How to Rise Above Your Circumstances

Everyday Cheapskate


October 2021 Issue
Everyday Cheapskate by Mary Hunt

Shortly after takeoff, the pilot circled over the Great Salt Lake, tipping the wings ever so slightly so we could witness the unusual reddish-purple color of the water—a phenomenon, he explained, that occurs when a particular species of algae meets up with a certain bacteria. It was quite fascinating.

Just as he was bringing the plane level so we could be on our way, CRACK! A loud kind of popping noise sent a chill up my spine. “I believe we’ve hit something, so we will be returning to the gate,” an audibly shaken pilot reported.

But it wasn’t quite that easy. First, we needed to get rid of a lot of weight so we could make a much-needed course correction (like picking up a different plane, perhaps?). So, back to the lake we flew, where the captain dumped nearly an entire flight’s worth of fuel.

As we deplaned, the problem became evident. We’d hit a duck, or some kind of fowl, whose remains were splattered all over the windshield—a collision so mighty it cracked the windshield. Poor pilot.

So, have you been whacked lately? Not by a duck, necessarily, but by another of life’s surprises? Perhaps the virus or higher prices have your already-stretched financial situation screaming for mercy. Maybe it’s an accumulation of bad financial decisions threatening your joy.

Whatever your circumstances, you have a choice: You can default to live under them, or you can choose to do whatever it takes to rise above them, where the skies are calm and clear.
Some people allow problems and pressures to control their lives. Their problems have nothing to do with the troubles themselves but with how they view those circumstances.

Want to climb up on top of your situation rather than allow it to crush you? Here are some practical ways to do it:


Think about what’s coming up. Plan ahead. Don’t get financially blindsided. Figure out when your car registration is due, when you need to pay your property taxes or when you need to buy new tires. Stop being surprised by the inevitable.


Our modern society has made us dependent on others for almost everything. Learn how to grow a garden, cook from scratch, and perform repairs and maintenance on your own cars and home. Now you’ll be able to do for yourself what you’ve been paying others to do, should you need to make a quick course correction.


There is no doubt that debt can weigh you down. Start with your smallest debt, and get it to $0 as quickly as possible. Then add its payment to the regular payment of the next debt in line. Repeat until all are paid. Then tackle your mortgage.

Most people don’t know enough about their own financial reality­—what they earn, what it takes to live or how much, if any, is left once the bills are paid. Write down your monthly bills. Compare them to your income. Then decide if you like the picture you see. If not, create a plan to change it.


It’s difficult to fly high when you are weighed down with heavy debt and other obligations. Maybe maintaining too many cars or having too much stuff in your life is holding you back. Take stock, and then unload some weight.


Regardless of how you are feeling, greet the next person you see with a smile and sincere pleasantry. Force it, if you must. Soon, it will become heartfelt.

Refuse to worry unless you have a pencil and paper in hand. With those tools, worrying automatically becomes a planning session. Write down positive ideas.

Your troubles are brilliant opportunities disguised as impossible situations. Those who recognize this truth are experts at living above their circumstances.


One thing that distinguishes you from the animal kingdom: You can control your attitude. You choose your thoughts. So, for today, choose joy.

What you can do matters much more than what you can’t. Focus on getting through the mess—or if it’s not going away, find a way to joyfully persevere. Your greatness will never be measured by wealth or position, but by what it takes to make you quit.

As for that duck’s unfortunate encounter with the plane, once we dumped the fuel, deplaned and re-planed, we were back in the air flying full-speed ahead above the circumstances, achieving an on-time arrival.

That was one determined pilot!

Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book Debt-Proof Living. © 2021

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