Working to get out of debt is a difficult task. It requires sacrifice and dedication. It requires a person or family to stop spending on wants and focus entirely on needs. It requires the family to live on a budget and continually work to reduce the amount of expenditures to increase the amount of money available for debt repayment. It is the most difficult undertaking in my life. Not even college was as difficult as this. As I progress through the process, I’m finding out more about the internal workings of myself and my family.
Acquiring stuff is what leads most people into debt. We are marketed to on a daily basis to believe that “stuff” will bring happiness into our lives. The marketing is also great at telling us that along with happiness the “stuff” will help to show off our status – the Jones’ syndrome. Stuff can include; a large house, a new car, new hockey equipment, new gadgets, lawn equipment, power tools, plasma TVs, Xbox 360, PSP3, Wii, shoes, clothes, and the list will go on forever. The problem with most of this stuff is that is brings happiness and enjoyment for a period of time. The new car will become old, the plasma TV will be replaced with an LED TV, and the clothes will go out of style. These things will then “need” to be replaced because who wants to watch a plasma TV when the LED has a much better picture? It’s situations like this take keep people in the cycle of debt. The plasma TV might not even be paid for before the LED arrives on the wall to replace it.
How can we break this terrible cycle? Once you are living on a budget and only have X amount of dollars to spend, the choices become clear. With only X amount to spend for the month on entertainment, a new TV cannot be afforded. You have to settle for what you have and enjoy it. It’s amazing how great the old TV looks when you know you can’t do anything about. The movies start to look better, and you start to see that what you have works just fine. Multiply that thinking with all the stuff you currently have and you begin to understand that you can survive without having to purchase more stuff. Having a budget forces you to stop spending and to learn to accept the things you have. The first few months are hard, but as the time goes by, you learn to be content with your “stuff”. Once that contentment settles in, you realize that new stuff isn’t what brings happiness. The happiness comes from within yourself and your family working toward the debt freedom goal. Being content with what you have is the most important state of being for breaking spending habits and breaking the debt cycle. Stuff isn’t what makes you great, you are what makes you great. Learn to be content with what you have, focus only on your needs and not your wants.
Activities are another expense that broke people spend a lot of money on. The movies, dinners out, concerts, bar nights, sporting events, and so on. These can break a budget in a heartbeat. Most budgets include a category for entertainment. If you only have $40-$80 in the fund then you can only spend $40-$80. Having a spending limit makes families take a different view on activates. With only a little money, people want to get the biggest bang for the buck. Instead of eating out, the family may plan a picnic lunch at the zoo. Instead of going to the movies, a family may rent a couple videos and have a family movies night once or twice a month. You’d be amazed at how content you can be without spending a lot.
With focus and direction comes piece of mind. On paper on purpose takes the guess work out of getting out of debt. Setting the monthly debt goal at the beginning of the month gives the family a goal to shoot for, and removes daily stress from worrying about it. If you don’t set a goal, you will probably spend the money to maintain your current lifestyle and continue to add debt stress into your life. Knowing the goal will help bring contentment into your life again. That’s not to say you should just figure out the goal and let it ride. You still need to bust your butt to improve your income and blast away the debt. The goal takes the negative emotion out of the picture. Understanding your debt position and working a plan to eliminate is an empowering feeling.
Getting out of debt does not have to be a life sentence. It can be a rewarding experience that you will use to make positive changes in your life. I believe that finding contentment as you progress toward debt freedom is the best way to remain sane. It’s ok to be happy with the stuff you have. Expensive activities will not bring as much enjoyment as spending time with your family. Setting goals is the only way to take the guess work out of eliminating debt. While working your way out of debt, understanding your inner self and your family is the way to bring contentment into your life.
Post image by: Netsrot