My search ended when I got the wild idea to write and publish a subscription newsletter. I had the equipment, I had a modicum of computer knowledge and I sure knew the subject matter. After a few months of planning and strategizing Cheapskate Monthly was born January 1992 (since undergoing a name-change to Debt-Proof Living).
In the first issue I gave a very abbreviated version of my story, the mess I’d made, and the journey we were taking toward recovery. I had learned to refer to myself affectionately as a “cheapskate” because that was the best word I could come up with which defined the radical changes in my life. I redefined a cheapskate to be one who saves consistently, gives generously, and never spends more than he or she has.
Within a short time I felt as if someone had turned on a faucet. Subscriptions began pouring in, the media started calling and I had to get a bigger post office box to handle all the mail. Repeatedly I would open a letter which would begin, “Dear Mary: I’ve never told anyone what I’m about to tell you …” and then the floodgates would open. With each issue of CM I would open my heart further, which in turn would encourage readers to do the same. As I became accountable to thousands of people throughout the U.S. and Canada my own personal recovery began to speed up.
As I began reading everything I could get my hands on in preparation for writing a new issue each month I began to understand where I’d been, why I did what I’d done and how far I’d come. I found validation in learning that much of what we had done in order to get back on the right financial track was right, and I had moments of regret and sadness as I admitted that we’d blown it on more than one occasion.
One of the most remarkable things I learned was that which I’d considered my unique problem was shared by many others. I even discovered people in situations worse than mine. But the wonderful thing was the sense of fellowship. In time I would receive so many letters that answering them became my number one challenge. I couldn’t ignore them because these were people who needed me as much as I needed them. As I would write reply after reply I could feel myself becoming stronger. The more I shared of my own recovery struggle, the more easily I was able to reject the constant opportunities to return to my old ways.
In time I began speaking publicly, telling my story and offering hope and encouragement to others. Soon I found myself living my recovery in fast forward mode and in the public spotlight.