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What to Do When You Wake up to Find Yourself Deep in Debt

Submitted by on January 6, 2014 – 12:49 pm 76 Comments

wake up in debtOne of the things many people dread about January is getting those holiday credit card bills.  The celebratory spirit of the holiday season often gives us that “que’ sera, sera” feeling, doesn’t it?  That is, until January comes and we realize we’ve spent much more than we should’ve.  The holiday debts, along with all of the debts that existed before the holiday season, start to overwhelm us, and then panic sets in as we realize we’re headed toward some rough financial waters.  Now, instead of celebrating, you’re wondering how to get out of debt.

So, what do you do when you “wake up” one morning and realize that your debt load is too heavy to carry?  Well, having had our “wake up” moment just over a year ago, and making the decision at the point to get out of debt for good, I’ve got some thoughts to share that might help:

1. Don’t panic.  Seriously: calm down.  Panic, at this point, is only going to make the situation worse.  So, your first job is to accept your financial situation for what it is, and not chastise yourself for things you cannot go back and do over.

2.  Assess.  Write it down, on a sheet of paper, white board, or whatever: Each debtor, how much you owe them, what the minimum payment is and what the interest rate is.  This will allow you to view the situation as it stands and face the facts about the seriousness of the numbers.

3. Reflect.  After you assess, more fear and panic may set in.  Instead of allowing it to take root, have a calm conversation with yourself or your spouse about a)how you are feeling (no anger or blaming here, please), b) what you want your financial life to look like (this is called sharing dreams), and c) which areas of spending are most damaging to your financial picture.

4.  Plan.  This is where you make your ” how to get out of debt ” plan.  Now’s the time to write down your fixed and variable expenses and set a budget.  This may feel decidedly “un-fun” and “grown-up” to you, but it is crucial if you want to reach financial freedom.  Now’s the time, too, after you’ve written expenses down, to see what’s headed for the chopping block, and to set a limit on variable expenses such as entertainment, restaurant, and clothing funds.  At this step you’ll make decisions like “Is it time for cable to go?” and “How can I reduce my cell phone expenses.”

5.  Persist.  This is the most difficult, and the most crucial part of changing your financial life.  Any – any -path to financial freedom will hit roadblocks  and bumps along the way, and when those bumps come, it’s up to you to decide to not let them defeat you.  If you blow your entertainment budget one month, forgive yourself, move on, and commit to doing better the next month.  Without forgiveness and persistence, your chances of success here are next to none.

6. Ask.  Your debt situation might be so big that you just can’t conquer it alone.  If this is the case, don’t be afraid or ashamed to contact a debt relief company or a bankruptcy lawyer if necessary.  Or, enlist the help of a trusted family member or friend who is responsible with money.

Which reminds me: What do you do if your spouse is not on board with your “get out of debt” plan?  Well, you’ve got a few options:

1.  Share your financial fears and dreams with them.  Tell them why the debt scares you, and how much you’d really like to be able to ____________ in a few years.

2.  Ask them what their financial dreams are, and why they’re against getting out of debt.  Maybe your spouse is afraid that he/she will no longer have spending money to do fun things.  This is a fear that’s easily solved by allotting into your budget an entertainment allowance for each of you.  Whatever their reason for not wanting to work on a plan to debt free, you can likely resolve it by making a plan to counter those fears.

3.  Are they still not on board?  Ask for a compromise, and then choose to do whatever you can to get out of debt.  Maybe your compromise is that your spending spouse keeps his/her one credit card in their name, but the others all get closed and cut up.  See if you can find a common ground for monies that will go toward debt, while still giving them some freedom in their spending.  Also, work together to find out what it is that scares your spouse so much about working a how to get out of debt plan.  Maybe there are some serious fears from their earlier life that are hampering their view of money.  Find what works for the both of you, and then commit to doing what you can, regardless of their choices.  And get yourself a good savings account too.  No, it’s not acceptable for your spouse to be able to spend freely as they always have while you work and slave to get things in order, but either way, you’re still helping yourself, and that’s important.

Having started 2013 in a seriously dangerous debt situation, and having just made it through year one of our ” how to get out of debt ” plan, I can tell you that the above tips really do work, and that, in spite of the bumps in the road, it feels absolutely wonderful to be on the road to debt free.  Won’t you join us?

Readers, what are your best tips for those deep in debt? Or, do you have additional questions about how to get out of debt?

76 Comments »

  • Liz says:

    Great post ,Laurie. I remember when we were graduating and realized how much debt we had. It was shocking (naive we were!) and to be honest it took us some time to accept the debt and figure out our next steps. We did have some pretty decent fights about strategy and how we were going to pay off this massive debt. Now we are on the same page and working as a team. It makes payoff a whole lot easier!

    • Laurie says:

      Liz, I can totally identify with that. When Rick and I sat and figured out the numbers, we were in shock too. But if people can get past that, like you guys have, it does make dealing with it and working your plan much easier, doesn’t it?

  • Solid post Laurie! I think the steps, as well as being on board with your spouse, are so important to climb your way out of debt. I would also add in the case of something like holiday debt to make a plan for how you’re going to avoid it for the coming years.

  • I think assessing your situation and planning are the biggest keys for working your way out of any debt. Communication with spouse or family is important too. My wife and I worked out a spending plan for the holidays and they were so much more enjoyable, knowing no new debt would be waiting for us in the New Year.

    • Laurie says:

      We did the same thing, Brian, and isn’t it awesome?? Knowing that you won’t have that huge extra bill coming along in January sure is nice. 🙂

  • Great post!
    Yeah, now is about the time of year when people start to regret their holiday spending. But, the only way out of it is through it!

  • As a person who couldn’t deal with the debt by myself, I’m very happy to see #6 on your list. Enrolling in a debt relief program is nothing to be ashamed of!

  • When I want a snack and cookies are in the cupboard, I will probably find a way to eat them. Remove the cookies and I might find a healthier alternative in the veggie drawer. (Brought to you by my Christmas cookie eating binge over the last two weeks.)

    If the credit cards caused the debt and you can’t control yourself, then get rid of them. There are healthier spending habits to use like cash or debit cards.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, I can TOTALLY identify with that, Brian. 🙂 I agree with dumping the cards if you can’t control yourself. No temptation, no problem.

  • We can control the debt issues if we dealt it calmly. First, we have to reduce our expenses and then plan how to solve it. It is right always to discuss with your partner. Remember that two heads is better than one.

  • Thanks, Laurie, for the timely post!

    Post-holiday credit card bills are, in my mind, one of the two main reasons why personal bankruptcies spike in March and April (the other reason being related to filing for tax refunds before filing a bankruptcy petition).

    As for #6 and debt relief companies, one thing to clarify, because of the confusion I hear in many of my classes, is the difference between a debt settlement company (who collects monthly payments, usually for several years, before attempting to negotiate a reduction in the principal balance) and a debt management program through a nonprofit credit counseling agency (who arranges lower interest rates and a stop to penalty fees and then disperses a monthly payment to creditors till paid off dollar-for-dollar).

    The fact that the government requires anyone considering personal bankruptcy to see an approved nonprofit credit counselor first (www.justice.gov/ust/eo/bapcpa/ccde/index.htm) should say something about when to seek credit counseling assistance… namely, before debt gets out of control. Nonprofit credit counselors do not charge for initial consultations to assess household budgets and review debt repayment options. They do, however, usually charge a modest program enrollment fee and monthly administrative fees (again, usually capped somewhere between $25 and $50). A debt management program through a nonprofit credit counselor does not directly impact a credit score (there may be some indirect negative impact initially and indirect positive results later, depending upon the individual’s situation and program completion), while settling debt through a debt negotiation/settlement company will almost always cause more credit score trouble.

    That said, each have their virtues and can serve an appropriate purpose. My usual suggestion (take this with the understanding that I work for a credit counseling agency) is:

    1. Credit and follow through on your own debt elimination strategy whenever possible.
    2. See a nonprofit credit counselor (found at one of the trade associations: aiccca.org, nfcc.org, accpros.org).
    3. Consider debt settlement if debt elimination (and not credit rebuilding) is your short-term goal
    4. Talk to a bankruptcy attorney

    Ignoring the problem is NEVER a good option, though one many opt for in the short-term.

    Oh, and I totally agree with the necessity of getting a spouse’s buy in on any financial strategy. It’s not easy, but it is necessary.

    Todd
    Author of “Everyday Money for Everyday People”

    • Laurie says:

      Todd, thank you so much for all of the great info! It’s always nice to have a professional in the biz share their advice – I appreciate you weighing in!

  • Mackenzie says:

    Plan ahead. Gone are the days of putting Christmas presents on credit cards, and then spending the next several months paying it off.

    Great post, Laurie 🙂

  • E.M. says:

    Awesome advice as usual! I think it’s very important to make sure you and your spouse are on the same page regarding debt. When one person isn’t as committed, it makes it harder on the other as they feel more of the burden. Not placing blame is difficult, but crucial, as you said. No constructive conversations are going to come out of pointing fingers.

    • Laurie says:

      Great advice, E.M., and I can say from experience that you are spot on. The quicker you can agree to work together as a team, the better.

  • Jim says:

    Great post Laurie, I particularly like the point you made about reflection and not blaming your spouse. Communication about money is the key, and can have a tendency to tear a marriage apart, even if your in a good financial position.

    • Laurie says:

      That, and blame will shut the door on communication real fast. Money, from everything I’ve read, is one of the main causes of divorce, so it’s important not to let it tear a marriage apart. Thanks for sharing the great points, Jim!

  • Great post, Laurie! One of the hardest challenges is when your spouse isn’t onboard. I like how you laid the conversations with him or her. Often times there is some hidden fear that prevents them from wanting to make the change. Ignoring that fear or making them feel bad or mad, doesn’t help the situation. It doesn’t mean you give up the dream of financial freedom but before you begin that you take the time to address fears and concerns and offer support. Open communication is so important and unfortunately a step that couples are not always the best at doing. 🙂

  • Excellent advice here Laurie! I think the big thing is to stay calm and stay motivated. I remember the day I realized I was about 67k in debt. I didn’t think I would ever be able to climb that mountain, be thanks to some serious hard work and frugal living, we made it… Although now it still seems impossible, I know it isn’t. Thankfully my wife and I were on the same page. Having support is an awesome thing when it comes to getting out of debt.

    • Laurie says:

      Ryan, thanks for sharing an awesome and motivating story. This is exactly what I’m talking about: if you can keep your head on straight and focus on the prize, you will eventually get there!

  • Matt Becker says:

    My favorite two points: “don’t panic” and “persist”. As far as panicking goes, one thing I’ve found helpful when I feel overwhelmed is to find one thing I can do right now to make some progress. It doesn’t have to be the MOST productive or MOST important thing, it just has to help me make some progress.

    Actually, the same thing is true when I’m having trouble moving forward. The time to quit is never when you feel like you want to quit. We all feel that way from time to time, no matter how much we believe in or love what we’re doing. It’s just a fact that things get difficult from time to time and no one is an eternally-positive cyborg who never feels discouraged. But the people who succeed are the ones who keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how down-in-the-dumps they’re feeling. That’s something I’m really trying to get better at.

    • Laurie says:

      Love that tip, Matt, about finding one thing you can do right now to make some progress. And same goes for putting one foot in front of the other – that has been crucial for us. In the times when we really wanted to give up, we just committed to taking it one step at a time. Great ideas – thanks!

  • anna says:

    Great step-by-step plan, Laurie! I completely agree about asking for help – even though I didn’t do it directly, I sought out the advice and tips from PF blogs, and it helped me so much to not only pay down debt, but change the way I view things financially! It’s also nice to know you’re not doing this process on your own. Don’t panic (or create anxiety) is huge, as well – calming down and thinking of a plan is definitely key!

    • Laurie says:

      I totally agree, Anna. The PF blogging world has been like a free personal finance college education for us, and also, it’s encouraged us and motivated us to do better. Help doesn’t always have to come in the form of “professionals” – even advice from people who know what they’re talking about in the area of PF is super valuable.

  • Super post Laurie! One other tip that has helped me immensely in accelerating my debt repayments is to be creative in ways to make more money! The debt repayment journey is also a long one so celebrate mini milestones to keep the momentum going! 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      So true, GMD! You’ve been a rock star at bringing in extra income, which I know has really helped so you can still treat yourself too. Balance is so important when it comes to paying off debt, isn’t it?

  • Great steps to follow. Keeping that mindset going during and after paying off debt is essential. You don’t want to fall back into the same bad spending habits once you are debt free.

    • Laurie says:

      Raquel, that’s a terrific point – many who’ve paid off their debt have written that it can be very tempting to go out and get crazy with spending now that they’re “doing well” financially, and it’s absolutely something that needs to be looked out for. Thanks for the great tip. 🙂

  • Good stuff, Laurie. I’m a big fan of systems and step by step plans, as I am not someone who can just ‘wing it’. I hear about people who don’t budget and just have an innate ability to spend as little as possible…that ain’t me. I need a plan, and wish I had one like this when we were dealing with credit card and student loan debt.

    I think this will help a lot of people looking at their January statements. Good on you!

    • Laurie says:

      “That ain’t me”. Oh, I can SO identify with that, DB40. This is too, IMHO, why support is so important. When you’ve got a few people in your cheering section, it makes the tough days much easier to handle.

  • I think persistence is absolutely key! It’s the hardest one but the absolute cornerstone of getting out of debt in my opinion.

    • Laurie says:

      Hey, Marvin, good to hear from you! Yes, persistence has been key for us. Just that whole “put one step in front of the other” thing. It’s not easy, as you mentioned, but if you can get through that one day, the next will be easier, and so on.

  • Micro says:

    I think a big thing to consider is planning for next year. I think most people if they’ve over spent in one December, chances are it’s a common occurence. That means it’s important to make a plan so you don’t wind up spending the following Janurary in the same boat.

    • Laurie says:

      Great point, Micro. We’ve always just used Rick’s extra check for Christmas gifts, but we’re going to work hard this year to put a bit away each month so that we’ve got at least some of the expense already in savings.

  • I think that realization that the fantasy you’ve been living HAS to come to an end is the hardest part. No matter if you’re in debt or just not saving and living beyond your means, you have to reach that point where you say enough is enough. Then just start. Just do it. Make a plan and do it. There really isn’t much more to it than that…but it’s easier said than done, isn’t it?

    • Laurie says:

      Tonya, you said it well. Waking up from the fantasy was super hard for us. Lots of crying on my part. But choosing to “just do it” and start our path was probably the wisest thing we’ve ever done in terms of our finances. The rest is all gravy. 🙂

  • Dear Debt says:

    Working together with your partner is key. And making more money! There is only so much you can cut out, but you can continue to go up with income. I also think you are right about getting mentally straight first and not panicking. It doesn’t help!

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Melanie! Working with your partner is key, as is increasing your income. Plus, it helps to push your journey along faster, which gives you more motivation.

  • Wow thank God I am no longer in debt. This post Laurie serves as a great reminder of the work it takes to get out of the hole. I hope I never have to go thru that again.

    • Laurie says:

      Kyle, you’ve luckily learned that lesson, and I’m certain you won’t be going back, but I’ll bet those debt-laden memories are still fresh in the back of your mind, aren’t they. It’s a scary thing to owe lots of money!

  • tamara says:

    Hi- I really enjoyed your post, we are clawing our way out of debt by trying to pay the mortgage off our 5 acre block. My main tip for being debt free (a subject dear to my heart!) is:

    1. Stop spending- go cold turkey, have a day or week where you break the habit- use up all the food in your pantry and avoid doing groceries- nothing bad will happen if there is no peanut butter or banana’s for a week 🙂 Its hard to do at first but now after a couple of years of dong this its just second nature

    • Laurie says:

      “Nothing bad will happen if there’s is no peanut butter or bananas for a week”. LOVE that, Tamara. Sometimes (and I know this was true for us) we get so used to comfort and convenience, that the least bit of inconvenience can be scary. After adapting rules like yours, such as “no grocery shopping weeks”, we’ve learned, as you said, that we really can survive on rice and beans for a week, and that we’ll be okay. That is a huge part of succeeding in paying of debt. Very best of luck to you guys on your journey!

      • my2cents says:

        In addition to the “no groceries” this week, how about no clothing purchases this month (or even this year…)? If we’re truly honest most of us have way more clothing than we need. Unless you are pregnant, have just lost half your body weight, are a child having a growth spurt, or you do extremely physical dirty work then how on earth can anyone possibly need a monthly clothing budget? Do you actually damage or wear out something monthly? Unless you need to replace an essential item I’d bet most people could go at least a year without purchasing a single item. When a nonessential items wears out, just don’t replace it, move on to other things. I wasn’t trying to go a whole year by my lowest year was $14 ($10 for 3pr socks and a $4 thrift store sweater). During a “no clothing shopping” time, focus instead on maximizing what you have. Purge your closet of items you can’t or won’t wear – sell what you can, swap with friends, and donate the rest. While reviewing your wardrobe you’ll probably find things you forgot you had and come up with new combinations so the old stuff feels new. If you stick to a classic timeless wardrobe you won’t be at the whims of trends, or can indulge in a trend with a single accessory added to your basics. When all else fails and something actually has to be replaced, see if you can fill the need at a thrift or consignment shop before resorting to buying new. At Christmas when you are asked what you’d like, how about a gift card for a clothing store so you can replace an item at after holiday sale prices? I use this approach most Christmases. I figure out what I’m likely going to have to spend on in the next few months and either ask for those items or a gift card so I can choose it myself. This year I received cards for a restaurant, home improvement store and a clothing store. These will be used to cover known upcoming expenses to cover a family BD dinner, replacing a faulty lamp, and replacing a pair of dress pants that have finally worn out. Now the money I had scheduled for those items will be redirected into retirement savings. It’s would be hard to ask for retirement contributions for Christmas, but that’s essentially what my family gave me.

        • tamara says:

          This made me laugh… My husbands new years resolution for 2013 was to buy nothing for a year! He did it but found it a real challenge and his underpants drawer needs a re-vamp in 2014 thats for sure 🙂

          • Laurie says:

            LOL, Rick just said the same thing to me last night. 🙂 We are on a strict clothing budget again this year, but I promised I’d squeeze new underwear in on next month’s clothing allowance, LOL. 🙂

        • Laurie says:

          Awesome tips – thank you!! We did fairly well on clothing last year but want to do even better this year. It can actually be quite fun to see what you DON’T spend when you really try. 🙂

  • Not having your spouse support your getting out of debt goal might prove to be the biggest setback. But I am sure that any person who decides that it’s time to get out of debt was smart enough to find a partner who would (at least eventually) follow the same dream and offer support and understanding the importance of getting out of debt.

    • Laurie says:

      I would totally agree, C. I’ve got a friend whose hubby was NOT on board with getting out of debt. He’s got a ways to go yet, but he is slowly coming around to her side.

      • my2cents says:

        I may be completely wrong, but if you got into debt together and now one of you has seen the light, or at least become sufficiently worried enough to take action, that doesn’t automatically imply that the other person has come to the same conclusion at the same time. The final straw may come at very different places for different people. It may be to do with risk tollerance, it may be your upbringing and idea of how much debt is “normal”.
        It is certainly far easier to deal with the problem when everyone is moving in the same direction. Not only is one person not being sabotaged by the other, but when one is on the verge of falling off the frugal wagon the other can be there to catch them.
        Lots of people avoid discussing money issues before becoming a couple – I get it, debt, savings, budgets etc aren’t very romantic. But neither is having your car reposessed or not being able to feed and clothe your children. A whole lot of discussion early in a relationship would go a long way to choosing a partner who has similar goals. I know if I were young and single now, I personally would run screaming from anyone who had massive consumer debt, was in denial about their finances, and lived only for the moment and hadn’t bothered to figure out where they wanted to be in 10, 20, 40 years. I’m not suggesting you marry for money, but there’s definitely a case to be made for avoiding a partner that will drag you down or at least fight you every step of the way.
        When I married, I admit we really didn’t consciously make a point of talking about finances, but in hindsight that was probably because what we said in casual conversations really told the story, and none of it set of alarm bells. Salaries and raises weren’t secrets but out in the open. We knew neither of us had school debt or carried credit card balances. I didn’t even have a credit card when we met. While dating we often split bills, and regularly planned outings that involved no money at all simply because it wasn’t a pay week or there was an upcoming large bill. On new grad salaries there often wasn’t much extra to spend on nonessentials, but I don’t recall ever lamenting about it. We both seemed to automatically assume that if things were a little tight then no money should be going out. Probably the result of being raised in similar families where living within your means and not giving a damn about the Jonses was the norm. I do worry about the lessons being learned by children in families where the finances are a mess and nobody is taking the debt seriously. A lot of good learning can be done watching your parents turn things around after bad luck or poor choices, but some kids never get to witness that.

        • Laurie says:

          More great points here. Yeah, we know lots of people where one person is ready to get out of debt, but the other isn’t. They just keep doing what they can, and gently talking with their spouses about the benefits of debt freedom. Like you, if I had it to do over, money would definitely be one of the first conversations I had. You are lucky that you guys grew up in families that didn’t care about the Joneses – that seems to be very rare these days. Even though we made a huge mess of our money, we are seeing proof every day that the kids have every intention of NOT making our same mistakes, and that is a very, very good thing. 🙂

        • Mary says:

          Awesome advice. I find myself 50 years old with teenagers and a husband with no interest in the future other than what his next meal will be and what new toys he can buy to not be bored. We had a crisis (emergency surgery, loss of paychecks for a while), and his response was that he was going out to buy some lottery tickets. I have since split up the money (to ensure he is paying half the bills), and now he is having his own crisis having to live on his own paycheck and not mine. I have really focused myself regarding finances and investments, created a budget (including a schedule to pay off debts), started investing a little each month via a very helpful stock trading website, have a plan regarding kids’ college, but he is just not concerned. His father died with a ton of debt, and he just shrugs it off. Ironically, one of the things that was appealing about him when were dating was that he was so relaxed with money. I grew up in a family that STRESSED over everything financial. EVERYTHING cost too much and was just too extravagent. I used to wish we could get food from a food bank so I would know what it was like to eat name brand cereal. I thought he was confident and in control of his finances, and instead, he just doesn’t care.

          • Laurie says:

            Mary, smart move on separating the finances. Sometimes it takes spouses a while to get on board, and sometimes they just never do, but that doesn’t mean you can’t control your own financial future. Those family histories of money really can screw things up – I lived like your husband for many, many years, and wanted to change but didn’t know how. I have family members who still live this way and think it’s okay/normal/there’s no way out. Your story shows that even with a spouse who’s bad with money, you can take control and make sure your money is okay, even if you have to live with separate finances. Best of luck to you, my friend!

  • This is seriously an amazing post. I have nothing to add! But it’s an important question that many people have to face – what to do when you realize you are in deep debt?

  • #3 was a big one for us. It’s very easy to try and blame each other for why you are in debt, but everyone has equal blame. Whether you were spending or ignoring what was going on, it makes no difference. Looking down the road at where we were going to be in 10 years on our current path was very eye opening and what really made us turn it around.

  • Dianne says:

    This past year, I decided I was going to make our Christmas gifts. Everyone has a talent buried deep inside them, whether it’s sewing, baking, woodworking, painting, etc. I’m a knitter, so I knitted socks, scarfs, hats, slippers, little sweaters for the grandkids and hair scrungies, which the little girls loved. One of my grown daughters made handmade soaps, candles, etc. I started my gifts right after Christmas last year, and worked on them leisurely all year. My entire Christmas presents for 2013 didn’t even come to $200.00, partially because I invaded my yarn stash I already had. (Although, I cheated and bought a wooden Cross to hang on the wall for one daughter. She had her eye on it.)

    You don’t have to go into debt for Christmas. Use your imagination and remember the Reason for the Season.

    • Laurie says:

      Dianne, that is awesome!! We are thinking about doing more fun stuff for Christmas next year like giving away our canned and home made baked goods, bruschetta, salsa, etc.

      • tamara says:

        I made the rule last year that we would only do hand made gifts. We got and gave some really cool things. The kids got a home made basket ball and netball hoop that their pop made (spent ages, welding, sanding, re-painting etc), a dolls cot bought second hand and stripped back, which they love. We made gift baskets for the adults: homemade candles, rhubarb and rose water syrup, jars of home made jam and honey and my personal favourite, alfafa sprout kit. It was really good, everyone was happy and it was nice to walk away from the day with the feeling that we were not being wasteful!

  • I had a pretty tight Christmas budget this year and I’m happy to report that I meet my budget and didn’t have to hand over my credit card. 🙂 I love being generous with gifts so it was initially hard to pull back. Honestly, I felt pretty miserable about it but then I realized I would never want anyone to go into debt buying me a gift and I would hope they would feel the same way. Fear is something I have to been mindful of. I am a positive person overall but sometimes fear gets it’s claws in me and it becomes hard for me to put together a plan of action. I just freeze. Great point that we need to forgive ourselves too. Spending all of our time and energy beating ourselves up for past mistakes doesn’t do us a lick of good right now!

    • Laurie says:

      Oh, I am right there with you, Tanya. Just went through a bout of fear last night again, and it can be so debilitating, can’t it? So happy for you that you were able to pay cash for all of your gifts. We did too, and what a great feeling that is!

  • Good tips here. When I finally sat down to “face” my student loan debt I was shocked, horrified and overwhelmed by how much money I owed. Talking to friends and family was really helpful because they were super supportive (so were fellow bloggers, which is why I think this medium of expression is so powerful and beneficial :-))

    • Laurie says:

      I totally agree, KK. I say often that this whole PF community has been absolutely key to our success so far. The support and encouragement go a long way in helping people to stay on track with their financial goals.

  • Hello Laurie! Happy New Year to you and your family. I can relate to this post hugely as it was last January when my husband and I finally took stock of our debt situation.

    We went through the steps as you describe above and are still at step # 5 -Persist. I think this is the most important step for anyone looking to get out of debt as it’s so easy to give up at this point when times get difficult and paying off debt becomes tedious at best.

    We tried to face up to our debt several times before this but we always were too scared to get together the ‘real numbers’ concerning our debt. Ignorance is definitely not bliss!

    • Laurie says:

      Good to “see” you, Hayley!! I would so agree about the “persist” part. It may definitely be the most difficult part, but also the part that will push you toward success. Even if you just have to focus on making it through the day, just choose to do that, and tomorrow will likely feel better.

      • my2cents says:

        Depending on the length of time it’s going to take to accomplish the goal you can definitely get sick of a seemingly endless process. You assessed the situation, you made a plan, you’ve been sticking to it and proved you are coommitted. Now just rinse and repeat for x months or years. Aaaagh! Once you’ve proved to yourself you can follow the plan you’ve laid out, the sheer length of time it will take can sometimes derail even the most dedicated. Plan lots of mini rewards for reaching milestones, creat visual graphs to track your progress so you can see what you’re accomplishing. Do whatever works for you, whether it’s paying off debt, saving for a home, or doubling up savings so you can retire early. I’m personally tracking everything on a spreadsheet to ensure early retirement in December 2020. Just 2511 more days, but who’s counting!

        • Laurie says:

          “Do whatever works for you..” EXACTLY. So very glad your early retirement plan is on track too. In our dream of dreams, we’d be set enough for Rick to have the option of walking away from his job at somewhere between 50 and 55. We have an older friend who is retiring in June, and he’s SO happy. Can’t wait to celebrate with him.

  • Great tips – although I couldn’t imagine it if my spouse wasn’t on board with our financial goals, I don’t think I would handle it very well at all.

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, I have to say it definitely helps, Rick and I being on the same page. Goals can be reached, but will likely take much longer, if your spouse is still wanting to spend like crazy.

  • “What to Do When You Wake up to Find Yourself Deep in Debt” – My recommendation: turn over and go back to sleep! 🙂

    Seriously though, wonderful tips Laurie and thanks for looking out for us!

    Take care and all the best.

    Lyle

    • Laurie says:

      ROFL! Thanks, Lyle!! That is absolutely what we feel like doing some days. 🙂 Have a wonderful day, my friend. Happy weekend!

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