incredibly successful and the pity party usually start when they jet off to somewhere exciting or complain that the cleaning lady missed a few spots. I try and not beat myself up if I wallow a bit but I do try and keep the pity parties very short.

  • Sounds like one hell of a fancy cookie party! Don’t beat yourself up about it. I’m glad you had fun =)

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, my attitude is back on track now, and it was one awesome party. My peeps and I are thinking of doing a mini-version here at the house soon. 🙂

  • My co-workers do a cookie exchange too…I love cookies but don’t know how to or am too lazy to bake them. I’ve been known to throw a pity party for myself telling myself that things are not fair. And sometimes I need that psychological slap in the face too! haha. So true about being grateful for generous friends and wonderful family. Also, it is much more productive to try and improve your financial situation rather than sulking about it.

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Andrew!!!! Doing something to change your situation is a great way to get over into that more optimistic point-of-view, isn’t it?

  • Thanks for sharing this important lesson. We all make our choices about money and maybe one day you can do the same for your friends. Good luck and happy holidays.

  • Man, that party sounds crazy to me! I wouldn’t mind attending, but like you, I would definitely not be able to host one. 🙂

    I think you’ve got a great outlook on your current situation. And remember it is only temporary. That being said, I don’t think I’ll ever be a “money flaunter”, so I might always look like I am not very well off.

    • Laurie says:

      It was truly awesome, Alicia, and really nice to be pampered like that. I’m with you on living conservatively, but I would love to be able to spoil my loved ones like that some day. 🙂

  • It sounds like a lovely party. I would like to throw the occasional party like that with friends and family. Paying back debt sucks but with your perspective, then it will all make sense.

  • I’m a big fan of taking things like this and using it as motivation to take action. If you aren’t taking action against your debt and building a healthy financial future for yourself, you will never get past the pity party stage.

  • Love the honesty Laurie! As others have said, I love seeing the thought process and turning it around to be positive in nature. That can be so difficult to do at times, but is incredibly vital to do and will help in spades. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Agreed, John. If there is one thing we’ve learned this year – that’s it! Thanks for sharing the wisdom – it’s always appreciated. 🙂

  • Britnee says:

    Nice cookie exchange party!! Can’t compare it to the Ugly Sweater Party I attended. I hope after you mentally slapped yourself around you had a great time. I love how honest you are about it. Stay positive and true to yourself you will get there.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, yeah, I’ll be it beat that, although Ugly Sweater parties are a hoot. 🙂 Yes, I did indeed have a wonderful time. It was very much a blessing. Thanks much, Britnee!

  • I love how you turned it around, Laurie. Everyone throws themselves the occasional pity party and it’s easy to do when you’re trying to get out of debt and counting every penny. I’m glad you saw the truth and know that someday … in the very near future … you too will be debt-free and be able to spend your money on what makes your heart happy, just as your friends are doing now. Don’t let that discourage you but be an inspiration. It does get better … so much better!

    • Laurie says:

      Amen to that, Shannon! I can’t wait for the better, but at the same time, am working hard to enjoy the “now”, as there is much to be thankful for. 🙂

  • It’s really easy to have a pity party or start thinking bad things about why someone is able to be so generous (family money, works the system, worse debt than me, etc.) I know you’ll be able to do the same for others someday, so enjoy and let it make you focused on your goals even more.

  • I always take those opportunities to feel lucky. Lucky that I still get to experience the finer things in life through friends and not have to pay for those things myself.

  • I can totally understand how those initial feelings could be there, after all we’re only human. That being said, it seems like you have a great perspective on the whole thing and how we can really only control and focus on our own situation – while also being thankful for what we do have.

  • E.M. says:

    Pity parties can be so hard to knock yourself out of, especially in the moment. You did a great job on holding your head high and enjoying the party, though, and that’s what counts! Having faith and believing that you will be in that position soon is important. Giving into the pity is a bad trap to fall in. I’ve definitely been feeling a bit of this lately as I see some college friends getting engaged and buying houses when I’m nowhere near either of those.

    • Laurie says:

      So, true, E.M., about those pity parties being easy to fall into. I remember feeling the same as you before we were married/owned a house. I just wanted it NOW! You guys will be glad you waited until the time is right, though. It makes it all so much more fun. 🙂

  • Sounds like a lovely party, but I can totally understand why you might have been feeling kind of down about the whole thing. It’s a lot harder to be thankful for what we have and grateful for friends who have good things then to be a little annoyed that other people have things that it doesn’t appear (in some cases-sounds like your friends worked hard to get where they are) they worked hard for. When I catch myself thinking like that I try to nip it immediately so it doesn’t get the best of me.

  • Laurie, I absolutely love this post. I like that you don’t take the, “It’s going to be OK, I feel bad for you approach”. A little tough love is what we all need some times!

  • anna says:

    Okay, that pic is stinkin’ adorable. I love how you turned a pity party around to one of gratitude and motivation, Laurie! I get caught up with those thoughts as well, but as soon as I catch it I try to turn it around and become thankful of where I’m at and my *own* journey, rather than comparing myself to others. It sounds like a fun night overall! 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Isn’t it? 🙂 Sounds like the same approach works for both of us, Anna. Yes, it really was a fun night – girlfriends and cookies: how can you beat that? 🙂

  • Liz says:

    I am totally guilty of sometimes feeling sometimes. I have so much to be greatful for, my health, job, family, home, dog, and friends! These are priceless riches.

  • Wonderful perspective. Feeling sorry for ourselves, as tempting as it is sometimes, won’t allow us to keep making progress!

  • Brad Chaffee says:

    This is so easy to do when you start comparing your situation to others. I think we are all guilty of it at some point. Unfortunately we aren’t always as quick to snap back into our own reality like you seemed to be in this situation. Good for you!

    The hardest part about getting out of debt isn’t actually paying down the debt itself. It’s usually the psychological gymnastics our minds play on us while we’re doing so. How we get through those moments dictate our timeline to debt freedom.

    It’s tough but you did awesome!! 😀

    • Laurie says:

      Brad, LOVE the wisdom you shared about the psychological battle of debt – it truly is the most difficult part of the road to debt free!

  • Self pity is a tough one to beat Laurie. I think everyone who has been in debt has been there at some point. I’m glad you can look at it in the right way though

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks, Robert! I figure action gets us further than self-pity, so after giving myself a little while to whine, I usually “get over it” and move into the action steps. Usually. 🙂

  • Brian says:

    Sounds like a great evening. I would use it as motivation to keep me on track to pay off my debt so that I could host a party like this or any other party I would like. Good luck on your debt repayment path!

    • Laurie says:

      That’s what we did, Brian, and it worked well! We now have a new-found fire under our tails to be debt free. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  • So needed to read this right now. I’ve been throwing myself a bit of a pity party lately. I love Christmas and spoiling loved ones with nice gifts. But this year I’m on a tighter budget so I had to cut back, which is hard. While I know staying within my budget is the right thing to do, it’s hard and I feel bad. I need to turn it around, like you did. This is temporary … a bump in the road that years from now … I will barely remember, if I even remember. And I have so much to be thankful and need to focus on all the things I DO have, instead of the things I don’t. Great post, Laurie! Thank you for the needed pep talk!

    • Laurie says:

      Many hugs to you, my friend!! I SO get that. We go through it more often than we should, but I love what you said about it being temporary. Next Christmas will be much better, for both of us!

  • I get jealous from time to time of bloggers who already paid off all their debt/never had debt. It’s ridiculous. This is my life, I have the power to improve it and comparing my life with someone else’s does not fix anything.

    Sounds like an awesome cookie party!

  • I especially liked #3 – use your self-pity to catapult you forward into more action! I think this is a great way to look at it! I know you will get to debt freedom, Laurie, like you say yourself it will be “sooner rather than later”! It will so be worth it! 😛

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