Does Your Debt Hurt Enough to Make You Change?

“Most people won’t change until until the pain of where they are exceeds the pain of change.” -Dave Ramsey

I saw a first-hand demonstration of that truth yesterday afternoon as I sat in oldest daughter’s room, chatting with her. The youngest of our four kids, age 10 and a boy to boot (the other three are girls), came dashing into Madelyn’s bedroom with a super hero cape (i.e. blanket) around his neck.

“I made a new superhero character, mom!” he said excitedly. The cape fully covered his new costume, so we could gain the full effect of his surprise.

He suddenly and authoritatively opened his cape to reveal his new creation.

“It’s……UNDERWEAR MAN!!!” he said, clothed only in his orange boxer briefs, eyes steadily fixed on Madelyn to gauge her reaction.

As quickly as Madelyn broke into horrified shrieks, Sam collapsed to the floor in hysterical laughter.

“Get out of here!” she screamed, but the results of his….ahem…..demonstration……. were too big a match for his sister’s threats of inflicting pain should he not leave the room immediately.

Then it happened.

Madelyn got up with that look in her eye; a look of a big sister more-than-peeved at her harassing little brother.

As she started toward him with “the look”, he got up, still giggling but suddenly aware of the seriousness of the situation.

Madelyn has a good 30 pounds of weight and 8 inches of height on Sam. And three years of intense Krav Maga training under her belt. As strong as Sam is, he’s no match for his well-trained sister.

Screams of “Ouch. Ouch! OUCH!” proceeded from his obviously terrified self as his sister began to smack his under-clothed body with a plastic hanger, and finally the pain of where he was exceeded the pain of change. He left the room, retreating to the security of anywhere outside of his angry sister’s reach.

The whole hilarious scenario reminded me of us on the October 2012 day when we sat down for the first time to tally up the total of our debt. Until that day, we’d been living blissfully in the world of “We can afford the payments just fine.” 

I don’t remember exactly what caused us to take an inward look at our financial selves; I only remember that we had recently charged nearly $5k onto a credit card for a new snowplow. Something in that purchase triggered us to look in the mirror at our financial selves, and we saw an impending train wreck.

We started to wonder how we would ever survive if Rick got laid off – or if we had the smallest of unexpected expenses. And so began our journey to debt freedom.

Our three and a half year journey has been riddled with major victories and mega setbacks. There have been days, weeks, months when we’ve seriously considered bankruptcy or just plain living with the debt.

But the memory of that October day’s pain still stings strongly in our minds, so we press on toward the prize of debt free.

Similarly, I have a feeling that it will be a good while before Sam attempts to traumatize his sister again with Underwear Man. At least I hope so. For both of their sake’s. 🙂

Do you remember the day when the pain of where you were at exceeded the pain of change and you began your “get out of debt” journey? 

24 comments on “Does Your Debt Hurt Enough to Make You Change?

  1. This principle is so true. At some point we decided we were sick of our student loans. It was when we trying to start a family. We realized we’d never be able to save for his college education if we dragged out paying for ours for another 5-10 years. So we got it together and paid our loans by the time our first kid was born. I’m not sure we would’ve had the motivation to do so without an impending life change.

    1. Love that, Kalie!! Those life changes are serious motivation, aren’t they? The biggest thing that keeps us going right now is knowing that we’re changing our family tree for our kids.

  2. I do. It was just about six years ago now. I was sitting down to plan a summer vacation and realized like you that we had became to comfortable with minimum payments. We had no cash and had borrow over $100k beyond our means. Realizing that there would be no vacation that summer and I felt that I had led our family down this path the was the moment the pain of where you were exceeded the pain of change. We educated ourselves and began to plan. We got the family on board, changes our behavior and never looked back.

    1. And look at you now, Brian. Consumer debt free and living with the peace of having your money under control. Awesome!!! Imagine the powerful lessons you’ve taught to your children.

  3. Love the analogy here! We’ve had many similar scenarios at our house in the past.

    The one moment that stands out for me is the day we were served papers informing us we were being sued. We had just moved into a new (to us) house, had a toddler and a baby on the way, I had just quit work and we a negative net worth (student loans, auto loans). Everything worked out with the lawsuit, but this started the wheels turning about our poor financial situation. We started on our journey right then and, though progress has been slow at times, we know we never want to be in that situation again.

  4. You had hubby and me LOLing in the parking lot waiting for our favorite restaurant to open today! Your son is a hoot! 😀 I like the way you used this story to illustrate your point. I guess that’s what “rock bottom” is all about. Sometimes we just don’t know when we’ve hit it. Small ouches can be blown off. It’s the big ouches that finally wake us up. (Poor Underwear Man!) …

  5. LOVE the UNDERWEAR MAN! story : )
    I do remember the day when the pain of where we were exceeded the pain of change. There was what I can only describe as a restlessness in our guts as we felt a growing angst about . . . something – we couldn’t put our finger on it. Then I listened to Ramsey’s book CD in the car on my way to work, and it was a true wake-up moment. Debt! Debt was that “something”. I actually cried as I listened. It was such a relief to know how to move forward. And we haven’t looked back.

  6. Debt still hurts to this day. Although I am more knowledgeable regarding debt than I was, say in my 20’s, the fact that the debt is still here and not gone, is definitely painful. I seriously cannot wait for the day when our consumer debt is gone, gone, gone! 🙂

  7. I enjoyed the story & reminds me a little of my childhood. Did he receive any inspiration from the book, Captain Underpants? It’s a real fictional adventure book geared for children.

  8. The pain of debt became too great this year. I want to have my finances in order before asking my girlfriend to join me in life. I don’t want to come to her with extra baggage. The fear of not being prepared for her is getting me where I need to be.

  9. My favorite debt repayment motivation trick is to sit quietly and visualize life with no debt. How would I feel? How much money could I save instead of paying creditors? How would my self-image change? Developing a concrete vision of a goal achieved and revisiting it often helps keep one on track I think.

  10. I’m not sure that I can pinpoint a specific day, as I always hated being in debt. Even today, I hate the fact that I have a mortgage on our home. But I do distinctly recall the emotions I felt when I realized it was possible to get out. I also recall the euphoria of paying off my student loans a few short weeks ago. Debt freedom is one of the greatest feelings I’ve experienced in life.

  11. Luckily have never been in debt for anything, nor has anyone in my family except the parents who had a mortgage. Having a cash first lifestyle is a huge boon to self satisfaction with life in my opinion. Best way to become a corporate servant is to get a new loan for something.

  12. I remember when Mr. Picky Pincher and I had just gotten married. We were looking over our finances, and realized that we could barely afford a home or to start a family. We didn’t want to be up to our eyeballs in debt with little ones–we couldn’t pass on our pain of growing up less well-off to our kids. We made huge changes, and we now live on 50% of our income. We’ve paid off our $14,000 in credit card debt, eliminated a car payment, and are saving up to buy our first home. 🙂

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