Good Financial Habits Learned From Debt

Good Financial Habits Learned From Debt
Good habits that your debt can help you form.

It’s highly unlikely you’ll find anyone commenting that being in debt is fun.

For most of us, it’s seems like a never-ending uphill battle. We’re fighting for our lives. Our values. Our future.

It’s a huge challenge, especially when you’re facing six-figures of debt, and trying to balance paying for the necessities in life.

However, there are always lessons to be learned from difficult challenges, and debt is no different.

That’s why it’s important to highlight the good financial habits that can be formed from having debt.

Plus, it’s always nice to put a positive spin on debt when possible, right?

You Become More Diligent About Where Your Money is Going

When you’re paying off debt, the one thing you should be focused on is continuing to live within your means. That can require getting serious about budgeting and tracking your expenses.

If you’ve been guilty of neglecting your bank account balance, this will be a good change for you. Say goodbye to those pesky overdraft and NSF fees because you need to know exactly how much you can afford to spend at any given time.

It’s important to routinely check your bank account to make sure there’s no incorrect charges or signs of fraud.

Knowing where your money is going is crucial to financial success, whether it’s paying off debt, or being able to work toward early retirement. You have to become aware of your spending habits and any budget leaks you may have.

You Focus More on Meaningful Spending

Being in debt might leave you feeling as though your options are limited when it comes to money. You want to put whatever extra you can manage toward debt, which doesn’t leave you with much, if anything, left over.

As a result, it’s wise to be careful when making purchases. Becoming an expert at delayed gratification, or focusing on value-based spending, will get you on the right track.

Getting serious about paying off debt also makes it clear that spending responsibly makes the most of the money you do have. It becomes much easier to prioritize what’s important when you’re on a limited budget.

Cutting out expenses that aren’t important is a good thing to do no matter what your financial situation is. Having your priorities straight will make it easier to spend your money in a meaningful way, and you’ll also be more aware of when your priorities change.

You Become a Savvy Shopper

Have you ever tossed things you thought you needed into your cart at the store, regardless of price?

Chances are, paying off debt has taught you that being an informed shopper is the way to go.

Shopping clearance sales, using a promo code, or earning cash back is a great feeling to have, right? It’s better than looking back at your receipts and wondering where the heck your money went, that’s for sure.

There are tons of ways to save when shopping these days, whether it’s getting a price match, waiting for a price to drop, or knowing when to shop for certain items. Paying less means more money going toward your financial goals.

Paying Off Debt Can Make Saving Easier

It stands to reason you can carry over the good financial habits you learn from paying off debt and apply them to the art of saving as well.

For most people, paying off debt requires focus and discipline. You know you want to be debt free, so you focus on that goal and base many of your financial decisions around it.

You can do the same when you develop savings goals (if you haven’t already). Saving requires just as much discipline and focus, if not more.

Some people actually have difficulty saving once they’re done paying off debt, as being debt free is more exciting to work toward. Seeing your debt balances decrease is pretty fun, right? Watching your bank account increase may test your patience a bit more, especially when there are so many spending temptations around.

Do you think saving would be easier if you could save when shopping for things you need?

I’m not talking about “saving” by getting a percentage off full-price for an item. I’m talking about actually getting what you saved deposited into your bank account, and then having the option to invest it according to your savings goals.

 

We Learn to Be Grateful for What We Have

This isn’t necessarily a financial habit, but it’s a good habit to have nonetheless.

When you’re in debt, it can help to be grateful for what you have, instead of thinking about all the things you can’t afford to buy.

Focusing on the good in life gives us more control over our general attitude, which helps us remain hopeful and steadfast in our journey to pay off debt.

You’ll realize it’s foolish to try and keep up with the Joneses, and hopefully care less about what everyone else is spending their money on. Knowing there’s more to life than possessions and status will help keep jealousy at bay when you’re in debt, and it goes hand-in-hand with meaningful spending.

Being in debt is gut wrenching and difficult, but it’s important to focus on the good that can come of it. Debt has taught us many valuable lessons we otherwise wouldn’t have learned, and the good financial habits we’ve formed will continue to serve us well even after we’ve dug our way out.

What important lessons has debt taught you? Have you developed other good financial habits from being in debt?

Erin is the Community & Brand Manager for Wherewithal, a company dedicated to helping you save money effortlessly. Shop, save, and invest all in one place, and reach your financial goals with ease. 

20 comments

  1. Some good lessons here. I recently wrote a similar posts about the lessons I’ve learnt from being in debt. Out of the 15 that I wrote about, the biggest lesson for me was number 3: Hiding doesn’t make it go away.

    This is what I wrote:

    “When you have debt, and you struggle to pay it back, the letters start coming thought the door and the phone starts to ring.

    If you don’t answer the phone, they call again and they leave messages and call the land line instead.

    When you move house they find you and they start writing to you again.

    If you avoid them altogether they take you to court and hit you with a Court order. Burying your head in the sand does not work. The debt will still be there and still needs to be dealt with.

    The only thing hiding does is add more interest and fees, makes the whole situation take longer to sort out and makes you have to live with the situation longer.”

    Although the lessons were learnt the hard way, we can certainly appreciate the foresight we now have went dealing with financial issues.

    • Erin says:

      You are spot on, Ricky! The situation can be difficult to face, but trying to get away from it is often futile. It causes more stress in the end, as you’re faced with all the late fees and interest that has been piling up. Being afraid of getting a letter in the mail, or of the phone ringing, is not a good way to live.

  2. Petrish @ Debt Free Martini says:

    You are absolutely right that for those of us who take our debt serious and work to rid our lives of it brings change. Getting out of debt has changed me in a lot of ways. Slowly I have been cleaning all areas of my life up and working towards making a better life for me and my daughter.

    • Erin says:

      Sometimes debt is really the wakeup call we need to get our lives in order. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but I think many of us who take action become more responsible and will be better off.

  3. Right now, I’m really grateful for what I have and not focusing on what I don’t have. 🙂 I used to keep up with the Joneses before, but I realized why would I keep on chasing that kind of lifestyle? Well, I don’t need to impress other people.

    • Erin says:

      Yep! At the end of the day, I think we’re better off ignoring the materialistic side of things. I’m never going to think someone is a better person because of the kind of car they drive, or the brand of the clothing they wear. Those that do think that way, I probably wouldn’t associate with anyway. 😉

  4. So true about habits! Once you gain those good saving and frugal habits, it is really life changing. And even once you are out of debt, those habits remain and you continue to save and be frugal.

    • Erin says:

      Exactly, Andrew! Financial success often comes down to developing good habits. Debt (at least consumer debt) usually results from having bad habits. Once you have those habits, being responsible with money comes naturally.

  5. This is a great post. I love how we changed in the process and how much we continue to change. Like you said the road to becoming debt free is so much fun, NOT! Yet, the outcome for us was worth is not just financially, but personally.

    • Erin says:

      Yes, exactly, Joyce! Being in debt and going through everything is a huge challenge, but once we come out on the other side, we definitely come out in a better place than the one we were in before.

  6. Will says:

    Having debt sure made me never want to have debt again! I will eventually get a mortgage but I won’t buy a house that’s more expensive than what I would pay with cash. I just don’t want to lose the opportunity cost from paying with cash. :/

    • Erin says:

      I feel the exact same way, Will. Having student loans has made me realize I don’t want to have to deal with making monthly payments to a lender. Most purchases aren’t worth it (with a house being the exception, of course).

  7. I like the second-to-last benefit the most. When we finished paying off debt, that monthly ‘payment’ started going to investments. We’d unintentionally built a habit: getting used to spending X, and everything else going to the debt. So then, the ‘everything else’ started going to assets instead of liabilities. Easy peasy. Without paying off the debt, we’d never be saving as much as we are now.

    Getting in debt was probably the impetus to really turning our financial lives (well, mine) around.

    • Erin says:

      Yes, that’s the way to do it! You get so used to living on whatever you have left after making payments toward debt, might as well use that momentum to start saving. That’s not to say you can’t give yourself some breathing room, but forming that habit really helps.

  8. We haven’t been in debt, but we approach our savings in a very similar way. I think your last point is spot on–being content with what we have has been crucial for us. We don’t feel the need to buy more/better stuff, which makes our lives both simpler and also more frugal. It’s like the opposite of the constantly-buying consumer carousel–it’s the rarely-buying frugal cycle :).

  9. I have found all of these points to be true, as my husband and I have worked to pay off our $60K in credit card debt. There is much to learn from this process, and it will help keep us from making the same mistakes in the future.

    One other thing I’ve learned is the importance of open communication about money with my husband. We simply have to work together as a team to achieve our financial goals.

  10. Excellent points Erin! Paying off debt taught me so much about handling finances and many of those things we still live by today. Of course, I wish I didn’t need to go through the experience to learn them but I find that just makes me appreciate them the lessons that much more.

  11. Kalie says:

    We are getting close to paying off our mortgage early. We used to joke about the things we would buy or do when we became mortgage-free. But then we realized those things aren’t really worth staying in the rat race at work for another 20 years. So when we pay it off, we plan to continue living on less & invest what was going to the mortgage. This should increase our flexibility to leave the typical career of working for someone else for 30+ years.

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