Much has been shared and written about issues related to indebtedness. USA Today reports that the average American household carries an average of $137,000 of debt, with almost $17,000 of that being credit card debt. With the cost of living rising approximately 30 percent in the last thirteen years and incomes increasing only 28 percent, it’s no surprise that many individuals are using credit cards to cover necessities such as food and clothing.
While there are lots of tips proliferated about ways to get out of debt, very little is added about the process of staying out of debt. It’s important to understand that it is often not money but the mentality that causes us to incur debt. Here are some suggestions for getting and staying out of debt that may help you adjust and modify your habits of mind as much as your habits of money.
Examine the behaviors that got you into debt. While it’s true that a small amount of debt is a likely part of living, people don’t get into real debt trouble overnight. Getting out of debt and staying out of debt permanently is possible if, and only if, you take a critical look at what behaviors got you there in the first place. This may involve asking yourself if you are an impulse buyer or emotional spender. Do you find yourself shopping out of boredom or dealing with a life crisis by walking through the mall? Do you engage in activities or hobbies that cost you more than you can afford but need something to fill your time, provide you with social involvement, or divert your attention from something too painful to deal with? If so, you may want to look at some tools and tips to help you modify those behaviors.
Examine your truth. Some people purchase things to keep up with appearances or fit in. If you’re a person who uses items like cars, technology, leisure equipment, and fashion items as a means to feel good about yourself, a cycle of debt is likely to continue to plague you, even in times of relative prosperity. What you have does not define who you are, and too many people emphasize possessions as a means to perpetuate a false sense of self-worth, importance, or success. There are many ways to define success in life, and if you need to extend yourself beyond your means to feel good about who you are, your focus should be on redefining success for yourself. Look at how the many people we consider successful define it, and you will see that achievement comes in many forms that are not all about wealth and power.
Make up your mind not to borrow any more money. Getting out of debt and staying out of debt means making a conscious commitment to stop those debt-incurring activities immediately. Do not to utilize credit cards for anything. Determine to pay for things only in cash, and, if necessary, give the cards to a trusted family member for safekeeping, especially if you find it difficult to overcome the impulse to reach for the credit card. Focus your time, effort, and energy on developing the habits of mind that allow you to tell yourself no, especially when you know a purchase is not critical to your health or safety.
Start saving and don’t stop. Most people have little or no savings on which to fall back if something should happen. Having an emergency fund is an important part of getting and staying out of debt, but there is more to saving than simply stashing cash until you reach your predetermined emergency fund amount. Viewing your savings account as a “rainy day” option makes spending the money in a pinch too easy. Instead, focus on the excitement that can come from seeing that amount grow and knowing that your hard work and dedication is contributing to the overall security of your future. Challenge yourself mentally and financially in keeping that process going.
Surround yourself with like-minded individuals. You don’t have to have money to have a good time. Build a community of people that enjoy simple pleasures in life, and you will eventually change how you see the world. Whether it’s a night of playing cards or a hike in a national forest or a day spent repurposing old furniture, a great deal of fun, camaraderie, and laughter can come with a small price tag. Consider it a challenge to discover cheap or free activities in your area or neighborhood, and you are likely to alter not only your sense of purpose in life, but also find yourself surrounded by people who value you for your character and personality, not the money that is spent being with one another.
What are some habits of mind that can help a person stay out of debt? Feel free to share here.