Great. Your car payment just came out of your checking account. Next week you have to pay the credit card bill. After that, the payday loan comes due. Then you begin to wonder: will I ever get out of debt?
Getting out of debt is simple enough in principle, but extremely difficult to execute. Why? Because it has less to do with math and more to do with behavior.
In other words, you have to really want to get out of debt. Not only that but getting out of debt does not happen by accident. Just like anything worth having, it will take a lot of hard work and sacrifice.
Now, I’m a big advocate for Dave Ramsey’s methodology as found in The Total Money Makeover. I can’t recommend it enough! This book changed my outlook on personal finance. Also, much of our current financial strategy comes from Dave. So check it out!
Also, if you want this blog post in eBook format, you can download my eBook! It also includes downloadable monthly budget forms and a debt snowball worksheet! Enter your email below and I’ll send it to you immediately!
Are you ready to begin your debt-free journey? Good!
How to Get Out of Debt: Step-by-Step
Before we get into the how-to, we need to address the attitude. Often, financial blogs and YouTubers focus mainly on the math. However, personal finance is about much more than math. Just as Dave Ramsey says, “Personal finance is 80% behavior. It’s only 20% head knowledge.”
If you want to get out of debt, you have to train yourself to think differently. Yes, math is a big component of your finances. But your attitude plays a much bigger role.
Here’s what I’m saying: you can have all the knowledge in the world. But if you don’t have the motivation to apply it, your knowledge is worthless.
So, let’s dive step-by-step into this debt-free journey!
Step 1: Know Your “Why”
Do you ever stop to ask yourself why you want to do something? In my opinion, not enough people ask this question. Instead, people tend to just do things because it’s the way so-and-so did it.
But the problem is that someone else’s motivation won’t be strong enough for you. You have to come up with your own vision. You have to know your why.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish” – Proverbs 29:18a
To come up with your why, I want you to imagine what your life would be like without debt. Think of some things you could do if debt didn’t tie up your money.
Here are a few things you might have thought of:
- You could give more generously to the church or to causes you believe in.
- Going on more vacations would be easier and less stressful.
- It would be easier to start saving for your child’s college fund
- You could pursue that business you’ve wanted to start up
Or any number of things! And yes, you can definitely have more than one “why”. I have multiple “whys” myself!
But you have to dig deep for these “whys”. Simply saying “I just don’t want to be poor” isn’t going to do it. Therefore, I have a few suggestions:
1. Make sure you run towards something rather than run away from something
Not too long ago, I coached someone who didn’t know why they wanted to get out of debt. He just kept saying, “I just don’t want to be broke and homeless.”
I’ve got news for you: no one wants to be broke and homeless. If that were motivation enough, then we wouldn’t have broke and homeless people in the world.
Instead, try to think of some things you want to do. Think of how getting rid of debt would serve your family. Or consider some of the really cool ways you could be generous.
Whatever it is, run towards it. Sure, it’s okay to glance back and move away from something. But where you’re going is more important than where you’ve been.
2. Imagine your “why” in vivid detail
It’s my oldest daughter’s last day at home before she goes off to college. Twenty years ago, my wife and got out of debt. As soon as my daughter came into this world, I opened up a 529 college savings account. Fortunately, we were able to contribute every month. Now my daughter doesn’t have to pay a dime for college. I take her out for one last daddy-daughter date at Chick-fil-A, where she shares her hopes and dreams. I kiss her on the forehead the next day, then I cry a little bit. But I know she’ll be okay.
Spoiler alert: this story hasn’t happened yet. But it’s something I want to see one day! Being able to provide for my child’s education is one of my “whys”. To keep me motivated, I came up with that little story (which actually does make me cry a little bit).
Try to picture your “why” with a vivid story. It needs to be so real you could touch it. Then recall that story whenever you need a motivator.
3. Don’t just make your “why” about yourself
I’m talking about generosity! Face it, you really don’t want to be a hunched-over old miser like Mister Scrooge, do you? Well, if you do, you probably won’t live very long. In fact, you’ll end up quite miserable.
Truthfully, if none of your “whys” include generosity, then you need to come up with something else. God made us to reflect his image. And guess what? God is a giver. We reflect his image more fully when we give.
Plus, you’ll find much more satisfaction in helping others than you will in storing up your own treasures. Sure, stuff is fun. But don’t let it dominate your life.