There’s a moment in any good workout where you feel like you’re about to die. Your lungs are burning, your stomach is clenched, your muscles ache, and you wish you could call it quits. But you don’t quit — you push through to the end of your workout, and you feel like a champion for conquering your pain.
Everything good in life comes with a cost, and when we exercise, that cost can be physical strain and discomfort. We don’t enjoy the pain, but we do enjoy the results.
The same thing is true when it comes to escaping the bondage of debt. It was super-easy to get in to debt, but getting out won’t be nearly as fun. Along the way, it’s going to burn a little bit… especially if you’re doing it right.
We’ve already talked about the first step of getting out of debt — you’ve got to stop borrowing. Once you stop borrowing, your balances stop growing, and you’ll be able to put together a plan for paying them off.
Sometimes it can seem impossible to get out of debt. But there’s really no mystery to it at all: You simply have to spend less money than you earn each month, and use what you have left over to pay down your bills. There are some great strategies and motivational techniques that help us do that (and we’ll deal with them in future articles), but the fundamentals never change. You’re going to have to fight your way out of debt using your regular monthly income.
This is where we begin to feel the burn. You see, it was over-spending that got you in to debt in the first place. You’ve already made one round of cuts to your monthly spending so that you could stop borrowing money. Now you’re going to have to make another round of cuts so that you’ll have some money to pay that debt off.
This second round of cuts can be really difficult to make. It will be downright impossible if you don’t have a solid budget in place. But if you do have a budget, then you need to go over it with a really critical eye, and find every possible place where you can cut. And every dollar you cut is going to go toward paying off your debt.
What does this look like? Well, it means that a lot of things that you’ve been used to are about to go away for a while. If you have money budgeted for eating out, that should probably be the first to go. That’s right, cut your restaurant consumption down to nothing. Does it burn yet?
What’s next? Whatever you can spare. Ladies, I’m sorry, but those expensive cut and color appointments will have to go. You can let your hair grow out for a few months. And your natural color looks beautiful on you… so learn to embrace it.
Let’s go on a rampage. Cable TV service? Gone. Starbucks? Outta here. New clothes? Not this year.
Like organic produce? Too bad. You’re eating the cheap veggies, and buying as many generic brand products as possible. Take some time off from movies and concerts. For vacation this year, you’re not going to the beach. You’re staying home. If you’re a big gift-giver, you’re going to have to learn to buy things for your loved ones that are meaningful yet inexpensive.
Those are just some ideas about places to cut. Not a single one of them is easy or comfortable. But the only way to do this right is to feel the burn.
You see, the secret to getting out of debt is to take on the mentality of a Freedom Fighter, and endeavor to win this war as quickly as possible. The longer it takes you to get out of debt, the more likely that you’ll grow weary of the fight and eventually give up. You may be tempted to make just a few cuts, in order to conserve some of the comforts that you enjoy. But the less you cut, the less money you have to pay down debt. The less you have to pay, the longer it takes to get free. And the longer it takes, the greater the chances that you’ll fail.
I don’t want to make this situation sound too dire. Yes, you should use wisdom, and be sure not to cut so far that you’re doing damage to your family’s financial health. You shouldn’t skimp on things like health or car insurance, and don’t put yourself in situations that are unhealthy or dangerous.
What I do want, though, is to inspire you to attack your debt with the same intensity that you use to attack a great workout. Know going into it that it’s going to hurt, and be willing to feel the burn.
In the end, when you stand victorious over your vanquished debt, you’ll understand that the deep burn was really the sensation of winning.
Photo by Pascal. Used under Creative Commons License.