Why It Takes Time to Get Out of Debt?
It is so easy to fall into debt, yet you have to crawl your way out. It takes a while because we need to build habits and change our thoughts to start making progress and moving the needle. It takes time to build momentum towards our goals. Once we start making progress, we can hit by a whammy or lose our focus because life is happening. Lastly, it takes time because our mind is in a constant state of wanting something.
Imagine living without debt. How would you spend your time? Would you give more to others? Could you retire early? How much peace do you have in your life? Back in 2004, after my husband was in a roll-over car accident, totaling the car, a realization set in that a life with debt was not going to get us where we wanted to be in life. We needed to put safe grounds in place so that our children would not be tossed back into poverty. (We both were raised by single moms and remember food stamps). One way to do that was to become debt-free so that we had more money to invest and enjoy. After the realization set in that our debt was a hindrance, we kicked it to the curve over the following year by getting on a plan. A plan that we could live with and keep the fun alive. We did make sacrifices, but we still went on vacation. We realized our budget needs a balance of letting go and fun. Realization became visualization, which eventually leads to changing our reality.
To break free of debt, one must have a realization that things must change. Typically this kick starts with a life event, such as an illness, loss of a job, a desire to leave a job, a home foreclosure, seeing others suffer and wanting to avoid that for ourselves or simply tired of making payments. For me, it was my husband being in a car accident that could have changed our life. While emotionally, I could not protect myself and my family from such a devastating loss, I could control the financial situation. So we started visualizing.
Realization- Visualization-- New Reality
So is that enough? NO! We must have a plan, small steps to take to get to our new reality. We need a way to monitor our progress and celebrate our success along the way without sucking out all the fun and joy in our life.
Focus- This goes beyond setting a goal. Often we will say next year, I will get blank, without taking the necessary small steps to get there. Here are two ways to maintain your focus. 1.) Check your account balance often, many make this a daily occurrence. This keeps you on track and builds awareness of your spending and obligations. 2.) Keep your goals to a minimum. After all, we all experience distractions which pull us in different directions. When you have one goal, it becomes like brushing your teeth every day, and less thought and energy we need to put in to make progress. It becomes a pattern, a habit.
Whammies- These WILL happen! Preparation is a must here. To prepare for whammies and the unexpected, flip the unexpected into an expected expense where you might not know what you will need, but you are prepared. Do this by setting aside funds every pay period. Once the whammy has passed, congratulate yourself for handling it and then move back into intense focus mode.
Restrictive vs. Rewards- If you choose to make short term sacrifices, great, but know that these typically are best to be considered for the short term. Sustaining sacrifices depletes our motivation. Rewards motivate us and keep us going.
Ask for help-- Do this! When we are sharing our experience it becomes easier, more enjoyable, and we reach our destination quicker. Accountability works! While friends are great supporters, they might not make the best accountability partners. Take accountability to a new level, and hire a qualified coach. It is the difference between going to the gym with a friend and hiring a trainer. Which will help you get the results you desire in the least amount of time?
Fear of missing out-- Yes, this is a real thing, FOMO! In your plan put in some fun things to do with your money. Having money in the bank is fun! I don’t want you to miss out on less stress, peace of mind, and joy that money in the bank brings. Keep the FOMO in check, but don't leave out all the fun. Make adjustments to your fun plan that using non-financial strategies. Game night instead of out on the town night.
While making progress with money takes time. It is worth it to live debt-free and have that peace of mind while enjoying your money too! Do what works for you!