So You Want to Get Out of Debt

Good morning, Fruclastic friends!!  I get a fair number of inquiries from readers each month letting me know that they would like to begin the process of getting out of debt. I remember vividly being at that place in our journey; the place where we were like “Enough! I don’t want to do this anymore!”

I got a clear reminder of the up and down part of a journey out of debt last night as I talked with my son. Our family had watched the movie Dreamer: Inspired By A True Story (2005) and I was asking him what part of the movie he liked best.

“You know, mom, I think my favorite part of that movie is the music. I love the piano and violin solos.”

What a sweet, cultured young man I’m raising, I thought. He’s so…

Before I could even finish the thought, he followed up with “Look mom, my grape has a butt crack!”

Part cultured, but still all boy. 🙂

And so goes the journey out of debt. Just when you think you’re kicking tail, the washing machine dies or the transmission goes out.

So in honor of those thinking about – or starting the process – of getting out of debt, I thought I’d share some action steps the may prepare you to begin the process. Getting hold of our finances has brought so much peace into our lives, and if you haven’t yet begun the process of dumping your debt, I highly recommend it.

This list deals with more of the mindset parts of getting out of debt; if you’re looking for actionable physical steps, check out this article on 5 Steps to Getting out of Debt. But finish this article first. If your head isn’t in the right place, your action steps have less of a chance of succeeding.

Getting out of Debt Step One

Step number one in the dumping debt process is to search your heart and be sure you’re ready to begin this journey. Honestly, we’ve tried and failed many, many times at getting out of debt over the course of our marriage. Or we’ve gotten out of debt and proceeded to get right back into debt.

What’s made it stick this time around is that we knew we were very, very sure that we were done dealing with debt from a heart standpoint.

Search your heart. Check your mind. Are you really done this time? If so, let’s get to work. 🙂

Getting Out of Debt Step Two

Step number two in successfully dumping debt is to determine your “why”. Why is it that you want to get out of debt? Make a list and write it down, posting it somewhere where you’ll see it often. As an example, here’s our list, which I like to call our “motivational list of whys.”

WHY WE SAID “YES”

  1.  Because we don’t want to freak out about money anymore; we don’t want it to be our master for even one more day.
  2. Because we want peace of mind for our family.  I personally want it for my hubby, who wants so desperately to be a good provider for this family.  He deserves peace because he works so hard.
  3. Because we want more for our kids.  We’ve got the greatest kids ever (next to yours, of course), and we don’t want to ever again have to say “no” because we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to pay the bills.
  4. Because we don’t ever want to have to say to our kids “We have to move because we’re losing the house”.
  5. Because we want to be able to give abundantly, wherever, and whenever, the Lord leads us to.
  6. Because we want to help our extended family work their way toward financial peace.
  7. Because we don’t want to have to resort to eating dog food (or worse) in our retirement years.
  8. Because we’d really like to be able to be a good example for our kids, and be able to bless them financially when the time comes for them to start their families.
  9. Because we’re sick and tired of having certain mortgage and credit card companies be the boss of our time and our money.
  10. Because we want to be better stewards of God’s money.

Having this list has kept us going when we wanted to give up, and I believe that creating your own list will help you too. Sit down, reflect on how debt has hurt you and how it could hurt you more if it keeps accumulating in your life. Use those thoughts to create your list.

Getting out of Debt Step Three

Step number three in dumping debt is to make a budget and debt payoff plan that you can live with. It can be based off of someone else’s plan, but it has to fit your particular lifestyle and your particular needs.

If you’re going to use someone else’s plan without considering your own specific situation, your plan will have a high likelihood of failure.

Getting out of Debt Step Four

Step number four is to determine in your heart before you ever start that you will see this thing through to the end. And your spouse has to be on board as well.

When dumping debt, temptations to spend unnecessarily will come with a vengeance.

For instance, right now we’re at a time when we have LOTS of extra expenses. We had to fill the propane tank this month, we had a large car repair, we had to buy hay for the horses, we had a large home repair cost, we’ve got mega home schooling expenses coming up with books that need to be purchased and classes that need to be paid for.

And wouldn’t you know it, the furniture set we fell in love with last month just went on super sale. Our ugly, ragged twenty year old couches have been an eyesore to me for about four years now and are begging to be replaced. But even on super sale, I cannot justify a new furniture purchase as it would have to go on credit. But believe me, I thought long and hard about buying it anyway, and I know Rick did too, even though neither one of us dared mention it to the other. 🙂

Instead, we keep our eye on the goal, which is to pay cash for all of these summer/fall expenses in keeping with our debt payoff plan.

This is what I mean about seeing it through to the end. Roadblocks, setbacks and temptations to spend will come, and if you fall off the horse once in awhile it’s okay, but just be sure to get right back on and get moving again down that trail that is debt payoff.

Once you’ve set these four things clearly in your mind, you can begin the 5 steps of making a debt payoff plan from a physical action standpoint. Start your journey; you CAN be debt free!

What do you see is your biggest hurdle when it comes to paying off debt? What mindset decision helped you most if you’ve already reached debt freedom? 

14 comments on “So You Want to Get Out of Debt

  1. Such a great “why” list Laurie. Ours also centered around a number of family related goals. Being good examples and providing better for our children were tops. The mental piece of it will be the biggest challenge. Getting over the fear that we could survive with out a credit card in our pocket, that we could save a $1000 in cash and it would cover most emergencies. Once we overcame those items it got easier and easier to pay off our debt.

  2. You just earned a hero medal, Laurie: “the furniture set we fell in love with last month just went on super sale. Our ugly, ragged twenty year old couches have been an eyesore to me for about four years now and are begging to be replaced. But even on super sale, I cannot justify a new furniture purchase as it would have to go on credit.” I completely understand that “eyesore” factor. Increased endurance with old – and sometimes ugly – stuff is a SURE sign that you’ve made tremendous progress developing the frugality muscles needed to take debt down. This change on the inside will lead to a great results on the outside – where the numbers are.

  3. Good post Laurie! We want to get out of debt for so, so many reasons but one that really stands out is putting the tools in place to have a more secure future. Like you said, dog food in our retirement age does not sound like a prospect any of us want to envision. We want to be secure in our older age!

  4. Lots of good reasons. Several of the things we realized since I left my “good” job and we decided to build a house is how much of disposable income could have been used for other things before. It’s one reason we are going crazy to get debt-free. Not to have the monthly payment burden and to use the money on something more productive or rewarding for ourselves or others.

  5. I really love your “motivational list of whys”, Laurie! What a great idea. Writing down all the reasons “why” and hanging it up to look at every day would be incredibly motivating. I am a firm believer that mindset has more to do with accomplishing financial goals than the actual money.

    The mindset that helped me the most when we were paying off consumer and student loan debt was the burning desire to owe $0 on those loans (and I mean immense desire – I really wanted it!) because I knew it meant a more secure future for ourselves and our children.

  6. When you’re already spending a lot, it’s so tempting to add in that “just a little something extra” that isn’t necessary. That’s why rational budgeting at the start of a pay period is so extremely important to us.

    Renewing your commitment over and over and over again is one important key. Thanks Laurie!

    1. I think you’re right, Hannah. Another ten bucks – or even hundred bucks – can seem inconsequential when you’re already dealing with a financial mess. This is why mindset is so very important. The same “It’s only” mindset that got a person into debt can get a person out of debt too.

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