Home » Getting out of Debt: The Secret You Might Not Know About

Getting out of Debt: The Secret You Might Not Know About




DSCN1349Are you working on a journey to get out of debt?  Or, have you “been there, done that” before and failed miserably?  I know we have.  We’d been in, and out, of debt more times than Dave Ramsey has uttered the words “gazelle intense”, but it never stuck, and we could never figure out why.

Why was it that we seemed destined for financial failure?  Why did debt, with all of it’s downfalls, seem to be so much more comfortable than financial freedom?  It took us many, many years to find out, but finally, this year, we’ve come across a hidden tip that’s helped us to finally have it set in our hearts that we are dumping debt forever.  What is that tip?

Action won’t work unless you’ve won the battle in your mind. 

Yep, that’s right.  All of the saving and side hustling in the world won’t pay off your debt and keep you debt free until you understand  – in your head –  why what you’re doing is so important.  What are some of the lies that we tell ourselves that keep us from achieving our goal of debt freedom?

1.  I’ll be fine.  If you’re not seriously committed to killing your debt, you’re not ready, and you’ll likely fall right back into debt after you’ve paid it all off, if you even get that far.  You’ve got to truly want to be rid of your debt burden forever if you’re going to succeed at the long and often arduous journey of obtaining debt freedom.  If you’re not, don’t bother starting.

2.   I don’t know how to be wealthy.  This one plagues many, especially those who come from a long line of broke people, and for many years, it scared us too.  What would life be like if we didn’t have money worries?  Would we become a__holes?  Would our broke family members shun us?  Would all of the surplus money we have available turn us into meth addicts or shopaholics?

Funny thing is, even though we’ve got a long way to go, having more money has only made us nicer, able to help those broke family members more, and with an even more burning desire not to waste our money on stupid stuff.  Don’t be afraid of change, my friends.  When done right, change is good.

3.  I am SO cool.  In previous attempts to pay off debt, we’d get to debt free and find ourselves with a big ol’ head of pride on our shoulders about how cool we were that we didn’t have any debt.  We convinced ourselves that being debt free meant we were already wealthy, and soon the game began again.  What game?  The “it’s only $500, $1000, or $2000 dollars” game.  The game where we told ourselves that this amount was much less debt than we had before, and much less debt than “most people” had, so it was “okay” to spend the money.  Soon, though, we would justify more and more purchases, and end up right back where we started: with an unmanageable amount of debt.  If you’re going to succeed at this whole “financial freedom” thing, you’ve got to keep yourself humble and focused on your goals and your “whys”.

4.  The job is just too hard.  Or, the mountain is too big.  Or, the journey is too long.  Guess what, friends: If you’re going to succeed at this financial independence/debt payoff thing, you have GOT to decide in your head to commit to a journey –  any journey – toward achieving your goal.  When we began our journey in January of this year, we committed to one year of living frugally and working hard to pay off debt.   Now that year is almost done, and after making some noticeable improvements in our situation (even though we’ve still got a long way to go), we’re even more motivated to continue our journey.  Commit to trying with all of your heart for at least six months, and then re-evaluate about whether or not you want to continue your journey.  But the key is here that you’ve got to make a serious and all-out, full board effort during the time period that you commit to, and you have to make it long enough (I recommend no shorter than six months) to see an impact.

Friends, a new year is just around the corner.  What do you want your 2014 to look like, from a financial standpoint?  Are you happy on this road of constant stress and worry about your money, or are you ready for a new and awesome financial life?


  1. Love this! It’s so true that you can’t win your financial battles with action alone – you have to change your entire mindset about money.

    I’m so glad I found your blog in 2013 – reading your story and following along with your family’s journey has been really inspiring and fun. I know you’ve given many, many others that same inspiration! I’m excited to keep reading in 2014, and to keep picking up ideas and motivation from you as we work toward our financial goals 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Kali, SO glad you are enjoying it here!!! Yes, we’re excited for 2014 too. It’ll be great to see how much further we can go next year. Looking forward to seeing what 2014 has in store for you as well – you’re quite the inspiration on the blogging scene, Kali!

  2. Yeah, I definitely agree. I’ve been on a circular battle of late – I accepted it, moved on, and am now have a debt-demolisher mindset going on. I think so much of it is in our heads, because honestly… I could talk a good game, but that doesn’t mean I embody it.

    I have some aggressive debt-repayment and savings goals for 2014… so much so that I’ve already started them – who needs to wait until 2014?! 🙂 Good Luck Laurie 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      “I could talk a good game, but that doesn’t mean I embody it.” LOVE that, Alicia! That was us for so many years. We have some exciting goals for 2014 too, and I can’t wait to reach and surpass them. 🙂

  3. “4. The job is just too hard. ” I have struggled with this one. The mountain has seemed too high to climb so many times.

    I am now focused on the horizon, the point when I am past the debt, to help me stay the course. I am thinking about what I will do when I can pay myself and not the lenders. Researching stocks, ETFs and GIC options are keep me moving forward instead of always thinking about how rocky the debt repayment road is.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s a great point, Jane, about planning for afterward, you know? I love that you are already planning for the investment stage, instead of focusing how much debt there is to pay off still. Great job!

  4. Great post, Laurie! The mental battle can be so tough sometimes. We’ve certainly been in the “we’ll be fine” place. Focusing on our goals has been so important- it really helps keep us mentally in “the right place” on days that we might otherwise do things to cause us to backslide 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Oh, yes, Dee – we’ve been there too. We would compare ourselves, saying “Well, we don’t have as much debt as……” or “we don’t spend as much as…..” and then justify our actions. SO glad we’re out of that tough cycle – it’s so much happier in reality!

  5. Kathy says:

    Sort of like losing weight which is as much mental as physical. You get into the “I’m so deprived” mind set and then binge. Although for me finances are much easier to control than food desires. 🙁

  6. Great post Laurie! My wife and I bought our first home last year. We committed ourselves to first paying off the credit card debt from the home renovations. We’re on track to pay off most of that credit card debt by early 2014 and the rest of it by the end of the year. Winning that perpetual ‘battle in your mind’ is the key! 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Richie, that’s awesome!!! So glad to hear you guys are on your way to debt free as well. From what I’ve heard, it’s an awesome place to be. 🙂

  7. Good post Laurie! Before I started paying off my debt, I was so guilty of #1 & #4. I think it’s part of the reason why it took me so long to get off my tail and get started on paying it off. That battle in your mind is so vital yet so easy at times to overlook.

  8. I think my 2014 will look similar to my 2013. I have goals of building up our emergency fund, building up my blog, and starting another blog. It was a busy 2013 with lots of work outside of my 9-5 job, but it was so worth it looking back. I hope that I can offset my mortgage and student loan payments this year through my side hustle income. That would make saving and paying down debt SO much easier.

  9. This part really resonated with me, “Funny thing is…having more money has only made us nicer.”

    Money affords you so much flexibility to do ‘the right thing’ in so many situations, whether it is being more generous to people who mean a lot to you (from family, friends, to the teachers at school, etc.), or just taking advantage of great deals that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to maximize without having money.

    Case in point: Amex had a deal recently where you got $25 free for spending $75 on your Amex card at Amazon. Since we’re ‘travel hackers’, we have 10 Amex cards, so we registered all 10 and bought $750 worth of Amazon gift cards.

    $250 free money just like that! And all because we weren’t afraid to maximize the deal by laying out $750 at one time (really $500 net after the credits, which applied within 2 days). So now we have a $750 credit at Amazon for only $500.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s awesome, Brad!! These are the kind of deals that can really add up to huge savings, and thus a quicker path to your financial goals.

  10. I think it’s so easy to get complacent and be happy with being able to make payments without ever really wanting to change behaviors or amount of stuff you feel like you need. I decided I didn’t want to be 65 with a mountain of things left to pay off, but I think some people never get there.

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Kim!!! We kind of did the same thing as you; just took a look at 65 and said “We don’t want to be broke then”, and that was a large part of our catalyst for change.

  11. Hey Laurie, I love this post! As far as I’m concerned the 2014 year is going to bring me lots of good luck by way of finances. I’ve changed a lot this year and can’t wait to see what those changes do for me next year! Thanks for the great read!

  12. You are so right. It’s so important to fight the mental battle first!

    We knew that if we wanted to pay off our $130K + of student loans that it we have to be an all-out effort, otherwise we would just be chinking away and never make any real progress. Since we don’t have any payments yet (we have an income-based plan and income is still t0o low to require payments), we were tempted to save up for a down payment on a house first. I am so glad we chose to attack the debt monster first. We are down to $100K and will keep up the energy in 2014!

    • Laurie says:

      I think you made the smart decision, Stephanie. House shopping will be SO much more fun when you have no other debt weighing you down. Huge congrats on paying down that 30k this year!

  13. Stacey says:

    Great post Laurie. There is a lot to think about here. I do remember the first time we got out of major credit card debt actually feeling uncomfortable and afraid about it. I don’t know why. . . Maybe the responsibility of having money to manage was too intimidating. I never thought about money growing up, it was just always available in our two income family during the 1980’s. I remember something like 15 percent interest on certificates of deposit back then. Am I remembering that correctly? We never discussed money management at home or in school. I never got allowance, and I babysat and mowed lawns for cash to spend on clothes or other things I wanted, but the management of money and thinking beyond the moment financially was not a skill that was passed down to me.

    I have certainly spent the last couple of decades learning the hard way.

    Two things that I also have struggled with are spending money as a mood elevator, and using money or spending in power struggles with my spouse. Nobody else does this, right? It’s so hard to admit that publicly but it is true. I’ ve had to look at some of these underlying issues as well in order to figure out why debt continues to be a problem.

    We stopped using credit over five years ago and paid off all unsecured debt which included credit cards, one car loan, and some unexpected major medical bills, last year, but only because my husband got laid off and we had to cash out his 401k in order to qualify for the local food shelf while he was looking for a new job. He found work, and now we are trying to pay off a home equity loan, and then we will just have a mortgage left.

    It is often overwhelming and discouraging. The urge to spend money does not go away. And it is such a mental game. . . .oh, it only costs a few bucks, I’ve had a hard week and I deserve this treat, or we really need this. You know, the usual denial, entitlement and rationalization that goes on in our minds to justify another tiny expenditure. My husband has the special ability of spending the same twenty bucks over and over again in his mind, convincing himself that there is more money available in the budget than there actually is.

    Personally, I just thought we’d be in a different place financially in our forties. I guess that was magical thinking or just not understanding how small choices add up to lost opportunities over time. Sometimes I feel like making changes in this area is like trying to reverse direction on the Titanic as she goes over Niagra Falls. There is so much gravity and momentum pulling you to your certain destruction. It’s a real battle some days.

    So, I love reading blogs like yours and hearing about people’s real struggles and failures and successes because it gives me real hope that the journey isn’t over, that we can learn to think differently about money and to make better choices and that our future can be different than our past. All the best to everyone working on their goals for 2014!

    • Laurie says:

      Hi Stacey! I don’t remember the exact interest rates for CDs back then, but I know they were really high. Stacey, I totally did the spending money as a mood elevator and in power struggles with Rick. Your journey sounds LOTS like ours, Stacey. I know you can succeed, and I know we can too. We’ll just hang in there together, and with the rest feeling the same way (and there are LOTS with the same struggles), and through all of the successes and failures, we’ll all just get it done. 🙂 You guys can do this, Stacey, and your fifties will be awesome because of it.

  14. “Action won’t work unless you’ve won the battle in your mind. ” True words spoken from a woman who has won the battle mentally with her debt. 🙂 You and your family have done wonderfully this year is tackling your debt Laurie. You know I admire your sheer determination to sometimes be a bit extreme in getting rid of that debt. Here’s to an even stronger 2014! 🙂

  15. I know everyone’s heard that personal finance is only 10 % head knowledge and 90% heart and it’s so true. Everybody knows how to not go into debt and how to pay off debt, just like we know how to lose weight. But actually doing it is really hard!

    Although 2013 has been a pretty good year financially, there’s definitely always room for improvement. Now that the emergency fund is fully funded, I want to focus more on retirement saving, side hustling and investing-learning about investment properties and possible getting my feet wet in the landlording business.

    • Laurie says:

      I’m so excited for you guys, KK, as you are just kicking it now!! It’ll be fun to see what 2014 holds for you guys as you work on some new ventures. 🙂

  16. I need to share this with a certain family member. He comes to me for financial advice and agrees with all the recommendations, but nothing sticks. I think you’ve hit on a lot of the root causes.

    Thanks, Laurie…now I need to work up the courage to actually share your link. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Tell him we’re here for him, okay? I know he can succeed at this too. You are an awesome family member for caring so much about his money struggles, my friend.

  17. Pauline says:

    Thank you for the mention Laurie! Mindset is key if you want to achieve anything. 2013 was good but I was comfortable and settling for easy. Now 2014 will hopefully be more challenging, in a good way 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      You guys have some fun and interesting stuff going on right now, Pauline. It’ll be great to see what happens with all the land development, etc., next year.

  18. Liz says:

    2013 was a pretty good year for us as far as cutting down expenses and what not. I am hoping that 2014 is the year of the side hustle! We really just need extra income at this point to take out those darn student loans!

  19. Micro says:

    I could see the justifications being easier to wrap your head around because you don’t have any debt. “I’m debt free so it’s completely okay for me to spend this extravagent sum of money. I know what I’m doing or else I would still be in debt.” Unfortunately that leads down the debt path you mentioned and then you are stuck in square 1 again.

    • Laurie says:

      “I know what I’m doing or else I would still be in debt.” LOVE that, Micro!! This is what I’m talking about. It’s so easy to get puffed up about your achievements if you don’t have that battle in your mind won, and then you’re back to square one again. We did that several times.

  20. always love your posts Laurie! They are not just for people in debt, but for anyone who just doesn’t want to worry about money anymore. 2013 was way better than 2012, but call me greedy (I’m just kidding, don’t) 🙂 but I want more. It’s expensive to live here, and I know in my mind what amount would make me comfortable and catching up with retirement savings. Onward and upward. Let’s do this 2014!

    • Laurie says:

      Tonya, I think it’s great that you want more!! You’re asking for financial comfort, not the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to have a secure and comfy bank account. Girlfriend, here’s to all of us reaching our 2014 goals!

  21. Mackenzie says:

    “You’ve got to truly want to be rid of your debt burden forever if you’re going to succeed”. So true, Laurie. 2014 will be the year that I really get aggressive with my debt!

  22. Being a year free from credit card debt, I can say that that process really changed me. I have saved a record amount and it excites me. Saving used to be boring for me, but now that is all I like to do.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s a terrific testimony, Grayson!! This is exactly what I’m talking about. If we can make it past the tough part, then the fun begins. 🙂

  23. Morgaine says:

    Great post!

    I just paid off the last of a $21K debt that has been plaguing me for over 3 years. I made the last payment in August just to find myself $3200 back in the hole due to home purchases and Christmas shopping. I completely agree that I get stuck in “the game” way too often and this needs to change.

    Thank you for giving me some serious stuff to think about 🙂

  24. Dear Debt says:

    I’m definitely guilty of #2 and #4. Sometimes it just seems too much. Although I think I’m doing pretty good, it’s still a battle of my mind. I also have a lot of guilt, which I am working on. Guilt for not working so hard, guilt for working too hard, guilt for spending, etc. Gotta get rid of it! That’s not really productive either. Thanks for another inspiring post, Laurie.

    • Laurie says:

      Oh my goodness, Melanie, I was SO there. Conviction about certain behaviors is one thing, but guilt is nothing but evil. I always remind myself of this now when it tries to set in, and the guilt goes away pretty quickly.

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  26. Kathleen says:

    LOVE this post. It’s funny… you’re not going to get out of debt by winning the lottery! It’s just bit by bit, one piece at a time, and you’re not going to be an asshole. You’re much more likely to end up picking up the tab when someone is down on their luck.

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Kathleen!! I just read an article with “advice” from recent lottery winners. Their “advice”? “Play, play, play until you win.” Isn’t that scary???? I so agree about the a__hole factor – can’t wait to get to that place where we can pick up tabs for people. Thanks much, Kathleen – appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

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