The 3G Ways to Overcome Debt!
By Laura Hull, LMFT
Are you sick of worrying about money? Is the stress of keeping up with the Joneses or maybe just making the minimum payments sucking the joy out of your life? The economy has been tough for a few years now. This is not news. Many people are struggling in many ways these days. Again, this is not news. Those who find themselves reading this article are likely either struggling with financial problems or love someone who is. This is a reality of the world we live in. Financial problems can cause a tremendous amount of stress in our families and in our marriages. Money problems are some of the most identified problems in couples work. We can’t control the world economy, but there are things we can do to minimize the stressors that debt and problems with managing money can bring into our lives. Tired of being under the weight of debt? Here are the first steps on the road to a better way of dealing with unnecessary financial worry - the 3G ways to being in control of money matters:
Get Real. When we decide to make a change, we must be committed to change. Part of being committed to real change is being honest. Where are we spending our monies? Are we spending it on wants or needs? This is where a lot of us get into trouble: defining wants vs. needs. Make a detailed list of where your monies are being spent. Then begin an elimination diet. Eliminate expenses that are not absolutely necessary. Are you spending five bucks a day on coffee shop specialty drinks, when you can brew a pot at home for pennies? Are you spending money eating out every day at lunch with the guys or girls from work when you could easily brown bag it a few days out of the week? Be real. Do not try to compete with the Joneses, and do not hesitate to be honest with people that cutbacks at home are necessary. Many people are in this boat. Don’t throw away your life jacket spending money frivolously.
Get Busy. Start making the changes today. Not after “the holidays are over” or after the “once-a-year sale” at the preferred department store; today. Start making changes that free up money that can be applied to debt. After itemizing expenses over a three month period, make note of where money is hemorrhaging needlessly. Social expenses are a great place to start. If we find ourselves spending extra money eating out several times per month or going to first run movies when they first come out, this is a great place to trim expenses and apply the money toward paying down debt. Yes, this might mean eating at home more and waiting a few weeks to see movies that come out, but is that really a lot to give up until we are out from under the crushing weight of debt? I don’t think so, in the grand scheme of things. Learn to say “no” to things that will delay or defeat the goal of not being a slave to debt.
Here’s a no brainer: Credit card debt is bad. The interest rates some people pay on credit card debt borders on loan sharking. Consider freezing your credit cards in an ice tray in the freezer. It’s there if you need it, but you can’t impulsively use it. Not practical, you say? It seems less drastic than cutting up the cards, but I’m on board for doing what is necessary to control impulsive spending tendencies which begin a debt spiral that can be difficult to break free from.
Here’s a truth: Some debts in life are not created by our mistakes or misdeeds. Medical bills happen. Car repairs happen. Unemployment happens. Death of a spouse happens. Life happens. We do the best we can in those situations just to stabilize the situation. That’s ok. There will be a time to address these debts. Sometimes we must rely on friends or other family members to help us out in these situations. Sometimes we must turn to legal avenues such as bankruptcy. This happens, folks, and it’s not a reflection of us as people when it does. It does not impact our worthiness or value as people. It’s unfortunate, but it does not have to tell the whole story of who we are. We can regroup, recover, and go forward with heads held high.
Get Over It. We must be willing to learn from our mistakes, make better decisions going forward, and forgive ourselves. It is very easy to let our guilt over poor financial decisions impact the way we see ourselves and our ability to be happy. We may find ourselves caught in a pattern of regret, “if only I had known back then how bad things would be now….” There is no value in this type of thinking. It changes nothing about the circumstances we are facing now. We all have things in our lives about which, if we could hit a “reset button,” we would go back in time and make better decisions. But since we cannot do that, the best we can do is learn from our mistakes, make changes that diminish the likelihood of repeating those mistakes, and rectify those mistakes to the best of our ability.
The weight of debt can be a heavy burden to shoulder, but we don’t have to be crushed under the weight. There are ways out from under the burden. We just have to be willing to do the hard work to get there.