How to Climb Up When You’ve Hit Rock Bottom

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rock bottom

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in the Wal-Mart check out line, and I handed over my card. Declined. I nervously grabbed another card and handed it over. Declined.

In the bagging area was $100+ dollars worth of supplies for our return to Grenada after a summer back home. Bug spray, shampoo, and tons of other items we couldn’t get on the island. I turned to my mom who was behind me in line and asked if I could use her card. It was the ultimate embarrassment for me. Looking back, it was my rock bottom.

I got in the car feeling so stupid and emotional. I cried on the way home. After a nice pout-fest and mini pity party, I decided to get serious. I needed to take control of my financial issues instead of letting them control me, and fill my life with stress and fear. I know I’m not alone in this experience of hitting a financial rock bottom and thought it might help to recount what I did to climb my way up, and out.

1. Start the Climb


A lot of people sit at rock bottom for a while, making excuses and wondering why oh why things happened to them. We’re all responsible for the mistakes we’ve made. Sure, some people have been dealt a bad hand, but it’s up to us how we react to it. Make up your mind that you won’t be the type of person who sits at the bottom waiting to be rescued. Start climbing.

2. Sell Your Junk


We all probably have hundreds to thousands of dollars worth of stuff just sitting around our houses. If you really are at rock bottom with your finances and are having trouble paying your rent, you shouldn’t have a TV in your house or a coffee table or anything fancy really. Sell everything you can. You can always buy replacements later when your finances are on track.

3. Work Another Job


My big solution for climbing out of my rock bottom moment was to get some more online work. At the time, I was brand new to the freelancing world and had only one client who was paying me the rockstar price of $10/post. Three years later, things have definitely changed but hitting that rock bottom was what got me motivated enough to start making changes.

4. when you hit rock bottom, Get Support


Support is a necessary stop for many different financial problems. I had my husband with me, who was just as bothered by our financial situation and our reliance on his loans. With his help, we worked together to pay of all our credit card debt and reduce our expenses.

Ultimately, if you find yourself at rock bottom, know you’re not alone. Even some of the world’s wealthiest people have lost it all only to get it back again. All you need is some serious motivation, a bit of support, and an awesome work ethic.

Trust me, if I can do it, you can do it. Say goodbye to the debt and money problems that are weighing you down, and start climbing. It might be a long way up, but you’ll never get out until you take that first step.


Additional resource: If you’re in a similar situation but are held back by debt there are options to pay off that debt quicker. The best option is to consolidate outstanding debt to a lower interest rate. The lower your rate the quicker you become debt free and start saving more money. One of the best options to consolidate debt is through Lightstream who offers rates as low as 1.74 percent with AutoPay. 

Check out the rates at Lightstream today!


Have any of you ever hit rock bottom? Did it resemble my rock bottom moment in any way? What helped you make the climb up and out?


Photo courtesy of: Jeremiah John McBride

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Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families.


  • Thomas @ I need money asap! says:

    Although I never hit “rock bottom” I can pinpoint the time where my financial fortunes started to turn around. The biggest thing for me was simple budgeting. I was wasting sooooo much money on little stuff that just by making a budget and sticking to it helped me avoid a lot of wasteful spending. That then helped me build a savings cushion and it’s been all good since then 🙂

    • Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) says:

      That’s awesome Thomas! I find the little things still make me go over budget! Gotta work on that!

  • debs@debtdebs says:

    Ya, we hit rock bottom when we couldn’t move money around anymore to different credit cards. This was all unbeknownst to me but I soon found out after my credit card was declined when I tried to pay for my professional fees for work. I was in such a state of shock for a few days. Really miserable. I considered divorce because I was just fed up. This wasn’t the first time. Here I am, still crawling my way out of debt but it’s working. Not as fast as I’d like, but we had serious debt as in $394K.

    • Cat Alford (@BudgetBlonde) says:

      Girl I feel ya. My debt is also 6 figures and still growing but that’s why it’s good to have support!

  • Holly@ClubThrifty says:

    Once in my twenties my sister called to ask me to go out to dinner and I didn’t even have the money to go to Applebee’s. I think I had less than $10 in my checking account and I was at least smart enough not to charge restaurant meals. That was definitely a low point.

  • Deb @ Saving the Crumbs says:

    We’ve learned that the “small wins” keep us going. Tackle a few easy goals first, and the taste of success and accomplishment will give you the courage and confidence that you can overcome the next larger ones.

  • Will says:

    Was your mom in the car with you on the way home? If so, that must have really been your rock bottom.

    I don’t have a rock bottom moment but I’ve definitely had my lows.

    • Cat says:

      Yeahhhh she didn’t understand why I was so upset because she was happy to help but it was more the principle of the whole thing.

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach says:

    That is the worst feeling in the world! But at the very least it does inspire change. Mine was infamously documented on my site. 🙂 It was when my car was towed the day after Valentine’s Day over two years ago. I had a meltdown. That was the beginning of change…

  • Broke Millennial says:

    Thank you for sharing this story! This is a great piece of inspiration for people who are at an all-time low. And you’re dead on about those who had fortunes, lost it all and had to rebuild.

  • Joshua @ CNA Finance says:

    I’ve definitely hit rock bottom in the past. It had nothing to do with credit, more of stupid mistakes I made with the money I did have. I’m still not sure to this day how I pulled myself out…after all, I lived in a tent for a few months. Anyway, I guess hard work prevailed and I eventually got another job…even without an address, and worked my way back up.

  • Aldo @ MDN says:

    I never really hit “rock bottom”, but I was just tired of living paycheck to paycheck and not having any money saved up. All I needed to do was to start a written budget. I know is not glamorous, but that’s really all I had to do.

  • Grayson Bell says:

    Oh, I have certainly hit rock bottom. I scraped my way out and did what I needed to. I got support, worked a second job, cut many things out of my life and just continued to climb. It was tiring, but I couldn’t stop!

  • Shannon @ Financially Blonde says:

    Ugh!! I think there is nothing worse than having a financial crisis and having a parent witness you going through it, especially a judgmental one. Rock bottom is a painful place, but it is also a blessing. I swear we learn more from the bottom than we do from the top and it sucks to be there, but getting there is exactly what helped you get out. It definitely helps to have a partner climb out with you and I am glad that you had Hubs!

    • Cat says:

      Aw yeah the hubs is right there with me haha – he’s stuck with me. 😉 Thanks Shannon – that’s so true!

  • Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter says:

    My rock bottom financially was pretty tame, but it sure made me see the light and forced me to change my lifestyle. Thankfully! I couldn’t imagine being stuck on the same financial treadmill.

  • Amy says:

    Great list of very simple steps to getting back on track.

  • Mr Ikonz @ Project Ikonz says:

    I’m pretty lucky that I have never hit “rock bottom”, but I certainly have climbed out of a lot of unnecessary debt (and no savings/investments).

    It’s amazing how doing small little things such as selling your junk or PLANNING how to start the climb makes a difference.

    I’ve more than doubled my net worth in a little over 12 months because of it!

  • Don @ Breath of Optimism says:

    Great post! When we hit rock bottom, we have 2 choices:

    We can complain and do nothing, which usually ends up with us staying in our situation and being miserable.

    Or we can push through the tough times. It’s not easy digging yourself out of a hole, but you learn so much from it. Not only do you actually feel better because you are out of the hole, but you develop a confidence and higher self esteem knowing that if you can get through that, you can get through anything.

  • Michelle@PennyThots says:

    I have never actually maxed out my credit cards, but I have felt like I have hit rock bottom. I found myself afraid to check my mail box, answer telephone calls, check my bank statements online, etc. All of those were enough of a wake up call that I needed to get my money and my spending on track. With the help of a well thought out budget, supportive friends, and a lot of side hustling on the side. I am just now a little more at ease opening up my mail and not feeling a sense of dread come over me when I check my bank statement online.

  • Etta says:

    I hit rock bottom today. My husband had been laid off for six months and we are still trying to get caught up on bills that just keep piling up. He has to work in a different state to make enough to get us out of this hole, and we always talk about making it worth it by saving and paying off debt. But in total contradiction we keep spending on little things here there and finally today my checking account became overdrawn and I had to use my daughters tooth fairy money to get some milk and eggs. To my embarrassment they wouldn’t take the money because it was covered in glitter. I put glitter on her tooth fairy money to make it more special for her. I had to count all the change in my purse and out if the car all while my daughter watched. When I cried in the car after she said I could use all her money from her piggy bank. I feel like a failure. And to too it off, my husband can’t even get anything to eat a thousand miles away. I feel like such a loser now but hopefully this is where I change it and never come back to this place again. I’m ready to be accountable and it do the hard work and sacrifices my family needs.

  • Russianjesus says:

    I just got to the point where I am making the choice for a change. I’m currently rock-bottom because I neglected every bill I had and just stop paying for them because my ex-fiance and me….Anyway I don’t know my debt at current point.But last year it was around 20,000$ and it definitely has increase from hospital bills and so forth which I also neglected in a pot smoking beer drinking fashion due to personal life stuff.

    My Question is there like a person I can go to that can help me figure all this mess out?
    If so what are they called?

    • John Schmoll says:

      There isn’t one person you can speak with as it just depends on the situation. My recommendation is to sit down and figure out just how much you owe and then make a plan of attack. You may benefit from consolidating your debt, and I’d recommend someone like Avant to help you do that. After that, I’d set up a budget – here’s a good post to help you start one. Best wishes on taking actionable steps!

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