The battle lines are drawn, your weapons are in hand, and you’re ready to mount a full-on assault against your debt. Before you storm the gates, though, we’ve got one last speech to help rally your forces.
Debt is slavery, and the only way to escape it is to take on the mentality of a Freedom Fighter. Even with a great plan of action and a focused attack, it’s going to take you a while to achieve total victory. The struggle may be stressful at times, and it will definitely test your stamina. Even when you are making all the right moves, you may still feel like you’re having a hard time.
Hard times, though, don’t mean defeat. It just means that the opponent isn’t a pushover… but you knew that going into this. It’s going to take everything you have to win. We’ve hope that we’ve given you a lot of motivation, as well as some time-tested strategies to winning. Before you get started, we’ve got three more keys for you that can help make the difference between winning the debt wars and walking away in chains.
1) Earn as much money as possible.
This sounds infinitely obvious, but it’s worth stating: If you want to wipe out your debts, you’ll succeed much more quickly if you have a lot of cash to work with. But you’d be surprised how often people forget about this. All too often, we see people trying to pay off big debts with income weapons that are just too small.
This can happen for a number of reasons. Many young people come out of college with a degree and a lot of debt, and then spend the next few years working in food service, retail, or some other menial job that they had while they were in school. There’s nothing wrong with food service or retail, but the front-line positions in those industries often don’t pay much. What they do pay may be enough to get by on month to month, but it won’t leave much left over for paying down debt. So we encourage young people with a lot of debt to go out and get the best job that they can — hopefully something in the field that they’ve been trained for — and work quickly to maximize their earnings. Sometimes, that can mean taking a job that you don’t love. But that’s okay; doing what it takes is part of being a Freedom Fighter. Once you win the debt battle, you can re-focus your career goals to pursue work that you love.
Even if you do have a great job, you can still maximize your payoff potential by finding some extra income. That can mean any number of things: Take on a second job after hours (perhaps in food service or retail). Mow lawns, deliver pizzas or house sit. If you’re in a field that presents a lot of opportunities for overtime, side work or freelancing, take advantage of every opportunity that comes along. Any extra money that comes into your hands can be applied directly to your debt, which means that every extra hour that you work gets you closer to freedom that much faster.
2) Get some help and accountability.
The hardest battles to win are the ones that we fight by ourselves. If you try to defeat your debt quietly, on your own and without anyone else noticing, you may find yourself isolated and discouraged in the process.
Just like in any other struggle, you’ll have much more success in paying off your debt if you have a team or a support system. If you’re married, you have a teammate in your spouse, and that’s a great place to start. But we can all use outside encouragement sometimes, so it’s important to have people in our lives that we can share our debt battles with. Tell someone about what you’re doing, and what your plan of attack is. Ask that person to check in on you from time to time and to hold you accountable. Their help may be just what you need to keep you on the right track in a moment of weakness or desperation.
Remember, there’s nothing easy about winning the debt war. It can certainly be uncomfortable, especially if you’re doing it right. A big part of winning comes from budgeting your money and pulling our lifestyle way back. That can be difficult to do when your friends are spending a lot of money on coffee dates, movies and restaurant meals. So instead of trying to come up with excuses for why you can’t join your friends, be honest with them and tell them what you’re doing. You’ll find that they respect your decision, and they may even be inspired to join you on the road to freedom. Turn your friends into teammates.
3) Mark your milestones.
In the Old Testament, the people of Israel would mark important victories and works of God by building an altar or a monument on the place where the success happened. It helped them to remember the things that God had done for them, and they used these permanent memorials to teach the next generation about their faith.
If your battle against debt involves paying off multiple loans — or if it is going to take you several years to finish — then it’s important for you to commemorate the small victories that come on your way to the big one. Mark milestones on the way so that you can see how far you’ve come, how hard you’ve worked and how much God has done to help you succeed.
This can mean different things to different people. Maybe you keep a big “debt scorecard” on a poster above your desk at home, and make a ceremony of marking each debt off with a giant red “X” when you pay it off. Maybe you and your spouse plan a special date night for certain milestones — say every time you clear another $1,000 or $5,000. Perhaps you through a pizza party with your family, or treat yourself to one small, inexpensive luxury at certain important points along the way.
It’s not really important how you choose to do this. What’s important is that you find some way to celebrate and commemorate that will be meaningful to you and your family. Looking forward to these special moments can help to keep you motivated in your fight against debt. Looking back at them will memorialize the great battles that you have won.
Photo by Theodore Lee. Used under Creative Commons License.