One of the things that’s seriously on my heart these days is the seeming inability of so many who are deep, deep in debt to be able to take that first step to get out. My deep in debt friends, you deserve debt freedom so much, so today I’d like to address some of the possible reasons you’re avoiding taking that first step to debt free, in hopes that you’ll get up the courage to take that first step to financial freedom.
I Feel Too Overwhelmed by the Thought of the Journey
Man, can we identify with this. Honestly, a year and three months in, there are still many days when we feel completely overwhelmed by our debt and our steps to get out of debt. It’s going slower than we’d like, and although we continue to cut expenses and increase income, we still feel like we’re in that “carrying away small stones” part of the debt payoff journey, and honestly, it sucks.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed by the thought of this journey, I always get a vision of myself walking through a big, deep mud pit. I envision myself at the beginning, and I take into view the “other side”. I see myself lifting up my boots and taking one, slow step at a time through the muck in order to get to the other side. This is what debt payoff feels like sometimes, however, the thought of staying there at the beginning, living in the muck forever, is much, much more unacceptable than the often slow and tedious journey to the other side, because on the other side of that mud pit is a beautiful oasis of joy, freedom and financial peace.
When the thought of paying off debt becomes too overwhelming for you, it’s time to envision yourself having finished the journey, and enjoying the nice, sandy beach oasis on the other side. Yes, the journey to get there will be difficult, but not nearly as difficult as staying in the mud pit of debt forever. If you’re going to be in the mud anyway, you might as well start making the trek to the other side of the mud pit, and know that one day you WILL step out into the oasis of debt freedom.
I Don’t Want to Change My Lifestyle.
When considering a debt payoff journey, it is difficult to come to terms with the fact that you’ll have to give up some stuff that brings you joy. One of my biggies was going out to eat. Rick doesn’t understand why I love to eat out so much, but then again, he’s not the one that prepares a good hundred meals a month and cleans up after them. 🙂 It’s been roughly 15 months now since I’ve decided that it is necessary to cut stuff like this out of the budget. We still usually go out once a month or so, either via our entertainment budget or my sweet mom taking us out, and I have to say that I really don’t miss it much. In fact, eating out is more fun now because it’s a special treat.
Even though it may be difficult to give up some of the things you love, whether it’s eating out, shopping, cable TV, your salon visits, or whatever, remind yourself that it’s only temporary, and that you’ll enjoy that fun stuff a lot more when you’re not drowning in debt, because your money will truly belong to you, and not those credit card or loan companies. And honestly, it’s not like our friends really notice that we’re not doing as much stuff anymore. We just change the game up a bit and do BBQs here or go hiking at local parks. Changing our lifestyle truly hasn’t been that big of a deal, in our eyes or anyone else’s, and it feels great knowing we’re making bigger strides toward financial independence.
Financial Freedom is Simply Unattainable.
No, really, it’s not. YES, every situation is different. Yes, your situation might be more extreme than others. We can identify with that, and so can other bloggers like Grayson from Debt Roundup. Like us, he started his debt payoff journey with a ridiculously high debt-to-income ratio. Ours was 65%, but it’s dropping each and every month. Grayson’s was that high too, and he’s now debt free and on to the building wealth part of his journey. And just like there are different debt situations for everyone, there are different financial freedom solutions for everyone. There are debt management companies, consolidation loans and for the extreme case, maybe even bankruptcy. There are various methods for getting out of debt. And there is a plan for you and your debt.
Forgive me for being blunt, but a lot of what’s stopping people from pursuing financial freedom is simple selfishness, and I can identify with that. There are days when Rick and I have our tantrums about not being able to spend as we choose. I get that. I really do. But the fact of the matter is that you deserve better. Better than getting what you want, when you want it. And financial peace and freedom is better. It’s time to do something nice for yourself. Something really nice for yourself. It’s time to get out of debt. It’s time to relieve yourself and/or your spouse/family of the financial problems that rob you of sleep, of joy and that plague your heart every single day. Give yourself the gift of financial freedom by taking that first step out of debt today.
Ugh! It really does just take that first step! It’s easy to get depressed about your situation though. I have a family member currently in that situation.
Hopefully they are working toward freedom? As difficult as it is, it is SO worth it.
I love the analogy of the big mud pit. I recently ran the numbers and figured out that, even though it feels like we are throwing tons of money at our debt every month, it’s only 2 percent of our debt load at this point that is getting paid off every month. Ugh! We would really like some instant gratification here, right??!! I want a magic wand!! Until then it’s looking like I will be hanging out in the mud pit 🙂 we will make it to the other side. Can’t wait for the day.
Oh, yeah, I can identify with that, Dee. BIG celebration when the debt is gone – for both of our families! 🙂
Good post Laurie! I know it can be so so difficult to take but that first step is vital and can get you on the path of where you’re wanting to go. It can be very easy to get down on yourself, but that’s why it’s so important to keep your eyes on why you’re doing it.
So true, John!!! Just gotta keep on going, and eventually you’ll get there. 🙂
The first step is always the hardest. I know. Thank you for mentioning me Laurie! I remember the days of using the same things to keep me from actually starting to pay down my debt. I am glad my rational thought finally broke through.
You’re living proof of the fact that it’s worth the journey, Grayson. Thanks so much for always being willing to share your story.
One of the hardest things to do toward achieving any goal is getting started. This post show how recognizing our personal obstacles will certainly help to get past them and move forward. Knowledge is the first step, but you have to take action to make a change!
So true, Natalie! I love what you said about having to take action to make a change. That is indeed key! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂
The journey always seems overwhelming in the beginning but once you get going and see the progress, it is very motivating. And with the change in lifestyle, I often find that what might seem as deprivation and sacrifice may not turn out that way. We’ve cut down on eating out and I started cooking more…I’ve found that I kinda enjoy it! (well sometimes =) We cut down on watching television and find other activities more productive and enjoyable.
I’d have to agree with you there, Andrew. We’re starting to not miss stuff like eating out at all anymore. Frugal catches on real quick. 🙂
I had a lot of trouble getting started. Now that I have some momentum, and I can see it changing (at a slow 3% or so per month) it feels manageable. Slow and steady, but it’s working! And my life doesn’t suck that much right now, so even if I do have a small amount of lifestyle inflation once debt repayment is done, I will still be saving a nice amount of money per month.
That’s great, Alicia; it sounds as if you’ve figured out a plan that works well for you. Good job, my friend!
Great post Laurie! The steps are hard to take at the beginning and I’m still struggling with giving things up. I probably haven’t given up as much as I could and I may still give up more along the way. It is a long, hard journey but it won’t last forever.
I have to say that now, nearly a year and a half in, Rick and I finally feel like we’ve found our groove. Our sacrifices don’t feel so sacrificial anymore, and finding ways to cut costs, saying “no” to unnecessary expenses, it’s starting to come more naturally now. You’ll get there, SHNM. 🙂
I can’t say I’ve been in debt as much as you Laurie, but I’ve certainly been overwhelmed by the thought of other journeys in my life. I never reached the point of change until I experienced heavy pain about my situation. Only then did my will become strong enough to illicit a change in behavior.
Yeah, you’ve brought up a great point, Brian, about the pain pushing one toward change. I think that ends up being a super good motivator. Great point!
I keep telling myself that this will all get better/easier soon enough. In the last 7 months, we’ve only paid off about 5% of our debt. It’s so hard to think that it is so little! But Rome wasn’t built in a day.
It sure will, Michelle. We are in a tight situation like you are, so I understand that totally. But you’re right on the mark when you say it’ll get better soon. Both of us just need to hang in there. 🙂
I think a lot of people think it’s a good idea, but don’t see how they can find balance in it — a balance between doing something responsible financially and living the life they want — so they don’t even try.
That’s a great point, Mario. And I’ll be the first to admit it took us awhile to find balance there. But once you do, it’s much smoother sailing. Thanks for sharing, Mario.
Great post, Laurie. I do agree that so many people see getting out of debt as impossible. And it’s not. I won’t lie as say it’s all sunshine and rainbows but with discipline and time – it can be done. And the reward is so high! I know at times the journey seems like it is moving at a snail’s pace but imagine what your life would be like if you and Rick had not made this commitment to eliminate your debt and enjoy financial freedom. When you think of it that way – you’ve come so much farther than you even realize.
Discipline and time is SO key, Shannon, and I couldn’t agree more about the reward being tremendous. That’s really what keeps us going, you know? Thanks for sharing your usual awesome wisdom. 🙂
While I’m not dealing with debt, there are plenty of times where I think about something I want to achieve and feel overwhelmed by the journey. It always feels like such a long path to get there, and I think it’s pretty normal to doubt yourself. But the best thing you can do is just start taking action. Once you start doing, all kinds of opportunities open up to you.
It’s like a train pulling away from the station, slow at first and then gathering more and more speed.
To continue the analogy, I suppose it’s like a run-away train when you finally get debt free and are entirely building assets!
Woo Hoo! Get on board, fellers!!
Great post! I learned a lot about myself when I first started my journey. It wasn’t pretty, but it was the reality check I needed to get started and my motivation. Once you get there, you are a new person and so worth it.
That first step can be so daunting! “It’s time to do something nice for yourself. Something really nice for yourself.” I really like this because I think repaying your debt is one of the nicest gifts you can give yourself. 🙂
Some wonderful advice for those who fear the impact that reducing debt will “rob” them of their current lifestyle!
“…but a lot of what’s stopping people from pursuing financial freedom is simple selfishness…”
That’s exactly it!!
We’ve all been there at some point in our lives and to varying degrees. But once you get over that hurdle(s), it’s so worth the “sacrifice”.
Take care and my best to all.
Man I think we all feel like this from time to time whether we are in debt, or just trying to cut back and spend less. Sometimes I have a hard time reconciling the life I “want” versus the life I need to lead right NOW in order to be financially responsible.
Great advice Laurie. I also cutback on eating out so much. We go about once a month now and it’s a nice treat. Now that we see how much we have been able to save I think we’ll keep it that way for the most part once we finish paying off our consumer debt.
When my husband and I first started having the conversation about living a debt-free life, that was pretty easy – we’re both on board. Then we jumped into being financially free – that’s when it became more daunting. We certainly hadn’t known young folks like us doing that. But the more we sit down and make our calculations more real, it’s not that difficult! Sure we have to sacrifice things in the short term, but we’re much better off in the long run. One day (soon) we’re gonna be living in Bali and we’ll wish we had made the leap of faith sooner 🙂
Great post, Laurie!!
Great post, Laurie, and an honest look at the things that stop us from starting our financial freedom journey. If I’m being honest with myself, these fears stop me from doing a lot of other things (finally starting to learn the guitar out of fear of failure, feeling too overwhelmed by the processes of setting up a business to take the first step…)
As always, the real problem is between the ears.
Excellent point, DB40. “The real problem is between the ears”. LOVE that. Thanks for the wisdom. 🙂
It’s definitely not easy, and that’s why it’s so important to focus on the small victories… Those add up, and over time they contribute to something much greater. 🙂
Really, you can only go at your own pace and do the best that you can do. Just believe that it does get easier over time and better days await… Your hard work and sacrifices won’t be in vain.
All the best.
“the small victories add up, and over time contribute to something much greater”. LOVE that, FI Fighter!! I’m going to hang on to that one, that’s for sure. 🙂
It’s a difficult ride and the society doesn’t help: it’s maybe normal to want to spend more when you see everybody else spending and you feel the need to keep up, although one really shouldn’t. The best thing for me when I am down and ready to hit the wall is thinking about the future when things will be completely different – knowing that it’s really worth all the trouble is what keeps me going!
Excellent point about society. Thinking about the future helps us a lot too, C. It helps us to buck the system and keep doing what we’re doing, because we know that, like you said, it really is worth all of the trouble. 🙂
The idea of financial freedom is so contradictory to what we’ve been raised to believe it’s hard to make the changes to actually achieve it. We all want it and dream about it but it takes a lot of mental work to make the much needed changes.
Awesome point, Jason – it IS contradictory to what most of us have been raised to believe. I never thought of it that way – thanks!!
I often feel overwhelmed. But I find most people fail to make the sacrifices with consistency. They’ll commit for a day or two rather than adopting the total lifestyle- just like a yo yo dieter.
“Most people fail to make the sacrifices with consistency”. SO true, Stefanie. Therein lies the difference between success and failure, right? 🙂
It took Vonnie and I a long, long time to come to grips with just how much we had to change our lifestyle to get our financial lives back on track. But we did it, we’re there and also moving on to the building wealth portion of the program. Today is payday, and for the first time in our 18 years of marriage, we have significant funds left unspent from the previous budget period. I simply cannot tell you how good that feels!
Travis, that is AWESOME. It’s stories like yours that keep Rick and I going – knowing that one day our paychecks will be there for the fun, instead of just there for the creditors. Woohoo!
We danced around our debt/budget issues for a few years before we took our first steps. We look back now wishing we would have taken the leap sooner. It’s one of the big teachable items I’m going to ingrain into my 3 children’s heads. I want them to have the information to make better choices at younger ages.
Yeah, it’ll be great knowing we gave our kids the right info to stay out of debt and be financially healthy, won’t it, Brian? 🙂
It is so hard to be where you are. The start is very exciting and the end is certainly amazing, but the middle is rough. I so admire your attitude and I know you are helping so many others get started and stay the course. Thanks for the mention!
We certainly hope so, Kim. I know there are SO many others out there in our situation, and we just want so much for them to be free from the stresses of debt. Have an awesome day, and thanks so much for all that you do. 🙂
Great post, Laurie and I agree with so many of the commenters too! I hear ya on the carrying away small stones! I feel pretty content in our financial situation. If we strayed to make a larger purchase during our journey, I think I would feel resentful towards the purchase because it would put us that much further away from our goal! I agree with you about going out to eat! When you are not eating out all the time, it is definitely a treat when you do go!! 🙂
Oh, yes, Stephanie. Buying things – big things – has definitely lost its appeal, hasn’t it!! Financial freedom sounds MUCH more fun. 🙂
I love your posts of encouragement and motivation since it applies to so many things in life! I agree with deserving better, for people in debt or anything else that people feel ‘stuck’ in. It’s kind of like a toxic friendship or relationship – they’re all sorts of bad and unhealthy. So awesome that your debt to income ratio is decreasing with every month – monthly changes are very motivating! 🙂
Any change is motivating at this point. 🙂 Seriously, though, you’re right about the PF rules applying to other areas in life. Any kind of push toward a healthier lifestyle, whether it be physical, financial or emotional, can be tough, but it always is worth it if you stick through to the victory. 🙂
I agree with you Laurie, at the end of the day, it is simple selfishness that gets in the way of people making a positive change in their financial future, and I don’t have a lot of patience for that. The road to financial freedom is long and filled with lots of hard work, but at least at the end of it is an amazing gift that is worth the effort.
Financial freedom is certainly possible, but is difficult by age 30, or 33, or even 40, if you want to live a ‘normal’ lifestyle.
If you just work for yourself, doing whatever you make money doing, that can be had at 20 (or earlier). Some people call that financial freedom.
Being an entrepreneur is FI for some. Beinf a bum id FI for others. Create your dream and live it!
“Create your dream and live it!” LOVE that, NNL! Great comment here – thank you!
You guys are doing so great! My student loan debt was standing in my way a couple of years ago, but now there’s nothing and I’m just trying to figure out the best plan for saving and building a solid future.
SO excited for you about that, KK. It’s all downhill from here. 🙂
I used to think that money would just always be there so I never saved. However after the market crash I ended up tens of thousands of dollars in debt. I hit financial rock bottom with a ton of debt and no income. I made it my new mission in life to achieve financial freedom and it is awesome.
Oh no, Tahnya! That must’ve been so scary. I’m so excited for you that you’ve found your way out and onto financial freedom – great job. 🙂
I know the focus of this post is getting started on the path out of debt, but I’d propose that getting out of debt is just the end of one journey and the start of another. If you have no clear vision or plan of what happens after the debt payoff, I suspect it will go something like the end of a diet – with a blow out that undoes a lot of good accomplished through hard work. Sure, plan for a specific celebration period (and funds to reward yourself if necessary) and then immediately get going on your new budget/spending plan. The whole point of getting out of debt was to have the freedom of choice. Living without debt still requires choices and some commitment, it’s just that the choices are a lot more fun. Do you want to buy a home, do you want to retire early, do you want to start a business, or something else entirely? Figure it out and BEFORE the debt is paid off and start drafting your post debt budget. It’s a lot more fun when you’re allocating funds to dreams rather than paying off past indiscretions (or even “good” student debt).
To any outsider we might appear to be living an ultra frugal life and therefore must be in dire straights. Couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes we do with out lot of things other people consider perfectly normal (restaurants, car payments, we don’t even allocate funds for clothing because it happens so rarely) We virtually never eat out, we pack our lunches, buy 3yr old cars with cash and drive them for 10yrs minumum. The distinction is that we’ve chosen to live this way not because we have to but because restaurants and new car smell aren’t important to us and are counter productive to our goal of retiring early. We essentially live on one salary and divert the other to retirement savings and paying off the mortgage as quickly as possible. Like those working month after month to pay off debt, trying to find those extra dollars to add to debt repayment, we constantly scour our spending plan for opportunities to set aside a few more dollars for the weekly extra mortgage payment. We have year end targets set for the next 7 yrs when we’ll retire. Without a clear plan for paying off the mortgage, building our retirement accounts and saving a substantial retirement travel fund it probably wouldn’t happen. As many have said, once you get into the swing of living frugally it stops feeling like you’re doing without, and instead feels like you are making great progress toward a goal. With retirement still 6yrs 8mths away our retirement budget is still in draft form (you must do at least that much to figure out how much you need to retire!) and as we get closer to retiring we’ll fine tune the numbers. The day after we hand in our resignations we start living from the retirement budget and life rolls on. No drama, no stress, and isn’t that the recipe for a happy life?
Awesome comment as usual, and full of wisdom too!! We’ve been out of debt before too, but never had that plan for “what’s next” and I’m certain that was a huge contributing factor as to why we ended up back in debt again. This time we are following our debt payoff plan with another plan. It’s well worth every sacrifice of those short-term “highs” you get off eating out or driving that new car, isn’t it! 🙂
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