If you’re like most people you don’t like to be in debt. In fact, there hasn’t been one person I’ve coached or even talked to on a personal level who has said, “I love being in debt, and I can’t wait to go even deeper into debt!” I'm going to guess that you haven’t heard anyone say that either. That would be crazy talk!
Do you know what most people are asking? They're asking, “How do I get out of debt?” It’s a great question and I love hearing it because it tells me that this person is thinking about taking control of their finances, which is very liberating and freeing experience.
Many people make a mistake though and miss the first step in getting out of debt. Initially, they start working on a plan to pay off the debt they have, which is great! They should and you will certainly need a plan to win. However, what most people fail to fix first is their behavior. It’s your behavior that’s gotten you into the situation that you find yourself in right now. It’s your behavior of relying on debt when you want something instead of telling yourself no and saving cash to pay for it.
Many people want to get out of debt, but they can’t get out of debt if they continue to go back into it. You have to give it a break.
Have you ever had one of those relationships in your life that has gone a little sour? Maybe a past boyfriend or girlfriend, maybe even an ex-spouse. When you first started dating, it was great. You were head over heals for that person—you got along really well, held hands, laughed, and enjoyed each others' company. You couldn’t imagine your life without this person.
However, over time things began to change. Maybe as you learned more about them or maybe as you both changed as time went on, your relationship didn’t grow like you thought it would and it begins to turn sour. Soon those things you used to think were cute and adorable turn into annoyances and you think to yourself, what was I thinking dating this person? Things just didn’t work out like you expected them to and you begin to consider taking a break or maybe even breaking up.
I want you to treat debt the same way. When we all started using debt—myself included—it was all good. It was just one little car payment, or one credit card, or one vacation, or one stop at Target. You may have said, "I can handle this. Besides ,I need this stuff and debt is helping me get it! It’s all good, I’ll pay it off. I'm going to get that raise and things are going to work out great.
But they didn’t. Because that one credit card turned into seven credit cards, that one car payment turned into a bigger car payment, or maybe a second car payment, and that trip to Target turned into a never-ending shopping spree and now all you can afford are all the minimum payments.
Your relationship with debt has turned sour over the years and it's time to take a break! I would love for you to break up, and tell debt to take a hike for the rest of your life, but that might be too much to bite off as you get started. The idea of a debt-free life might be too unbelievable. I can relate, I didn’t believe you could live without debt at one time either.
By working on your behavior and starting a budget, you will begin to see that you can survive without debt. I would suggest that you take it one step at a time. Start with a day, then a week, then a month, then a year, and before you know it you'll prove to yourself that you can survive without debt. It’s a liberating feeling for many of our Roots of Personal Finance members, and I know it will be for you, too!
So what do you say? Are you ready to give debt a break? If you do, your future self and your savings account will thank you!