How good would it feel to be debt free? Some people say it would feel like getting out of prison. Others say it would feel like they’d gotten a 500-pound monkey off their backs.
Regardless of how it would feel to you, make no mistake about this. Becoming debt-free requires work, patience, and discipline. You need to have a budget and the self-discipline required to stick with it. You have to be patient because it won’t happen overnight, and you need to be willing to work at it. If you owe $20,000, or even more then becoming debt-free won’t be a sprint. It will be more like a marathon. In addition, things you will need to give up include one that may be very painful.
Checking social media obsessively
Are you addicted to checking social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat? Many people are. But if you truly want to become debt free, you need to break the habit as it can just lead to spending more money. Avoid checking to see what everyone else is doing. It’s easy to get in trouble when you see one of your friends has taken a fabulous vacation and you want to have one too. Turn off your social media and learn to live simply. You’ll likely find this is much easier said than done due to the addition of filtered content and targeted ads on Facebook, Instagram, and TV. The only way to beat this is through self-discipline – just stop checking your social media accounts except for maybe once a day.
Eating out several times a week – for lunch or dinner – can add up to a lot of money. If you don’t believe us, get one of those money tracking apps like Mint, BillGuard, or DollarBird. Use it for a few weeks and you may be astonished to see how much you’re spending on eating out. If you’ve been in the habit of going out for lunch, stop it. Start packing a lunch instead. It’s easy to do if you just spend a few hours on Sunday preparing a large batch of food that you can then eat throughout the week.
As the old saying goes, denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. If you tell yourself you have your debt under control when you don’t, you’ll only prolong things and pay more in interest. Do you feel as if your debt wasn’t your fault, that you were tricked into debt? If this is the case, you’ll need to tell yourself a new story – that you are responsible for your debt, that you don’t have it under control, and that there are things you must do. For example, is your problem student loan debt, and you’d like to pay it off quickly? Then, you need to find ways to earn more money and reduce your spending. Doing just one of these things won’t get you there.
Your other financial goals
If you’re really serious about becoming debt-free, you’ll need to give up on your other financial goals like buying a house. You will need to be very single-minded and focus exclusively on getting your debts paid off. This may mean sacrificing Starbucks and giving up your health club membership. If you’re investing, you may have to stop. You may even have to raid your emergency fund. None of this will be easy, and you’ll need to keep reminding yourself how good it will feel when you’re debt free.
Eliminating those morning drive-throughs, those restaurant lunches, and trimming your grocery bill can only get you so far. At some point, you’ll need to look at the other side of the equation, which is how to increase your income. Some people have been able to do this very successfully by moving out of the corporate world and becoming entrepreneurs. Of course, this may not be for you. You may have to work for a promotion, get a new job at a better salary or take on a side gig. It’s easy to make extra money these days thanks to the Internet. It’s also easy to get part-time jobs like driving for Lyft or Uber, or in retail. Spend a few minutes thinking about how you could tweak your income, and it’s likely you’ll come up with a number of other ideas.
As you have read, it’s not easy to become debt free. However, if you give up the things mentioned here and are willing to be patient and exercise some self-discipline, you will become debt free. It’s not a matter of if, it’s just a matter of when.