Perhaps you’re familiar with that old refrain. It sounds like obvious advice, but you would be amazed at how often we forget it. It’s human nature to dig ourselves into holes. Often we don’t realize that we’ve made a mistake until we’re in too deep to get out. You tell a little white lie, and then have to tell a bigger lie to cover it up. You lose a little bit of money on a bet, so you double down hoping to win it back. But of course, you can never lie your way to honesty, and you can’t gamble your way out of a loss. The only way to escape from your prison is to quit the behavior that got you there to begin with.
So it goes with debt. If you find yourself in a debt hole, your first step to getting out is to stop digging — i.e. stop borrowing.
Though our society hasn’t grasped this idea yet (and our government is certainly clueless about it), debt is detrimental to our spiritual and financial health. It makes us slaves, and holds us back from accomplishing what we want to with our money. In order to overcome this bondage, we have to become Freedom Fighters; that is we have to fight our way out.
The first victory of that fight comes on the day we stop borrowing.
For some people, this seems incredibly obvious. For many, though, it’s easier said than done. Too many of us have built our spending habits around the lifestyles that we’d like to have (like Young American), rather than building our lifestyles around the realities of our finances. We can get away with it for a while — things like car loans, credit cards and no-money-down financing help us to get our hands on the things we enjoy. But all that overspending runs up a tally of debt that can become staggering. Live that way long enough, and your balances will continue to grow so large that you can no longer afford to make your minimum payments.
Those loans and credit cards are the shovels that you’re using to dig your debt hole. You can escape the hole, but you can’t dig your way out of it. A man who has made a wrong turn on a journey can eventually arrive at his intended destination, but he will never get there by continuing to travel in the wrong direction. Sooner or later, he must come to a complete stop in order to correct his course.
In order to get out of debt, we need to figure out why we’re in debt in the first place. Do you know where your money goes every month? If not, the first step is to track your spending and make a budget. If you paint an accurate picture of your financial habits, you’ll soon find the leak.
Once you’ve identified the spending areas that have got you into this mess, it’s time to break the habit. I won’t lie to you: It may be incredibly difficult. Spending can be addictive, and escaping any addiction is a challenge. It’s going to take a lot of discipline and will power. It may even take some accountability from a friend or trusted leader. This sounds painful, but remember, you’re not just trying to change your behavior — you’re a Freedom Fighter, struggling to escape slavery. Reversing your bad spending habits is your only only way out.
Put down the shovel and slowly walk away. To escape this hole, you’re going to have stop digging.
Photo by Tommy’s Surfshack. Used Under Creative Commons License.