Given the choice between a brand new car and your family, which would you choose? Easy answer, right? At least, I hope it’s an easy answer.
Here’s an even better question: If we would all choose our families over new cars, why are we constantly making buying decisions that seem to convey the opposite?
We don’t prioritize things over family on purpose or even consciously. Most of us spend thoughtlessly, a mistake that has become so common it is now given the misnomer debt, which in turn is too often considered good debt.
Let’s get this straight: good debt has nothing to do with thoughtless spending. In fact, good debt is the opposite; it is thoughtful spending. Whether you’re in the middle of a debt management plan or you’ve just begun your journey to financial freedom, you’re going to need to dedicate considerable brain power to your finances.
Thoughtless spending is nothing more or less than irresponsibility.
Let’s take a close look at the real culprits behind your debt and the various ways you can tackle them today.
The Mistakes of Youth
Bobby Hoyt, the Millennial Man reveals why he tackles debt every day: “I’m terrified of debt — and I wish other young people were too.” Hoyt has zeroed in on a reality that most of us haven’t seen quite so clearly.
While considering the death of his father-in-law, Hoyt realized that young people have much to learn from the older generation. He points out that work ethic, procrastination, and plain old irresponsible spending are our greatest challenges as young people.
Though I would never assume that every single person who is in debt is in that situation because of such reasons, we can all learn this lesson from our elders: planning for the future should never be put off until later.
Millennials do make up a large portion of those in debt, but not all debtors can blame youthful irresponsibility for their debt. However, that doesn’t mean age is immune to youthful rashness. We could all be just a bit more responsible for our age.
The Excuses That Distract You
Saying “I’m just not good with money” is an excuse to avoid facing the truth.
The secret is no one in the world is or ever has been born as a financial expert. The real difference between financial experts and most of those in debt is that the experts have been optimistic about their chances to conquer financial hardships. This optimism will lead you to financial understanding. Try out a bit of optimism in learning to handle your finances; you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.
“Everyone has debt” is one of the more common excuses. Even if every single person in the world had debt, that still wouldn’t be a terribly good reason to let it go unchallenged. “Everyone is doing it” has never been a good excuse. If you have been a kid or have kids, you already know this.
The excuse “I’ll pay my bill when I get a promotion” plays into the very idea that perpetuates bad debt: procrastination. We make purchases with the thought that we’ll pay the price later. And we put off paying our bills until we get a raise, a promotion, or that inevitable moment when money falls from the trees. If you need help paying your debts, many debt relief companies have made it their goal to free people like you from debt.
“I’ll never be able to pay it off anyway” is just pure defeatism. We’ve all been weighed down by some burden or another in our lives and it’s not easy to confront. Believing we can’t accomplish something becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The opposite is true as well. Picture yourself successfully paying off your debt and being free from that burden.
Excuses waste time and money and distract us from completing our goals for financial freedom. Whether your goal is financial freedom, happiness, or more confidence, you can’t afford to be distracted.
Kara Stevens, the mind behind The Frugal Feminista, points out that we need to start focusing on making SMART goals. These goals need to “be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.”
The first roadblock you will reach on your road to financial freedom is the enormity of the task at hand. You may have a mountain of debt to climb, but SMART goals will help you split your enormous challenge into smaller, more manageable segments.
For example, using the SMART goal method can transform your overwhelming long-term goal of paying off $80,000 in debt into more manageable pieces. Make a specific monthly or quarterly goal. “I want to pay off $1,300 by June 29, 2018, using only the income from my side jobs.” Such goals will help you focus your efforts while allowing you to feel a sense of accomplishment during your personal debt freedom process.
As you get better at eliminating harmful excuses, avoiding youthful mistakes, and making SMART goals, you’ll feel more confident and empowered to continue wiping out debt. You can supplement your own efforts by joining support groups, hiring debt management services, or confiding in friends for debt help. Yet, you should always remember that your own financial maturity is the first line of attack in your fight against debt.