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How Skepticism Can Help You Conquer Your Debt

Submitted by on October 16, 2013 – 12:46 pm 54 Comments

 

So, we had family game night a few weeks back.  My oldest daughter loves family game night with our extended family, because our sarcastic and silly comments throughout the night keep everyone in giggles, and we always have a boatload of awesome food.  What more do you need for happiness, right? 🙂

However, at the last family game night, I got a good lesson in why we need to be skeptical of what we’re told, weighing comments carefully before submitting to their message.

Trivial pursuit was the game.  It pretty much always is.  Unc and I are always a team, and Aunt Robie, Mom and Maddie form the other team.  I always get paired up with Unc because I basically suck at Trivial Pursuit and he rocks at it.  We’re a good balance, I like to say. 🙂

So, about halfway through the game, here is the question we got to read to the other team:

Why did Apollo 13 not land on the moon?  It wasn’t our question, but I was SO excited!

Ooh, ooh!!!  I know this one!!!!

Apollo 13 is a movie we have in our collection and watch at least once a year.  It’s one of our favorites, and I’ve got the script pretty much memorized.

Damaged heat shield, damaged heat shield!  I screamed inside.

Then I looked at the answer on the Trivial Pursuit card:

Apollo 13 didn’t land on the moon because there was no Apollo 13.  NASA wouldn’t use it because they considered it an unlucky number.

Huh?  I started to question my beliefs on the subject.  Is the movie not really called Apollo 13?  Is it not really based on a true story?  Is the entire movie just a figment of my imagination?  If I would’ve kept up on this path, I may have just convinced myself that the Trivial Pursuit card was correct and that I’d dreamt our many nights of watching the Tom Hanks movie as a family.  Luckily, I got up, went to the movie cabinet, and found the movie, verifying that what I’d originally thought was indeed the truth.

Far too often in life, most people simply believe what they’re told.  We believe what our parents, our teachers, our friends, or any other  person who has some type of authority value in our lives tell us to be true.  This can be a good thing.  It can also be a bad thing, because as you probably already know, not everything we believe ends up to be true.  Can you look back over your life and think of a belief you were convinced of at one time, that you now know holds no water?  Likely my biggest lesson in this area is the lesson I learned, after we got ourselves into thousands of dollars of credit card debt, that stuff isn’t what makes us happy.

I used to envision The Good Life as one filled with fancy houses, nice cars and designer clothes.  But when I got those things, I was (surprise!) still miserable.  Eventually I learned that true happiness has absolutely nothing to do with material possessions.  I find today, though, that there are still forces out there (uh-em, marketing and media, cough cough) working to get me to believe that I’ll be happy if I just have their jewelry/car/burger/beer/vacation/beauty product or whatever.

Unfortunately, these false beliefs can be a huge hindrance to a financial independence or debt payoff plan.  How?

1. They might convince you to blow your budget.  Just this once, right?  Just this once, I’ll charge that gorgeous sweater or that video game, even though I know it’s not in the budget this month.  Just this once, we’ll splurge on a few extra restaurant dinners.  Just this once, we’ll………….

Just this once is a dangerous phrase which can easily cause great harm to your financial plan if you fall for the marketing ploys thrown to you hundreds of times a day.  Be skeptical and don’t fall for it.  Ask yourself “What do these people really want from me?”   Their goal is not to bring you happiness, it’s to get your hard-earned cash.

2.  They might convince you that your dream of debt freedom is unreachable.  Great spirits often encounter violent opposition from mediocre minds.  Albert Einstein.

If you are going to choose to get on a road to debt free or to financial independence, be prepared to encounter violent opposition from often well-meaning people who don’t want to be left in the dust when you live the life of your dreams.    Yes, your dream of debt freedom might be difficult, but it is NOT unreachable.  Not if you stay the course.

3.  They might convince you that you don’t really want to be debt free.   There are all sorts of forces out there working to convince people that they really would be much happier with loads of stuff than they would with financial independence.  Don’t fall for it.  As a family who is only just beginning on the road to debt free, I can assure you that the peace that comes with having a solid financial plan in place is far more gratifying than anything you could ever buy.  When someone tries to convince you otherwise, be skeptical.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, when someone tells you something, it’s important not to take it as the truth until you’ve seen all sides of the story.  Try it.  You might be surprised at what you learn.

54 Comments »

  • Wonderful post. I am always shocked when those “light bulb” moments come on – something I’ve been doing for so long – and thought was true – turns out to be wrong. Like you, I was living that debt-ridden lifestyle thinking it was the only way.

  • E.M. says:

    It is so true that there are tons of forces pressuring us to buy into this or that. We should always stop and reflect why we’re drawn to something. I tend to go a bit extreme with this, but I always double-check my reasons for buying something. The first question is, “Do I NEED this?” If I don’t, I evaluate the cost vs how much happiness it might bring, or how much use I’ll get out of it. I’ll research bigger purchases to death and make sure I really want to commit to spending that much money for something. It’s usually never a good thing to blindly believe what others tell you. Plus, some people will falsely endorse something without even realizing it. If they spent a large amount on a product, they may be too ashamed to admit it was a waste. This leads back to knowing what’s best for you.

    • Laurie says:

      All great points, E.M.!! Especially loved your point about people who falsely endorse something to justify the purchase of it, even if they aren’t happy with it. All crucial things to watch out for. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Great post! I think a lot of us just believe what we hear without doing some independent research or thinking for ourselves which can be dangerous. Thanks for clarifying the answer to the Trivial Pursuit question…I was thinking the same thing as you! Now I know.

  • Great post, Laurie! “I used to envision The Good Life as one filled with fancy houses, nice cars and designer clothes. But when I got those things, I was (surprise!) still miserable. Eventually I learned that true happiness has absolutely nothing to do with material possessions” This happens to so many of us. We have this vision what the Good Life must be but the truth is it’s often far simpler and more in reach than we think. We get caught in the hype and believe what other people tell us. Sometimes with best intentions and sometimes with not. Being happy is what so many of want but at the same times many of us fear it and will do what we can to keep those around us in a similar place. I’m glad you’re not falling for those old trick any longer!

  • Great post Laurie and thanks 🙂

    When I was young I wanted what I thought was the Good Life. As I matured though, I began to question WHY! The rest of the story you know.

    That being said, the “good life” does work for some so who really knows. All I know is what works for me and that I’m happy!! And I’m sure you feel the same.

    Take care and my best to all.

    Lyle

  • Matt Becker says:

    Oh man, I’ve had so many moments in my life when one of my “beliefs” gets called into question, I go into denial, then I start thinking and really wondering where that belief actually came from. Most of the time I have no idea. It’s just one of those things I heard at some point and assumed was true. I think learning to question information is one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal. Many many people get themselves into unfortunate situations because they just did as they were told, even if the people telling them had the best intentions. In the end you have to make your own truth and find what’s right for you, not rely on the world to tell you what’s right and wrong.

    • Laurie says:

      Matt, love what you’ve said here!! I remember growing up as an oldest child, we were taught to “obey our elders” which is a good rule in general, as long as you pair it with the “not believing everything you’re told” rule. For years, even as an adult, I would eagerly do what I was told, because it was what we were taught at home, and it took me a long time to kind of get my own voice, you know?

  • I absolutely love this Laurie! First because it reminds me of Friday night supper when I was young. We played family monopoly and had untold amounts of sweets (It did help that we owned our own shop). But also because I relate to the mentality of just this once. Fortunately things are good now but for a while when I was young I definitely fell prey to that mentality.

    • Laurie says:

      Oh my goodness, an unlimited amount of sweets at a shop would NOT be a good fit for me. 🙂 We played Monopoly lots as kids too – isn’t it fun? Man, the “just this once” thing was a tough one for me too. SO glad I’m out of that cycle, as I’m sure you are too.

  • Wait, there really wasn’t any Apollo 13?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_13

    I’m really confused now.

    Anyhow, I agree that skepticism is a healthy position, especially in personal finance. But only to a point. I generally will learn to trust certain bloggers after a while, because doubt can be exhausting after a while!

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, yes, DB40, there was an Apollo 13. The Trivial Pursuit card had an incorrect answer. 🙂 And you’re so right about doubt/skepticism and how it can be exhausting. Too much of it is a lot of work!

      • Somehow that blows my mind. How can the Trivial Pursuit people have botched that one? I know it’s the most reasonable thing in the world to make an error, but the bit about NASA being suspicious is crazy…they just made it up?

        • Laurie says:

          I know!!! I think we found another error that night too, but I can’t remember off hand what it was. We play lots of TP, and I don’t know that we’ve ever come across an error before. Weird, huh? At least I got a good PF lesson out of it. 🙂

  • The hardest thing of course, is finding the path without someone telling you what the right path is. I mean, we all know we want to be debt-free, but for those who haven’t heard about such a possibility, they might not even know it exists and therefore perpetuate what they feel is correct.

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Mochimac! But I’ve found with all things that if you’re willing to look hard enough, eventually the education will come. 🙂

  • Brit says:

    This is a great post. Guess I wouldn’t be the person I am now if my “beliefs” were not questioned. If I didn’t open to the change. I probably would be living in a fancy car, driving a fancy car, and unhappy and in debt. Raising my children to the same “beliefs.” Again, great post. Thank you.

    • Laurie says:

      Glad you liked it, Brit! Questioning my beliefs, on so many levels, has changed my life for the better in a big way. So worth it!

  • “True happiness has nothing to do with material possessions.” I’ll second that one. That is one of the lies we so easily buy into.

    On another note…it’s been a few days since I’ve been here. Love your new look! 🙂

  • I “bought into” the wrong beliefs for a long time. I too, thought if I could just buy a nice house and a nice car and lots of “pretties” that life would be perfect. I now know that all of that is bologna 😉

  • Great post! Indeed we tend to believe things that we are told without even checking the facts. I’ve been in many situations where I decided to believe some sort of authority, consider their words as general truth, only to be proven that it was not the case. We are easy to manipulate and the mass media knows how to tickle our soft spots and make us believe that we need things that we actually don’t.

    • Laurie says:

      C, excellent point about the mass media! We by and large simply don’t watch anymore. The messages coming out of media in general, especially the news, are sickening. Most all geared toward shock value or getting, as you said, us to think we need things that we don’t.

  • Just this once is never true. Even though we don’t have debt we’re often going over budget due just this one time. Those one times add up to a lot.

  • “Just this once” IS THE WORST. With money, food, taking a break from the gym, lying, doing something your not supposed to do. If you ever find yourself saying those words, run. Just run. 🙂

  • Great advice Laurie. 🙂 I’ve fallen foul of believing certain things I’m told when they aren’t true. A classic one for me besides the whole debt situation is being told (in a nice way) that I surely can’t be successful at something or that business idea won’t work because it’s too difficult, too much effort, or I need too much money to get started. But actually when I think about it, the only person who will know for sure is me if I could just give things a try.

    P.S. I love Apollo 13!

    • Laurie says:

      OH my goodness, Hayley – I’ve so fallen for that line before! It used to keep me from trying new things all the time, but now I know better. Funny that you love Apollo 13 too – it’s a great classic. 🙂

  • I dont think I ever thought material things could bring me happiness. I grew up around people who had fancy cars and big houses and who were still miserable. So I kind of observed and learned bout what makes true happiness.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s great that you learned that so young, Romona. Having that type of insight at such a young age is a rarity, I think. What a blessing!

  • Goes back to that dam ‘Self Fulfilling Prophecy’ I remember reading about in Psych 101 doesn’t it. You listen to what other people say you should be long enough and after a while you start to believe it. Whether it be about finances or the stuff that makes you happy, follow your own path and don’t believe the rhetoric!

    On a side-note I remember getting a trivial pursuit question when I was a kid that asked ‘Who was the 1st black player in Major League Baseball?” I was so happy and answered “Jackie Robinson!’ – much to my surprise the card said ‘Roberto Clemente’ and I remember thinking that maybe I was wrong until my Grandpa told me I was right and the game was incorrect.

    • Laurie says:

      Funny about the TP question!!! You remind me of my baby (well, almost 38-year-old) brother – he’s a baseball fanatic too – knows all that stuff. And you’re so right about the SFP – Believe it, and you’ll be it. 🙂

  • Ha! I love this! I never saw the Apollo 13 movie yet, nor did I know that little bit of trivia. Guess Trivial Pursuit can get it wrong sometimes too! Nice lead into your post. We all put a lot of faith in what others tell us, but there’s always two sides to a story. And ultimately you can make better decisions when you’re well informed.

    • Laurie says:

      What? Anthony, it’s a must-see -you’d love it! Great point about being well-informed before making decisions – it really does make a difference!

  • Dianne says:

    So true, about not listening to others. I just paid my car off, and it is now 10 years old, but running great! My boss keeps telling me I should go get a new car. Why should I? He has 4 car payments. My best friend keeps telling me I should get cable TV. Why should I? I have my TV hooked up to an antenna, and I only get 4 channels, but that’s all I need.

    My biggest problem is getting discouraged. I am zealously paying off my last credit card, and I get hit with a $5,000 foundation repair, which is setting me back a year from my goal of being debt free, because my $1,000 emergency fund won’t cover it, so I have to put it on the card. I stay the course, but those side-swipes really get me down.

    • Laurie says:

      Dianne, this is the kind of pressure that those traveling the “normal” (read: broke) path put on the rest of us! I know exactly what you mean about those setbacks, we’ve had a big bunch of them as well, but even with your payoff being delayed, I know that when you get there you’ll be SO glad you stayed the course. You go, girl!

      • Dianne says:

        Laurie, thanks for the “you go girl!” I found this website while surfing, with a “Poor Me!” attitude, and everyone here is so positive which is what I needed to hear. One thing I did a few years ago was to create a graph of my debt and put it on my fridge. Every month, I draw my debt-red line to the lower number. It’s great looking back and see how far I’ve come. In the beginning, that red line went up and down…… That was my wake up call. I realized “You can’t keep digging yourself out of that hole if you keep putting dirt back into it!”

        • Laurie says:

          Oh, Dianne, I can SO identify with that. When I think of all of the times we made it to debt free only to dig ourselves back in again, I just want to kick myself! But we had our wake-up call too about a year ago, and now, Lord willing (and He is 🙂 ) we are NEVER going back there again. We have a thermometer chart in our office, and although the line is moving up slower than I’d like it to, it IS moving up to the top of that chart! So very glad you like the site, Dianne. The PF blogging community is amazingly positive, and I think that’s one of the main reasons we’ve been able to stick with it this year (our debt situation is MASSIVE right now). Come around for encouragement and to share your thoughts any time, we’d love to have you. 🙂

  • Ajaveen says:

    Great post. I needed to read this so I can keep on track of staying
    debt-free. You are right some people will try to convince you otherwise that debt is just a way of life.
    After paying off 8 credit cards in 4 months I disagree.

    • Laurie says:

      Keep up the great work, Ajaveen – 8 cards in 4 months is amazing! You are well on your way to the financial life you’ve dreamed of. 🙂

  • Great stuff here! There have been so many times when I’ve had to question my beliefs or actions. Each one is crucial in development and maturity.
    I also think any sort of mindset that says, I’ll just treat myself this one time is dangerous. Why, why do you get a “treat?”

    • Laurie says:

      Hey, Jacob! Good to hear from you. Great points you’ve shared. I think another good point is that we create a bit of a punishing mentality too when we say “just this once”, like we don’t deserve to be “treated” more than once? Also, paying off your debt instead of blowing that money on too many treats is really the best “treat” you could give yourself. 🙂

  • I have definitely been guilty of this. Although I find the person I listen to the most is the voice in own head telling me I can’t do something. Or obsessing over a mistake. I am trying to more conscious of my inner mean girl so I can shut her down fast! While I’m normally a glass half-full kinda gal, I can get swept up in my negative self talk or the negativity others are spewing. It wasn’t easy but I’ve had to distance myself from some friends who were also overwhelmingly negative and non-supportive out of their own fears.

    • Laurie says:

      I so get that, Tanya! I’ve had to do a lot of the same work, and although it’s definitely not easy, both kicking inner mean girl and distancing myself from negative friends have been SO worth it. I get discouraged lots less now! Great thoughts, Tanya – thanks for sharing!

  • So true Laurie! I learned quickly not to believe everything I hear, see or read. My advice…always ask for a second opinion. Lol. Happiness is like brushing your teeth…you have to work at it! Great post Laurie!

  • The just this once example I’ve had in life in different ways and not just with money (just this one beer, just this one cookie) but I’ve never had someone telling me it’s ok to be in debt for life. If I had a friend like that, I would not want to stay friends much longer!

    • Laurie says:

      Can SO identify with the beer, cookie, etc. Food is a huge struggle for me in this area but I’m starting to get it under control, finally, like the money. Tara, I am amazed how many people, at least in my life, think debt is perfectly acceptable. Just “part of life”. If only they could envision in their minds a life without it, and take the steps to get there, no matter how long it takes!

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