Debtors Anonymous has a great pamphlet explaining what a PRG is. Here is the synopsis of their pamphlet:
Pressure Relief Groups and Pressure Relief Meetings
Explains how these unique, powerful tools help remove the pressure from you and encourage you to live an abundant life. Includes how to set up a pressure relief group, what happens at them, and what joy you may experience as you recover from compulsive debting.
I want to give you some perspective from my own experience with PRGs because I couldn’t do this program without them. However, there are also pitfalls that I think people should be aware of regarding this sacred tool. So here are my subjective thoughts on PRGs.
What is a PRG?
A PRG is a one to two hour meeting, either in person or on the phone, where two other DA members help you resolve financial pressures in your life, such as panic about debt, creditors destroying your peace of mind, having a crisis where you may lose your house, or having a medical emergency you didn’t plan for.
Initially, though, you will want to have PRGs to help you set up a spending plan, without which you simply cannot work the DA program with clarity. If you don’t set up categories in which to “store” your money, how will you know that you have enough for your bills, much less your food or other discretionary items?
You would also want to set up a PRG if you get a big financial windfall, such as your tax refund, or possibly even if you get an extra paycheck for those who get paid every other week. However, there are also PRGs that help you figure out career decisions, family decisions, visions, etc.
To begin with, you might want to have PRGs monthly, or even more often if you are in crisis. Even with years in recovery, I try to have a PRG every other month or so.
What a PRG is NOT
A PRG is not the place to request financial planning advice, such as how to get the best interest rates. PRG team members are not professional financial planners, just other addicts in recovery one day at a time. They are NOT your Higher Power. However, they probably have more experience than you in solvency and can share their experience, strength, and hope with you. They are not your Higher Power and you will have to learn, through trial and error, when resistance is your disease acting up and when it is truly a result of problematic feedback.
That is one reason why PRGs are made up of two other members. In my case, when both members agree, I do what they say … even if I am kicking and screaming. This is because I have been with my team for well over a year and they each have vastly different outlooks, which is great. So when they agree on a difficult topic, I know that it is my disease acting up. And I have never been proven wrong yet.
Who to Pick for Your PRG
They say you should have a man and a woman. I don’t believe that. For one thing, I prefer to have people working DA using the H.O.W. format and there aren’t that many males who are available. I believe the concept is that males and females bring different perspectives, but practicality dictates that it is more important to have a PRG than to wait until you can find the perfect team. And I have found that it doesn’t matter. I have participated in both disappointing and fabulous PRGs with different configurations.
While it is good to find a team that can work with you over time doing PRGs, it is not necessary to wait if one or both members aren’t available and you need a PRG. You can have a “one off” PRG with another team or even have a different team each time. In fact, getting a new perspective from two other people can only help you.
What to Bring to the PRG
While I know that organization is really tough for many of us with money vagueness, it is important that you work to gather all information that will help your PRG team to help you. (In the next post, I will talk about what material you need to give your PRG team and in what format.) Here are some examples of information you will need to start:
- A list of all your accounts, checking and savings, money market, 401K, etc., and the amounts in them as of the date you will be meeting or the first of the current month, if that is easier.
- You and/or your partner’s most recent paycheck and how often each gets paid.
- How much cash you have around the house (yes, including pennies from the sofa). We are often incredibly vague about change. In fact, most people I know count cash monthly and it’s never the right amount from month to month! That is why I suggest a category for lost and found money to adjust cash.
- A list of all your fixed expenses and amounts (e.g., rent, cable, electric, phone). Include in this monthly, periodic, and annual amounts. For instance, you may pay your car insurance every six months. You will want to have a monthly amount for each item. So, in the case of the car insurance, divide it by 6 to get the amount you will need to accrue monthly.
- If you can estimate how much you use in some of your discretionary categories a month, like food, child care expenses, etc., that is good. Even better is if you have been tracking your spending for 30 days so you have a more precise amount. But if you are drowning, you don’t have to wait the 30 days, just do the best you can and get started.
- A list of all your debts and the exact amount you currently owe, what you pay monthly, and the minimum monthly payment. Here is where you may have a PRG just on this subject. However, until you have a spending plan developed, you cannot really get a sense of whether you can pay your debts abstinently and how much you can pay.
- A list of all issues to discuss if you are not doing a PRG to set up a spending plan.
End of Part 1. In the next post, I will continue with this topic.