When I was 18 I was stupid and maxed out a couple of credit cards totaling around $2,500. I quickly smartened up, paid those suckers off, and cut up the cards. The only other debt I have ever acquired was a car loan (which in hindsight was a bad move) that I paid off in two years, on a super low salary mind you, and the loan I took out to buy my trailer which was also paid off in two years thanks to a small inheritance.
So no, I’m not perfect – just close to it. (Kidding. Sort of. No seriously, I’m kidding.) But it baffles me at how easy it is to get addicted to debt.
Debt is An Addiction
One of my closest family members just kills me in this aspect. She finances EVERYTHING. Household appliances, super nice cars, clothes, jewelry, make up – you name it.
Outwardly you’d think she has it all. She’s beautiful, has an awesome personality, and everything under the sun. But what most people don’t know is that she is drowning in debt – and she’s okay with that.
Excess Debt is Not Okay
Unless we’re talking student loans, a car loan (for a car that is much needed), a mortgage, or investment property loans I just cannot understand why people would want to take on debt.
Excess debt is not okay. Here’s why.
It robs you of financial freedom – When you’re making ten to twenty monthly payments on your debt you’re never going to get ahead. All of your money is going to interest. Your debt balances will remain stagnant and you have no financial cushion. You can’t save up money for emergencies or any other large purchases.
It creates stress – I can’t imagine having ten to twenty credit card payments per month. How hard would that be to keep up with? When you’ve accumulated this much debt the only thing you can do is rob Peter to pay Paul.
And knowing that you owe so much money? That’s a pile of unnecessary bricks on your shoulders.
What About the Future? – What’s going to happen when you’re too old to work? File bankruptcy? Live in an old folk’s home and hope that your social security checks can support you? What about the financial burden you leave to your kids?
If my Dad was in a position like this I wouldn’t be able to watch him suffer. It’d be me taking care of him and I’m sure that’s not his grand plan for my life or his.
Buying Stuff Does NOT Create True Happiness – My biggest problem with the debt addiction – is that just like any other addiction – it’s a bandaid. It’s not a cure all. Buying things for temporary happiness is a vicious cycle. Real happiness comes from connections and deep relationships with other people. Not with the newest jeans on the market.
What to Do About Debt Addiction
The first process of beating any addiction is admitting you have a problem. You might think this sounds funny but seriously, being addicted to debt is no different than being addicted to drugs.
It’s an addiction. It’s psychological. And it’s killing you.
If you’re the one with the problem then you’ve already taken that first step because obviously if you’re reading this you know you need help. However, if there’s someone in your life that has the problem things get a bit trickier.
You see, it’s out of your hands. You cannot force someone to change their ways or even admit that they have a problem. The person has to make this decision themselves and there’s usually some sort of trigger involved.
Once you get past this here are some steps you can take to break your problem.
Cut Up All Your Credit Cards – Cut up every single credit card you own. Don’t hide them, destroy them. If you have problem with spending money you don’t have, don’t make it available to you.
Get Support – You’re going to be tempted to go out and buy new stuff multiple times. It takes a long time for those type of feelings to go away. If you’re married get the support of your spouse. If you’re single get the support of your best friend, sibling, or parent. Just have someone to talk to when you’re tempted to veer off the path.
Make a Debt Pay off Plan – Now comes the fun, but hard, part. You need to pay off your debt. If you have multiple credit accounts I would highly recommend that you pay them off from smallest balance to highest balance.
It’s going to be so much easier to manage your monthly bills when you don’t have as many. Start by paying the minimums on all your payments and throw everything extra on the smallest balance. When it’s paid off move to the next.
It’s Gonna Take a Long Time
Depending on how much debt you’ve accumulated it can take years to pay it all back. You’ll have a long road ahead of you and no doubt it’s going to be stressful but it will be totally worth it in the end.
Next week we’ll go into more detail about creating a budget, a debt pay off plan, and looking for extra money.
Until next time…..
Do you know anyone who is addicted to debt?