Just over two years ago I celebrated sending off my last debt repayment. It was an incredible day that I’ll never forget: the conclusion to a three year journey towards debt-free living. It also drew a line under almost a decade of living with – and trying my best to ignore – the growing mountain of debt I owed.
The funny thing is that paying off my debt was actually nowhere near as bad as I expected it to be. For years on end I procrastinated, adding it to my New Years Resolutions more times than I dare to admit. Yet now I look back at this period of my life and wonder what all the fuss was about.
Today I’d like to talk about a few of my own discoveries while paying off debt, in the hope that I can encourage you to take the first step to a frugal, debt-free life…
We Are Surprisingly Adaptable
Allow me to wear my heart on my sleeve for a moment, and talk about my feelings surrounding debt. We all know that clocking up debt isn’t a good way to live, but the truth is that I was positively scared of mine. The numbers looked so big I wondered if I’d ever succeed.
Worse than that, every time I reworked my budget to try and account for debt repayments things didn’t add up. I simply couldn’t maintain my existing lifestyle *and* pay back my debt. As a result I came to the painful decision that I would have to cut my costs to the bone.
To be honest, the idea filled me dread. Not only would I be living on next to nothing, but I’d be doing it for years before the balance finally hit zero. That, to me, was a big commitment.
What I hadn’t realized, however, was just how adaptable we are. As it turned out, while the initial budget cuts were uncomfortable, I soon got used to my new spending level. So I cut it a little more, and got used to that. Each time I got “comfortable” I cut a little more. In the end I had cut my budget massively, but found I was still able to enjoy life.
In other words, if you’re refraining from paying off debt purely because you don’t want to cut your spending: stop worrying. You’ll acclimatize surprisingly quickly and the “pain” of budgeting is nowhere near as bad as you might expect.
Your Debt Is Negotiable
When I started my debt repayment journey I contacted each of my creditors to discuss the situation. I wanted to understand my exact balance and the interest rates I was paying. Up until this point I’d done my utmost to ignore such things, so I thought I’d better start with accurate data.
The funny thing was, however, that a number of my creditors offered some kind of deal. The most common offering was knocking a hefty chunk off what I owed, in exchange for larger payments. Seeing as I was planning to up my payments anyway, I was able to shave a fair amount of debt off to begin with!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all that you owe, all it takes is a simple phone call (well, and some guts!) to see what, if anything, can be done to re-work your debt and make it more manageable to pay off.
The Motivation Is Incredible
Over the years I’ve tried to lose weight on numerous occasions. Typically I’d give up within a few months, bored stiff with dragging myself out of bed at 5am to exercise, or having to eat yet another salad.
Last year, however was rather different. Last year I got started – and I just kept going. I lost 50 lbs in a matter of months.
The difference? Motivation.
Last year I decided to go “all in”. I set a plan, and tracked my weight every single week. And every week the number on the scales went down I found I was even more motivated to keep going.
Its the same for debt. Actually getting started is the hardest part, but once you start to see the numbers on those statements rapidly heading down, it filled me with inspiration.
The nice thing is that once you hit your goal, it’s a lot easier to stay debt-free than it is to remain trim and lithe! So take the time each month to carefully track your financial results, and use those rapidly-dropping debt balances as motivation to keep you moving in the right direction.
My journey to debt-free living took around three years. That sounds like an awfully long time. But in reality the time flew by. My concerns over living on a tight budget for years really turned out to be unfounded, as that time went past in the blink of an eye.
If you’ve ever tried to calculate how long it’ll take you to become debt free and given up before you even started then take heed! And if you really want to make the time go past quickly then aim to keep yourself busy. Take up new hobbies, or even better get a second job. Each week can zip by when you don’t have time to stop. Soon enough you’ll be counting down to your end goal in months rather than years – and that’s when things get really exciting.
You’ll Grow As A Person
I’m a very different person now to the guy I used to be. I’m both embarrassed and frustrated at just how long it took me to start paying off my debt, especially now I know just how “do-able” the process really was.
Back then I would dread bills dropping through the door, I’d do my best to ignore the balance on my statements and my idea of budgeting simply involved checking if the ATM would still give me money.
Today, of course, I’ve had to address that attitude. I have a far better hold on my finances. I track everything, plan for the future and fully believe I’m in control.
No matter how hopeless you may feel about your finances right now, I hope that you’ll find becoming debt free as transformational as I did.