Wednesday, April 02, 2008

How to Beat the Stress of Debt


Let's face it. Having debt can cause a lot of stress. I had a lot of anxious days and sleepless nights when I was in debt. You may be late on your payments, stuck in a dead-end job, or have bill collectors hounding you day and night. Whatever situation you're in, debt is not fun (I know!) Here are some suggestions to help you keep your cool and stay focused as you work towards paying off your debt.

1. Take action

Having a mountain of debt can make you feel powerless. You feel like you have no control over your life because that debt is holding you back from what you really want to do. Those feelings of powerlessness don’t help you at all. When you start feeling overwhelmed and helpless, remember who’s in charge. You! Don’t resign yourself to inaction.

What can you do? First, you can educate yourself. If you’re reading this, then you’re already on your way. Read lots of blogs to find support and ideas. Mint.edu has a great resource of 30 e-books on personal finance. Then, go to the library and browse the personal finance section. There are lots of free resources out there, so there is no need to go out and buy new books (that’ll just create more debt!)

Second, find ways to increase your income. Think about asking for a raise. Look around at the stuff you have and decide if there are things you can sell. DVDs, books, and CDs are all very easy to sell on either Amazon.com or Half.com. Get creative and find a way to make something and sell it. Etsy is a great place for crafters to sell their products. Or maybe you can even take on a part-time job. If you’re spending all your time working, you won’t have the time to be spending any money!

Third, get serious about cutting back. You’ll be surprised at all the things you can get rid of and still be happy. Cable, Netflix, TiVo, eating out - these are all luxuries that can be cut out to aid in your debt reduction.

2.
Find inspiration

Paying off debt can be a long, arduous process. There are going to be times when you feel like giving up or cheating a little bit. When I was struggling with debt, I worked at a job I hated, just so I could pay off the debt faster. Some days I felt like quitting then and there, but I knew there was a bigger goal I was working towards. When I felt down, I thought about my long-term goals like owning a chateau. It may sound silly, but it was a really fun goal to have. I had a picture of my dream chateau on my desktop so that when I turned on my computer I was reminded of what I was working towards. If I started getting frustrated, I would take a break and look at chateaux for sale. Usually, my spirits would be renewed and I felt motivated to stay on track. Find what works for you. It could be a yacht, a dream vacation, a fancy car, or the freedom to work at a job you love. Your imagination is your only limit.


3. Find support.

I owe a lot of my success of paying off my debt to this blog. Before I started this blog, I felt self-conscious and embarrassed talking about money problems. In our culture, talking about money problems is a sign of weakness, so it makes it difficult to find support. Most people get uncomfortable when you start talking about being on a budget, probably because they don’t want to think about how they themselves should be saving money too. They want to keep you down with them.

Try to stay away from those people who encourage your bad habits and surround yourself with like-minded individuals, or have a buddy that you can call when you are feeling tempted. Think of it as a Shoppers Anonymous sponsor. Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes. The more we start opening up about money, the better off we’ll all be because we can learn from each other’s mistakes and successes.

4. Replace old habits with new ones.

They say that once you break an addiction, you usually replace it with another one. If you were addicted to shopping, make sure that the old addiction isn’t replaced with another bad habit that’s going to cause you even more stress (eating, smoking, etc). Try to find a constructive activity that you can participate in when you are feeling stressed or have an urge to shop.

One great stress relieving activity is exercise. I know, I know. That’s probably not what you had in mind, but it can be very satisfying when you get into the habit. Take a walk. Play tennis (but don’t buy any new tennis rackets). Join a community sports team. Getting out and being active will not only relieve stress, but keep your mind active so you’re not worrying about your debt all the time.

5. Remember, it’s all temporary.

It’s easy to let the debt rule your life. It’s important to remember that this is only one chapter in your life that will soon be over. Don’t let yourself identify with what you don’t have and what you didn't do right. It's easy to beat yourself up for not making better decisions in the past. Concentrate on all the things that you do have and the fact that you're doing the right thing now. Write a list of all the things that you are thankful for. Maybe it’s your health. A loving family. Faith. A really cute cat (like my Isabelle). There are many people in the world who don't have these things, so consider yourself lucky.

Whether your debt is going to take 1 year or 10 years to repay, stay strong and focused throughout the journey. The important thing is that you are taking positive measures to increase your financial health and the habits you develop during your debt defying years will stay with you long after your debt is repaid. Learn from your mistakes and keep your eyes towards the future and you'll be at the finish line before you know it.

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11 comments:

realityrain said...

These are great tips! I too put have paid off a large amount of debt! It feels so good not to have credit card debt!

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic article. I had about $40,000 in debt and now I'm down to just a couple thousand. I identify with all of the stressors and tips in this article. There's a lot of advice out there online about how to pay down your debt, but not a lot about how to deal with the emotional and psychological aspects, which are really the key to breaking free from the trap. As for what I visualized every time I was feeling down...it was the freedom to live without being controlled by money and a simple farm house in the country that I could one day buy if I didn't have such a high debt load. I wrote out a scenario where my family had joined me for a picnic on a summer day. Strength and Patience to everyone who is struggling with debt!

Penny said...

I do agree with you post because we all know that debt problem is a huge problem. And we all want to overcome this problem. But before solving the debt problems we need to avoid the debt stress. So, i personally feel that if we will go for any debt advisor that will be better for us, because we will get professional tips from them to overcome it.
But i can't stop myself to congratulate you for maintaining such a great blog.I got good finance ideas from you.
Keep rocking, all the best from my end.

Jamey said...

Talking about debt is really important in helping to reduce stress. Without talking you will feel isolated and as if you are the only person carrying debt - you are not alone!

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