Newton’s First Law of Debt Reduction

by Ryan Yates

Newton’s Laws of Motion

  • Newton’s First Law of Motion: Every object continues in its state of rest or of uniform speed in a straight line unless it is compelled to change that state by a net force acting on it.
  • Newton’s Second Law of Motion: The acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the net force acting on it and is inversely proportional to its mass. The direction of the acceleration is in the direction of the applied net force.
  • Newton’s Third Law of Motion: When one object exerts a force on a second object, the second object exerts an equal and opposite force on the first.


Today I would like to focus on Newton’s first law of motion, often referred to as the Law of Inertia.

An object at rest will stay at rest and an object in motion will stay in motion at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Inertia is the tendency of an object to resist changes in its velocity whether in motion or motionless.

How does this have anything to do with debt? It has everything to do with debt. The inertia and momentum of your debt is what’s keeping you there.

Newton’s First Law of Debt

Newton’s First Law of Debt states: A person in debt will remain in debt unless they take action to stop the inertial force of debt.

Debt is easy to start, and easy to continue. Paying the minimum payments will ensure that you stay in debt forever.

Some people believe that they can pay off their credit cards by focusing on only paying the minimum payments. They believe that each month the balance will continue to go down, hoping that after 10 or 20 years it will be gone.

I’ve got news for these folks; you will never get out of debt. As Newton has told us, an object (the balance) will remain in place unless a force acts upon it. You can argue that a minimum payment is the force that will reduce the balance, but I will argue any purchases on the credit card will erase any gains the minimum payments have made.

Even just one purchase of two hundred dollars per year, will keep the account in debt forever. There are 2 easy ways to solve this problem.


  • The first is to stop using the card. In order to stop the debt from increasing, you need to apply the brakes and cut the card up. Each time the card is used it adds more momentum to the balance and it will take even more force to stop it. If the card is never used again the balance will remain at its current level. Having this debt on cruise control will allow you time to figure out plan. Cutting up the card has stopped the acceleration of the debt but the debt will continue on at this level forever, unless you apply action to the debt.




  • The second is to reverse the debt damage and combat Newton’s first law of motion, we need to begin paying off the debt at a quicker pace. We already understand that paying the minimum payment will keep us in debt forever, but where does the extra money for additional payments come from?



    • Living below your means
    • Cutting back on expenses
    • Using a budget
    • Earning extra income


We’ll explore all of these options in future posts. Until then, you need slow the rate at which you are going into debt. Stop using credit cards and start thinking of ways to get more money for larger monthly payments.


Que April 21, 2010 at

That was very clever. I think I’m going to go home and teach my wife and kids some financial physics!
.-= Que´s last blog ..Inspired Epiphany =-.

RainyDaySaver April 21, 2010 at

The new boxes on credit card statements that outline how long it will take to pay off your debt with just the minimum payment should be an eye opener for many people. Always pay more than the minimum!
.-= RainyDaySaver´s last blog ..Cuts to Education and Teachers Salaries: Voting Day =-.

Jeffrey Kosola April 21, 2010 at

@Que – I like the phrase “Financial Physics” That could be a whole section of posts 🙂

@RainyDaySaver – The new boxes will only help those that want it. My wish is that everyone will review their payoff dates, but I think many people will continue to pay the minimum payments. It’s been common knowledge for years that paying only the minimum payments will never get a person out of debt. These people have looked at statement after statement and have done nothing. I just don’t think another box reminding them is going to make ANY difference.

James April 21, 2010 at

Jeff- what a great way to help people understand and a great way to make sense of debt in an odd but effective manner.

in my mind it takes time to get rich or to get out of debt but its what we do everyday that will get us there some day.

Jeffrey Kosola April 22, 2010 at

James, it’s the odd manners that work best sometimes. Thanks for your thoughts

Mrs. Money April 21, 2010 at

How creative! You never cease to amaze me. 😉 I am so ready to be out of debt!
.-= Mrs. Money´s last blog ..Hemp is Not Marijuana =-.

Financial Samurai April 21, 2010 at

You’re right… inertia is a dangerous, dangerous thing that lulls us into complacency! Go Jeff!
.-= Financial Samurai´s last blog ..The Good Times Are Back Again – The Indulgent List Of Things =-.

Kevin@Invest It Wisely April 21, 2010 at

Being in debt is more like being trapped in a car with a stuck accelerator pedal and an ignition that won’t turn off, since compound interest guarantees that not paying off your debt now means you will have to pay off later.

Credit card debt is one of the worst, just below loan sharks and pay-day loans. Use them as a substitute for cash, but definitely, pay off the balances as quick as you can.
.-= Kevin@Invest It Wisely´s last blog ..Fixed Rate and Variable Rate Mortgages: Which is Better? =-.

Jeffrey Kosola April 22, 2010 at

@Mrs. Money – Great! Now I have to continue to amaze you 🙂 I’ll do my best; I’m working on catching you in the challenge.

@Samurai – “lulls us into complacency” that describes my past “paper rich” life. You know, I was rich until I had to pay all my bills…

@Kevin – Since I work for GM I love the reference to that company with accelerator problems. Compounding interest is AWESOME if it’s working for you, but a death sentence if it’s working against you. I have to disagree with using products to substitute for cash. If you don’t have the cash, then don’t purchase the item. That way you never have to worry about paying a balance off. I know its a little Cavemanish to only use cash, but over the past 2 years, I’ve found its a simple way to make purchases. I love the K.I.S.S. system because I can relate to the last S in the acronym 🙂

Kevin April 22, 2010 at


I agree that if you don’t have the cash then maybe you shouldn’t purchase the item. However, what I meant is let’s say you have the cash and you can pay off the balance, but you use the card out of convenience and because of perks such as air miles. In this case, there is no problem… but of course, you do have to remain disciplined.

On the other hand, it feels good using cash to make a special purchase, ex: to pay for dinner with a significant other 🙂
.-= Kevin´s last blog ..Fixed Rate and Variable Rate Mortgages: Which is Better? =-.

Kevin April 22, 2010 at

As for payday loans and loan sharks… whoops, I didn’t mean to lump them in with credit cards. They are definitely worse, just that credit cards are only one step above due to the high interest charges.

I would definitely NEVER use either if I had a choice in the matter…
.-= Kevin´s last blog ..Fixed Rate and Variable Rate Mortgages: Which is Better? =-.

Jeffrey Kosola April 23, 2010 at

@Kevin – I don’t travel anymore so reward points just don’t matter to me. I’m not saying that I won’t use a credit card every again, I’m saying that I’d rather just pay with my debit card and never have to think about the purchase again. Getting a bill, and having to pay it just seems like a complete waste of time to me now. My bad habits are what created my debt, so my good habits are going to keep me out of trouble. As for the loan sharks and payday loans, these are for people who are just asking for trouble. They provide a service that many people want, I’m just guessing because they are on every corner these days. Have a good weekend Kevin.

Brad Chaffee April 22, 2010 at

Jeff, this post is brilliant dude! I really loved it! You should enter this into the Best of Money Carnival before Sunday! I can’t wait to see the rest of the posts. Great job man! 😀
.-= Brad Chaffee´s last blog ..My Beef With Rich Dad Poor Dad Author Robert Kiyosaki! =-.

Jeffrey Kosola April 22, 2010 at

Thanks alot B-Rad

I have many of the other ones mind mapped already, just need to get them all on screen. Thanks for the Carnival tip, I’ve just submitted 🙂

Derek Clark April 22, 2010 at

Great post. As Dave Ramsey says, you can wander into debt but you can’t wander out. You have to change direction and work hard.
.-= Derek Clark´s last blog ..Mvelopes vs. NeoBudget vs. Inzolo =-.

Jeffrey Kosola April 23, 2010 at

@Derek Thanks man! It’s like I used to be with Best Buy. I would wander in, and have to fight my way out without making a purchase.

Joe Plemon April 23, 2010 at

I love this post. Explaining a concept from a totally different perspective really helps it soak in. Continuing the scientific analogy, how about comparing static inertia (doing nothing) with kinetic inertia (in motion). The coefficient of static inertia is greater than that of kinetic inertia, meaning it is more difficult to get started but less difficult to keep going once started. There you go…an idea for a post. 🙂

Jeffrey Kosola April 23, 2010 at

@Joe, Are you a mind reader?? I was going to include parts of this comparison in a future post 🙂

Joe Plemon April 23, 2010 at

No, I am not a mind reader…I have heard that great minds think alike, but I don’t qualify there either. Just coincidence I suppose. 🙂

Looking forward to your follow up post.
.-= Joe Plemon´s last blog ..Why to Build Wealth…Five Wrong Reasons and One Right One =-.

Forest April 25, 2010 at

Ha, excellent analogy. I was trying to remember Newtons law the other day…. talking about terminal velocity and such coffee drinking subjects (although I was drinking green tea).

Minimum credit card payments on my old cards always were set to keep the card pretty much even… I reckon even one purchase of $50 per year would have kept those balances just where they were…. Luckily in my debt management plan the cards are frozen of interest and I have already paid about $800 off my overall debt so far this year…. Feels fantastic to be cutting that monster down piece by piece.
.-= Forest´s last blog ..Using Tomato Ends For Your Spaghetti Sauce Recipe =-.

Jeffrey Kosola April 25, 2010 at

@Forest I was running some numbers while writing the post and almost any purchase on the card will keep it open forever. I’m glad you are seeing some results, I know how GREAT it feels.

Lisa Smith May 13, 2010 at

hey jeff very nice post… i absolutely agree with you. nothin in life is easy to get and so the debt freedom. The basic thing we can do is reduce the expenses and purchase only what is needed to live . Avoid extra expenses , you will definetely come out of debt one day

Elle October 11, 2010 at

I love it! Beating inertia is a difficult task for most, it took me a bit to get started. After I had a few small wins, it definitely encouraged me to continue paying down my debts.

Jeffrey Kosola October 13, 2010 at

@Elle Beating inertia is hard, but after a while it beats itself. Sorry you were in spam jail 🙁

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