The energy of debt can be overwhelming, and it can be smothering. Many of my clients say to me “I don’t understand how this happened. How did it get this bad? I have no idea how to fix this.” I hear it all the time.
Feeling this way can often lead to a disastrous next step – sticking your head in the sand and trying to hide from your debt. Understanding where you are now is the only way I know to help you plan your way out of that crappy and suffocating feeling.
Look, I completely get it. As a business owner, for the first time in my adult life I have credit card debt which essentially represents investments I’ve made in the business and in myself. While I know that the investments I’ve made are very much worth it and are intended to fuel the growth of my business, debt can still feel very yucky (a very technical term, of course).
When you have large amounts of consumer debt (i.e. credit cards, car loans, and using home equity lines to finance personal endeavors) it’s like riding a roller coaster. You’re energetically all over the place – up, down, up, down, sideways – never really knowing how to get off the ride that you never intended to stay on permanently. Somewhere along the ride you lost track of the debt and you’re afraid to acknowledge what could be a scary number.
So my question for you is this – are you brave enough to ride the debt roller coaster to the end and get off the ride once and for all? If the answer is yes, keep reading for 3 key steps to eliminating debt forever.
Step #1: Write it all down – Yup, that’s right. The first step is the hardest when it comes to debt. It’s time to write down all of your debt balances so that you can acknowledge your truth. A lot of times people feel sick to their stomachs at the thought of doing this, however in the end it’s often not as bad as people thought it would be. Without acknowledging where things stand currently, it will be very difficult to find a way out…you might end up digging a hole to China when you wanted to dig a hole to Russia instead (metaphorically speaking, of course!).
When you’re writing things down, make sure you include all of the debt details. You’ll want current balances, interest rates, due dates (of monthly payments), and minimum payments required for each piece of debt. A best practice would be to to write down all of your debt just to be able to see it all in one place (i.e. including longer term debt like your mortgage and student loans), however for purposes of getting rid of debt with draining energy we’re primarily going to focus on how to eliminate consumer debt (i.e. credit cards, car loans, home equity lines used for personal purposes, etc.)
Step #2: Assess your savings – You might be saying to yourself, “what does my savings balance have to do with debt anyway?” The answer? EVERYTHING. A healthy savings account is the key to getting out of debt and stepping off of the debt roller coaster once and for all. Let me explain.
Life happens, and unexpected expenses pop up. It can’t be avoided. Therefore, when you’re prepared (with a savings account) you can absorb them easily. Without a savings account, you’ll pay down your debt for a while until the next unexpected expense arises and you’re stuck to put it on a credit card again which increases your balance that you’ve been diligently working to pay down. And you feel defeated…UGH.
How do you avoid this feeling? If you don’t have savings or if you have only a small amount of savings, target saving at least one month’s worth of expenses. This may feel counterintuitive to save while you have debt to pay down (that is likely costing you money via interest), but trust me – I’ve seen it work time and time again and having a savings account helps you to absorb future unexpected expenses so you can stay the course with paying down your debt.
Step #3: Plan your way out of debt – This last and final step is critical in getting out of debt. Without a good plan, most people just throw money after their debt haphazardly much like you would throw wet spaghetti against the wall and it would stick anywhere it felt like it (on the kitchen cabinet, on the floor, perhaps even on someone standing nearby)! It would be completely random where it landed, instead of it being strategically stuck (or in the case of debt, applied to a random balance).
Ask yourself these key questions: 1) how much extra money beyond the minimum payments can you afford to dedicate toward paying down debt? and 2) what are the priority pieces of debt to pay down first? In terms of what pieces of debt to consider as “priority” consider the following:
- Are there smaller debt balances where you would feel accomplished if they were paid off?
- What are the interest rates – is there one piece of debt that is costing you a lot more?
- Which piece(s) of debt is causing you the most angst and you would feel a sense of relief if it was eliminated (i.e. debt to family, debt from an emotional/triggering event, etc.)?
After you’ve answered these 2 key questions for yourself, make a conscious decision as to which one piece of debt you’ll apply the extra funds to, and pay the minimums on all the rest until you eliminate the first piece of debt. Then, go through the process again until all debt has been paid off.
While these 3 steps may not be easy, if you take one step at a time you can significantly alter the dampened energy that you may be feeling about your debt. Handling your debt will allow you to step powerfully into a role as a financially authentic individual and be in charge of your financial life…one step at a time!