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When It Rains, It Pours

Tips for when your wallet is smaller than what you owe your creditors.

Long lost are the days when your fortune cookie would tell the future. In place of psychic powers is a corny proverb, like the old idiom I can never escape: “When it rains, it pours.”

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No doubt that adage invokes a sense of dread inside of you. It’s funny, though – the expression used to be positive.

Way back in 1911, the Morton Salt Company revolutionized table salt. It used to be that when you bought salt, it came raw and coarse-grained, which meant that when your house got humid, the salt would get all clumpy and gross. Morton shrunk the grain size, and added an anti-caking agent, forever making it easy to pour salt on your food.

When it came time to advertise the new product, Morton’s ad agency, N.W. Ayer & Son, decided to play with the old English proverb “It never rains but it pours” and change it to “When it rains, it pours.” The original had a negative connotation, but Morton’s ad was meant to be encouraging.

You might be having trouble deciphering the phrase, but that wasn’t the case in 1911. Back then, everyone knew that when it rained, your salt was in danger because with the rain came humidity. The moisture made your salt clumpy. What Morton was saying (in fewer words) was, “When it rains, it’ll still be easy to use our salt.”

You’ve probably seen Morton’s “Salt Girl” logo before. It’s the one with a little girl wearing a yellow raincoat and holding a giant umbrella. She's also holding a salt container so it's pouring out behind her. The design made more sense with the old tagline, but over time people forgot salt ever used to clump. Morton ended up ditching the words but keeping the logo.

The slogan, or idiomatic expression, no longer makes people think of salt. It’s now interpreted like the old English proverb. When hit with an unfortunate event, get ready for a pummeling.

The sentiment might make you think of creditors breathing down your neck -- how when one thing goes wrong it always seems to lead to expenses you aren't ready to handle.

You may ask yourself: How can I pay off my debt when I have no money?

There’s not an easy answer to that question when your unabsolvable debt is the culmination of bad decisions. The way out will require several steps. Many of them will be difficult.

You'll need to be like the food scientists at the Morton Salt Company. Take your clumpy situation and shrink each of the parts to a smaller grain size. Then create solutions for each of your problems.

People get into trouble when they try to find a quick answer to a big problem. There are companies out there that’ll try to sell you debt relief. They advertise at the top of Google so that when someone types in “save me from my debt,” that someone sees ads for instant money solutions. These companies might be able to help, but you need to ask yourself if spending money is the smartest way to get out of debt.

You’ll be heading the right direction when you figure out the least expensive way to pay back what you owe. Then, you need to negotiate for the time to make your plan a reality.

Salt is cheap. So are blogs about debt. Most give you the same five tips: negotiate with your creditors, ask your employer for an advance on your paycheck, meet with an expert, seek out community organizations and government assistance, and borrow from your friends and family. Those tips are great, and they might help you out of the tight spot you’re in. You just need to be careful.

When you have an umbrella, you’re a lot less likely to be bothered by the rain. Prep now for what you’re going to do the next time you find yourself in this situation because it’s going to happen again.

The next time you hear “When it rains, it pours,” try to think about salt.