If you finally made the decision to eliminate as many bills as possible and start your debt free journey, congratulations! Making the decision—wanting it, feeling it, and being willing to commit to it—is the most important part of the journey.
However, if after making the decision to eliminate credit card bills and unnecessary expenses you still feel like you’re drowning and you question why you’re even doing it, please know that these feelings are something most individuals who are stressed about finances will feel at least once, if not frequently.
According Melody Wilding, LMSW, a performance coach, licensed social worker, and writer for Psych Central, “Research has found that the stress of being in debt resembles the stages of grief, including denial, anger, and depression. You will likely feel completely defeated and tell yourself, ‘I’ll never get out of debt anyway, so what’s the point? Why even keep working hard at my job if the money I make just goes straight to paying back my debt?’”
If living debt free is important to you, please remember that even though the journey may not always be easy, it is possible.
Here are three important things to remember while you are on your debt free journey:
1. You Didn’t Get into Debt Overnight and You Won’t Get Out of it Overnight
Most individuals accumulate debt over several years. Whether your debt includes student loans, credit cards, car loans, etc., you likely did not accrue these bills overnight. And sadly, it’s much easier to get into debt than to get out of it. To help you get out of debt, create a plan to clearly understand your expenses. The easiest way to do this is to write down or create a spreadsheet of every monthly bill and expenses, including gas, groceries, personal expenses, etc. Once you have a clear understanding of your monthly expenses, create a plan of attack and stick with it. Stay focused and determined on the goal: to be debt free. And most importantly, be patient.
2. You Must Change Your Spending Habits and Make Sacrifices
A crucial part of paying off debt includes changing your spending habits and being willing to make sacrifices. If you are unwilling to do this, paying off your debt will be that much harder. Look at your expenses and eliminate, eliminate, eliminate wherever possible. For example, if you have cable, Netflix, and Hulu, eliminate whichever one you watch the least amount of. If you go out to dinner five times a month, cut back to only once a month. If you spend $200 on clothes each month, cut back to $50. Sell anything you no longer need/use by hosting a garage sale or selling items on CraigsList. You must be willing to free up money wherever possible and apply the extra dollars to your bills. Even if it’s only a few dollars here and there, every penny adds up.
3. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Regardless of how much debt you have, do not compare yourself to others. Everyone’s journey is different and regardless of whether an individual is in debt by $2,000 or $200,000, being in debt is stressful, period. You must also stop dwelling on the past. Remember to stay focused on your current situation and the plan that you have created. Any progress is good progress, even if it is slow.
Don’t give up, you’ve got this!