Brian is a former private school personal finance and Bible teacher turned stay at home dad and blogger. He provides encouragement and inspiration on his blog. Here’s his take on debt and emotions.
There is a door waiting for you to walk through. It leads to a land of contentment where you can live without fear of creditors dialing your number. There will be no late fees or interest payments in this land and the money you make will be 100% fully yours.
This place I speak of is known as Debt Free Land. It exists…it really is out there.
Navigating the path
I navigated the path to this land and have been living peacefully here for the last year – 100% debt free, payments to no one.
But it wasn’t an easy journey. There were many obstacles and emotions I had to overcome along the way. In fact, the most difficult part was simply starting.
When you choose to live a debt free lifestyle it changes the way you think about everything. I don’t think I’m overstating that. It’s that big a deal.
There will be many practical and logistical steps you will have to take to live debt free. But the biggest steps, the ones that will keep you from starting, rest completely in your mind and emotions.
When my wife and I chose to pursue a debt free existence there were multiple emotional and psychological barriers we had to overcome. Here’s what we had to come to grips with and face head on.
Bucking Your Peers
Let’s face it…society doesn’t believe in living debt free. In general, debt is viewed as a tool to get you where you want to go. Use debt and in “X” number of years you can be living the life you’ve always dreamed of. The idea that you don’t need debt to live your daily life is a foreign concept. They don’t see (or want to see) there are other options.
It’s easy for us to get sucked into that mentality. I mean who doesn’t have a credit card, right? You can’t live without one. Surely you’ve heard that before.
My wife and I were right there for the first dozen years of our marriage. We racked up our credit card bill and paid if off at the end of the month with the best of them.
We would still be following that pattern of behavior had it not been for a personal and spiritual awakening. Only then were we able to buck what society told us was normal.
Being a Slave
I was in the middle of leading Dave Ramsey’s FPU class at our church when he made this statement in a video lesson, “You could get a personal finance degree by reading the book of Proverbs [in the Bible]. Trust me, it’s in there,” he said and then went on with the lesson.
I was intrigued and took that as a personal challenge. I read a chapter a day for a month and recorded all the verses about money I could find. One in particular jumped out at me. It said,
“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7)
Really? That’s how I’m seen – as a servant or slave to the person from which I borrow money?
If that was the case I wanted no part of it. Freedom sounded much more palatable to me than a lifetime of playing by a creditor’s rules.
Admitting Your Guilt
But it wasn’t really the creditor’s fault. They just provided the system. I had to admit my complicity in the arrangement and face the fact I was more to blame for our financial predicament than anyone.
I lacked discipline when it came to spending. I’d spend money whenever I wanted and didn’t worry about how it impacted the budget until later. Credit was the vehicle I used to fuel that lifestyle.
Admitting I was to blame was difficult. But it helped me move forward and seek out an alternative way to pay for purchases.
That alternative method became using a debit card and cash to pay for all transactions. Not only was I no longer a slave to the lender, but I had also set a limit on how much I could spend each month. If the money was not in my bank account I couldn’t use my debit card. It was that simple.
With that limitation in place our spending immediately decreased and our savings rate skyrocketed. But old habits can die hard.
Despite the new lease on our financial lives we still had a dirty, little secret hidden in my wallet. That’s right, we kept one credit card account open. You know…just for emergencies.
And honestly…truthfully…we never used it.
But just the fact that we kept it said that we were still dealing with an emotional issue that wouldn’t let us entirely commit to a new way of thinking.
We were still living with fear.
Fear that this new lifestyle might not work out. Fear that we might get stuck in a situation where we couldn’t use our debit card. Fear that others would judge us because we didn’t have at least one credit card. [And that actually happens by the way.]
Our fear eventually resulted in a really silly money mistake with that credit card. That mistake was the jolt we needed to say, “Enough is enough.” We are not living in fear anymore.
Climbing the Mountain
Not until you face the system and your position in it, admit your guilt and finally let go can you begin to climb the mountain.
Moving from a credit-based existence to a cash-based one wasn’t easy for us. In fact, it took us about 90 days before our new budget and spending patterns began to work themselves out efficiently. I’m convinced though it played a major role in us moving swiftly through our final debt – the mortgage – to become entirely debt free.
If you are on the debt journey consider how you might speed up the process. I had a real problem with spending using credit. It was slowing down our debt payoff and thus hindering our wealth accumulation. If that’s also your case perhaps a change of plan should be ordered.
Questions: What emotions hinder you from making wise financial decisions? What challenges have you faced in paying off debt? Do you view debt as a tool? Have credit cards contributed to you spending excessively?
About the author: Brian Fourman helps individuals and families navigate the challenges of managing their money so that they can grow wealth and live with greater peace of mind. In his down time, he loves hanging out with his four kids and hearing his wife talk about all the cool things CPAs do at work. You can check him out at Luke1428.com or connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.