Why You Will Never Be Free From Debt

There are variety of pseudo-scientific guidelines regarding the time that it takes to make or break a habit, including the misinterpretation of research which gave us a 21-day timeframe.  While habits may be difficult to overcome, they usually encompass one discrete activity.  I agree that it can be difficult to quit smoking or consistently exercise on a daily basis, but it’s only one thing.  Overcoming debt cannot be accomplished by changing one habit, instead there are many facets of your daily life that need to altered in order to pay off what you and owe and keep from falling back into that hole.  However, all of these changes share one prerequisite, and without it, you can never successfully defeat your debt.

NeverBeFree

There are many different tactics and strategies recommended for those paying off debt.  Whether you seek to apply to “snowball method” or obtain a consolidation loan, you are doomed to be unsuccessful unless you employ one preliminary step:
 
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You need to change your attitude about spending money.
 
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Any debt payoff plan will backfire if you don’t learn from the mistakes that got you into financial trouble in the first place and adopt a new belief system with respect to your money.  Without a change in attitude these tactics only work to enable more spending.  Once you make a dent in the balances, suddenly there is available credit again, making it all too easy to fall back into your old ways.
 
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I can speak from experience as to how dangerous it can be to use tactics such as a credit consolidation loan when you lack the proper attitude about money.  My husband and I were dealing with in denial about our debt problems for a long time.  We took out a credit consolidation loan several years ago.  While the loan is now completely paid off, we still have combined balances of more than $30,000 on our credit cards.  What happened?  We simply just kept on spending money.
 
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Yes, it seems idiotic and self-destructive.  We had just borrowed more money.  Why were we continuing to spend and put ourselves even further in debt?  The problem was our faulty perception of what we could “afford” and what we “needed.”  When expenses are categorized in either of these ways, you will continue to spend money on them because the purchase is justified according to your skewed perceptions.  I love Mrs. Frugalwoods’s term “road bump opiate” for special purchases like a muffin when you’re having a bad day at work.  The problem is that if I truly believe that I deserve or need to buy a special reward for making it through a rough day, then I’m going to buy it whether or not the spending will negate hard work towards paying off debt.
 
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What about the propaganda that females cannot survive without a slew of expensive beauty products?  The spending will never cease if you accept that that proper hygiene for females depends on season-appropriate makeup, expensive scents to spray on yourself, professionally-done pedicures, and regular visits to a hair salon.  It was not too long ago that I justified buying body splash at the mall because I needed daily sprays of my scent.  I would buy three bottles of smelly, chemical water for $15, because it was “cheaper” than paying $8 for each one.  The progress that we had made in paying off debt was so easily undone when I subscribed to ideas like the one that these perfumed sprays are a necessity.
 
 
The last of my supply of name-brand body sprays, all received as gifts.
The last of my supply of name-brand body sprays . . . when it’s gone, it’s gone.
 
Returning to the fact that it can take a while to break old habits, no one can expect to change their attitude about money overnight.  It takes time, because the change cannot be achieved by focusing on one bad habit.  The way in which we spend our money impacts every facet of our lives.  In order to make a lasting change in your financial attitude, you need to adopt a whole new perspective and better priorities.  Otherwise, you will not be able to persevere.  Perhaps I decide to stop buying expensive lattes every morning, but view it as depriving myself of something that I deserve.  I might be able to refrain from purchasing this item for a while, but the change will not last.  As soon as there is a little breathing room in finances, you can be sure that I would be back to my old morning routine.  Because without the urgency and pressure, the belief that you are entitled to this treat will take control.  The only way to get rid of the impulse to make these purchases is to decide that you no longer need these material things in your life.
 
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My husband and I recently took out our second debt-consolidation loan.  At first, it felt like a monumental defeat.  When we had finished with the first loan, after three years of payments, there was a sense of celebratory relief.  We were free from a fairly significant monthly payment and had paid off thousands of dollars in debt.  We assumed that this apparent victory would be a turning point in our finances.  However, in obtaining that first loan our credit card balances were paid in full.  There was far too much available credit and we had yet to adjust our financial priorities.  We freed up the credit card balances only to run them up again.  Meanwhile, we were making an extra payment towards our loan  which ultimately caused us to go further into debt.  It took some time for us to concede our defeat and apply for the second loan.  I have, however, come to be more optimistic about going down this path once again.  This time, we have made significant changes to our spending practices and a commitment to better financial priorities.  I truly believe that this time the loan will make all the difference and enable us to finally and forever destroy our debt.  We have been making regular payments on all of our credit cards and not adding to the balances.  The fact that we had quite a bit of available credit demonstrates, in and of itself, that we have changed.
 
 
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Finding ways to make more and spend less are important steps to escaping from debt.  However, success is dependent on adopting a new attitude about money. It’s hard work to make such an all-encompassing change, but you will just be going through the motions if you don’t have the right priorities.  Progress might be achieved with the help of a loan, a tax return, or a bonus. Either way, it will be short lived if you continue to operate according to popular ideas about material necessities or your own enabling justifications. The payoffs will only facilitate continued spending and can result in additional debt if you’re not mentally ready to change your ways. In my experience, it takes much more than 21 days for an attitude about spending to completely evolve.  Eventually though, you reach a type revelation about the blatant absurdity of materialism.  At that point, all of the bad habits seem to melt away, because the rewards that you deserve and now desire, are so much grander than the small expenses which used to drag you down.
 
 
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4 Comments

  1. There is a whole lot of truth in this post. My ex was bad about spending money and I didn’t have the backbone then to say no to him. When we divorced, the debt went with him (and he’s continued his awful spending habits), and I felt so free without all that hanging over my head. I said “never again” to debt, and have kept that promise to myself. I don’t even own a credit card, although I am going to apply for one that has points for everyday purchases as we have plane tickets we have to buy several times per year and I’d like to save money on those. However, we will NEVER carry a balance on the card, and I wouldn’t do this if we didn’t have a substantial amount in savings already, so I know without a doubt that we will not have to ever pay less than the full amount on the card each month. I’ve made sure my credit score has gone up, not down, after the mess my ex got us into. That’s another reason I’m even getting a card, as my credit score is still low and we’d like to buy a house in the near future and I don’t want my poor credit to ruin our chances of getting an affordable loan.
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    1. I can’t wait to feel the freedom that comes from paying off your debt – we will have so many more options. Sorry to hear about the mess caused by your ex, but at least you were able to escape without being responsible for any of his debt. It sounds like you will have no problem using a credit card responsibly and for the right reasons. Best of luck and thanks for stopping by!

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