A Journey to Get out of Debt Begins with a Single Step

6 Things You Might Not Know About Getting Out of Debt

A Journey to Get out of Debt Begins with a Single Step
A Journey to Get out of Debt Begins with a Single Step

Do you want out of debt bad enough to deal with the roadblocks, the emotional stresses and the lifestyle changes?

Is having financial freedom important enough to you to give up current habits and lifestyles?

Only you can answer that question. Only you can decide if it’s worth the work to create a more secure financial future for yourself. But before you answer, let me ask you some questions. I want to find out if you’ve ever dared to think ahead to a future full of debt and money worries. I’m asking these questions because asking ourselves these questions is what gave us the motivation to begin our own dumping debt journey. So, here goes:

1. What would you do if you lost your job today?

How would you feed your family? Pay the bills? Or would things go south real quick? Would losing your job put you in an immediate position of not being able to pay your many bills to creditors and others?

2. What would you do if debtors’ prison was implemented in your country?

Remember: going to prison would mean you couldn’t work to pay off your debts. Who would take care of your family? How would bills and necessities get paid?  Could you handle prison life?

3. What would you do if one or all of your creditors demanded immediate payment in full?

And promises large penalties or legal action for failure to comply? In certain cases, some creditors can demand that you pay your balance in full. Is that a chance you want to take?

Or would you rather get things paid off now so that no creditor can control your future?

There are a host of other life events that could happen that would decrease or eliminate your income in one fell swoop.

A Story of Denial and Debt

In 2010, my husband lost his job due to widespread company layoffs. At the time we were far away from our money wake up call and Rick’s job was our only source of income. We were living blissfully in denial, and even the layoff didn’t wake us up.

Rick got a new job 7 months later, but at 20% lower pay than his previous job. In our “wisdom” we decided that we’d make up the difference with our “waiting eagerly” credit card available balances.

No talk of cutting back, of downsizing. We were just happy we’d found a way to keep living in denial. Fast forward two years later and we had wracked up tens of thousands of credit card debt. Suddenly, as Dave Ramsey likes to say, we realized we were the emperors with no clothes. We were financially fat, and we were scared. Denial was no longer an option as our monthly bills outweighed our income by a good $1200 a month.

We started googling terms like “how to get out of debt”, and found a world of real people who had been in situations like ours. Dire situations that required immediate action. And they had won. They were debt free and were sharing their tips with the world.

Recommended e-book, only 99 cents! How to Get Out of Debt (a step-by-step, quick & easy guide) by Tiffany the Budgetnista

We decided we’d do the same. In January of 2013 I started this blog and we started our journey out of debt. Today, we’re accelerating quickly toward the finish line of dumping all consumer debt. But I feel obligated to let you know that a getting out of debt journey isn’t for wimps. It isn’t for the self-centered. It isn’t for those who choose not to think long-term.

There are things you need to know about what a getting out of debt journey is like, and today I’m going to share them with you. Read on, and decide if you can handle the truth – the truth that will lead you toward financial freedom!

Change can be Hard

A journey out of debt will require change. You’ll have to start budgeting, and start tracking your spending so that you understand where your money goes each month. That revelation will likely require some changed habits. Like cutting out the morning latte’ and muffin at work. Or brown-bagging at work it instead of hitting the nearest Chipotle for lunch. Or changing some of your other spending habits such as:

  • Spending on cable or satellite
  • Spending on spas/salons/gym memberships
  • Spending on restaurant meals or other forms of entertainment
  • Spending on unnecessary technology items

All of these changes – even though they’re good changes – can be stressful at first. However you’ll likely find – as we did – that those changes are well worth the extra money you’ll have in your bank account.

For instance, we keep dining out to about once a month now, and our dining out experience is SO much more enjoyable now that it’s a treat instead of a regular occurrence.

If you’re truly serious about getting out of debt, be prepared to embrace change. Remind yourself daily that the changes you are making are good changes that will lead to a prosperous future for yourself and/or your family. Change can be good if you’ll allow it to bring wonderful new things into your life.

What You Thought was a Necessity Likely Isn’t Really a Necessity

No, a 4 million g iPhone and the newest in iPods are NOT a necessity. Trips to the salon are NOT a necessity. An annual family vacation is NOT a necessity. A new/newer car is NOT a necessity. Keeping up appearances is NOT a necessity. New/designer clothes are NOT a necessity.

The sooner you come to be at peace with the fact that necessities consist of food, water, shelter, oxygen and basic clothing, the faster your debt will disappear.

And honestly, once you come to this realization and the pressure to always be buying and upgrading is off, I think you’ll find life much more peaceful. I know we have. We are at peace driving our 10+ year old family car because we know that it is paid for in full and we don’t have payments looming over our heads.

We are at peace with living a more “back to basics” life that doesn’t involve keeping up with the Joneses. Nowadays we only compete with ourselves. Our only competition involves seeing how much cash we can put toward our ever-dwindling debt balances. Let me tell you, it’s a great way to live. Much better than feeling like we have to keep up with a world where there will never be “enough”.

Not Everyone Will Be Happy About Your Journey to Improve Yourself

Some of your friends and family will wholeheartedly support you on your journey to become debt free. Others will ridicule you, turn their backs on you and criticize you. It’s just the way it is.

The reasons for this don’t matter so much as your willingness to choose to forge the path that’s best for you in spite of what others think. When you’re winning with money, you”ll show ’em. We learned the tough way to say “Screw ’em” and do what was right for us, but it was worth it.

It’s important to stand strong in what you know is right for yourself and/or your family, no matter what anyone else thinks. Because at the end of the day…of the week…of the month….at the end of the debt freedom journey when you are celebrating and planning what’s next for life, it will no longer matter what the naysayers think because you’ve won!

Perseverance Can Be Difficult

This has been the toughest part of getting out of debt for us: persevering through the roadblocks and the setbacks. We’ve had tens of thousands of dollars in home repairs that have needed to be done in the last three years. Some medical bills. Some budget fails. Car repairs. Some hugely critical internet trolls.

But after being discouraged by these things – sometimes to the point of giving up – we realized that we had only two choices. We could give up and go back to managing our money without a thought for our futures, or we could buck up and keep going. We chose “buck up”, and we’re so glad we did.

For the first time in our entire married lives, we’re facing a financially secure future. A future that isn’t dictated by bills that need to be paid. The choice to persevere through all of the setbacks and roadblocks is what gave us this choice. But we had to make the choice to keep going when the going got tough. It wasn’t always an easy choice, but we pulled up our big boy/girl pants and moved forward in spite of roadblocks and setbacks, and I’m so glad we did.

A Debt Free Journey Will Force You to Face Underlying Issues

Yep, it’s true. My blogging pal and business partner Ruth learned – and I learned – that debt accumulation is not just about the money.  There are often underlying issues that caused you to get into debt in the first place.

And once they come bubbling up, it’s best to face ’em, heal ’em and find permanent change for the better. Not easy, but worth it. The journey to face those underlying issues take courage, but following through means you’ll work towards healing those issues, so that they can lessen or eliminate their effect on your life permanently.

The Feeling that Comes with Dumping Serious Debt is Better than You Can Imagine

With each dollar that we pay toward our debt, our peace increases, our joy increases and our stress is reduced. I’ve worried about money for most of my 48+ years. And finally, for the first time in my life, I don’t have to worry about money any more. It’s amazing to live this way. To live where paying the bills is simply something you do each month. No more finagling to figure out how you’re going to pay everything. No more worry about having enough to cover necessities.

Imagine it. Imagine it for yourself. Imagine a life where money goes from being a top priority to being simply a tool to get things done. Doesn’t it sound wonderful?

Now keep that dream in your heart and get to work. It’s time for you to walk out the dream of debt freedom that has been long planted in your heart. You can do it.

Have you begun your journey to debt freedom yet? What is your biggest roadblock to beginning? If you are debt free, what’s your favorite part about having no consumer debt/debt?

*Photo Courtesy of mendhak via Flickr

 

 

11 comments

  1. Kalie @ Pretend to Be Poor says:

    Great lessons from your experience, and I agree that it helps to “look outside the box” and view debt as the emergency it really is. It’s hard to get our minds around this in a country where it’s viewed as normal, but I think your questions at the beginning are a great way to reconsider that assumption!

    • Laurie says:

      “It’s hard to get our minds around [the fact that debt is an emergency] in a country where it’s viewed as normal.” Oh, Kalie: SO TRUE!! This is what scares me most about the financial state of America. It’s touted as perfectly acceptable to have loads of debt as long as you can make the payment. No one thinks about what might happen if they could no longer make those payments!!

  2. This is all so true. My favorite part about being debt-free is the lack of stress we have over money. It’s nice to get bills in the mail and be able to pay them right away because we aren’t struggling with debt.

  3. Kurt says:

    I worked as a credit counselor for a time, and I can certainly testify to the validity of your experience and feelings, which are common I think. Digging out of debt is a tough path–so easy to get in, but challenging to get out. Debtors have to sort of ‘unspend’, over years, all the overspending they’ve done to build debt. (Though many of course didn’t overspend but were walloped by misfortune like a job loss or health challenge.) But because of high interest charges, takes a lot more to undo the damage. $10k in overspending may require $20k to remedy. That’s exactly why the credit card business is so lucrative!

    • Laurie says:

      Exactly, Kurt!!! We too were plagued by a job loss, but had we been wise with money in the years preceding and after the job loss we would have been fine. We’ll soon be done “undoing” our damage and can’t wait to be done with debt forever!

  4. ZJ Thorne says:

    Watching other people taking your financial decisions personally is fascinating.My roommates are (rude) vocally questioning my choices that do not impact them. My roommates don’t know that I’m working on getting my finances together to move into my own place.

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