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Mary Hunt

It’s true financial trouble is a major contributor to the breakup of the American family. It is also true gaining control of one’s finances can repair marriages, restore families and change the future. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Let me assure you right up front it is possible for you to gain control of your financial situation, no matter how difficult or impossible things might appear right now.

In the same way you had to learn your three Rs as a child (reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic!), there are three Rs of personal financial recovery that form the foundation of meaningful change.

RESPONSIBILITY

No matter the contributing circumstances, until you are willing to take full responsibility for your financial situation, there is probably little hope for meaningful change. To blame others and assume the role of a victim is a terrible waste of energy.

You might need to take responsibility for not participating fully in your family’s finances. Are you paralyzed by a divorce settlement you don’t perceive to be fair? Maybe you no longer feel responsible for a student loan because you’ve quit school or find you just can’t make it in your profession of choice.

You demonstrate your commitment to take full responsibility when you:

No. 1: Accept ownership. Even if you were not the only contributor to the mess, you need to take responsibility for it. Stop looking back, stop wishing and stop whining. If it has your name on it, admit it’s yours and take responsibility for it.

No. 2: Stop running. If you’re similar to most who find themselves on shaky financial ground, you’re not really sure exactly how much you owe. Instead of slamming the phone on your creditors, destroying the bills that come in the mail and doing everything you can to avoid facing the music, stop running. Accept the calls, do the right thing, learn the truth, get it down in writing, inhale deeply and take responsibility.

No. 3: Make a commitment. If you will promise to do whatever it takes to repay your debt and learn to live within your means, you have a bright future. It won’t be a bed of roses, but it will be worth it.

REGRET

There are two aspects to this second R.

No. 1: There must be a genuine attitude of “I’m sorry.” It’s important you regret making poor choices. Perhaps you arrogantly presumed on future income to cover present whims, lied to your spouse or falsified credit applications. You need to regret whatever it is that has contributed to where you are, but it’s more than that.

No. 2: Regret must also include repentance. To repent means simply to turn around and go in another direction. You have to stop doing things the way you have been. You must turn around and go the other way.

REPAIR

There are as many ways to repair a financial disaster as there are types of difficulties. There’s counseling through organizations such as Consumer Credit Counseling Services. I highly recommend the National Federation for Credit Counseling (www.nfcc.org). Above all, you need to concentrate on reducing expenses and increasing income.

The good news is, with the right kind of information and commitment, which means learning the three Rs, most financial situations can be repaired in less time than you ever dreamed possible.

Mary invites you to go to EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at everydaycheapskate.com/contact, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”