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Do you hate being broke and overwhelmed by debt? Do you hate feeling trapped in your finances? Me too.
The good news is, those feelings of frustration are the first step to your freedom.
One of the greatest things I learned in FPU (Financial Peace University) is that personal finance isn’t all about numbers- it is about habits and emotions.
Therefore, if you are frustrated, fed up, and on the brink of rebellion, you are in the perfect place for a change.
Want some more good news?
I know exactly why you are broke.
- You are trying to use debt as a tool.
- You need to make some changes in your money habits.
I understand that there are other factors that play a part in your situation. However, the two biggest factors, the two things keeping your broke, stressed and out of control, are the two above. Everything else is just a side effect of the main issues.
In this post, I am going to focus on the debt factor. I go into depth about changing your habits here and in the 30 Days of Change Challenge.
There is no such thing as good debt.
First, we just need to get this out of the way. There is no such thing as good debt. All debt is chaining you to the past, holding you from running toward your future. All of it. Let’s look at some of the common areas people think that they need debt.
“I can’t get rid of my credit card! What about the flight miles, the points back, the rewards?” Stop. Get out your calculator (or just take my word for it). You paid for all of those things and more. By the time they take your enrollment fee, interest and the extra things you buy just because you can, all of those freebies become very costly.
Maybe you are the type of person that pays your card off each month. Good for you. You are a rare breed. Most of us are not that organized or disciplined. For most of us, we intend to pay off that card each month but then life happens. So, we paid for your airline miles and points with our interest and fees. You’re welcome.
The point is, the credit card company is giving you nothing. They are convincing you that you need a credit card because they know that most of the time, once they get you to sign that application, you are their slave for life.
There is only one remedy for this situation. Stop. Stop using credit cards. Use the money you have. If you don’t have the money, don’t buy it.
College is a great thing. However, you are 18. You don’t really know what you want to be when you grow up and you shouldn’t have to.
A debt free education means having the freedom to actually follow your dreams and go where life calls you.
College loans mean graduate and work ten years for Sallie Mae. Who thought that was a good idea? Oh, Sallie Mae.
Another interesting thought-a more expensive school does not always guarantee a better education. Or even a job.
Let’s stop lying to teenagers and setting them up to fail. Instead, let’s tell them to get a job or go to community college until they have a clearer plan for their future. Instead of pushing them to figure life out at the ripe age of 18, let’s teach them to be adults and give them some life experience before they sink their first two year’s salary (or more) into their education.
Owning a home is also a wonderful thing if you can afford it. I am not saying you need to save up for the entire house but a hefty down payment (like 20% or more) and large emergency fund for all of the things that will go wrong within your first month there, are necessities.
Then again, what if you did pay cash for a home? How much money would you save in the long run? Last year it would have saved me $3,000. Hmmm…it’s a tempting idea. Upright paying for a home sounds crazy but it’s not impossible. This couple did it.
I drive 50+ miles a day in my ’99 Toyota Camry. She and I have been together for almost a year now. Can you guess how many times she has left me stranded? 0. Want to guess how many times she has broken down? 0. Guess how I paid for her- with cash. That’s not even the craziest part! Thanks to that envelope full of green paper, I was able to negotiate a $1000 reduction in price.
Before my viejita (the little old lady, yes that is my car’s name), I had a 2014 Hyundai Elantra that I had leased. Do you want to guess how many times she left me stranded in our 3 years together? 5. Thank goodness she came with roadside assistance?
To make matters worse, literally the week I was supposed to turn the Elantra in, someone backed into the front bumper and left and huge dent. Hello, hefty bill. Thanks, whoever hit me and ran.
So let’s compare the two options:
Viejita- $2,500, mine, reliable
Elantra- $5,740 (lease payments and turn in fees), had to turn it in or pay $375 a month, not realiable
So, the newer car is double the price, double the liability becuase it’s not actually mine and less reliable. Which is a better option?
Do you really need a new car to drive safely? No. Do you have to use debt to have a car? Absolutely not. Cheap, reliable, used cars can get you from A to B just as well as a newer car.
I am sure there are other excuses people use to show how useful and important debt is. To save us time I will just tell you now, they are wrong. Debt is actually destroying you and your family.
Debt makes it ridiculously easy to live a life we can’t afford without even realizing it. It allows you to get in over your head and never notice the water pooling around you until you’re drowning. Debt is a tool to run you into the ground. To keep you in slavery. To keep you from being free to reach your full potential.
You need to hate debt.
You need to loathe it so much that every new credit card application sends you into a fit of rage.
Yes, your decisions led you to this point but debt is keeping you there.
Let me prove it.
- Write down all of your debts.
- Calculate how much money you are spending each month in debt payments. (If you create a budget with Every Dollar it will do that for you).
- Look at your credit card bills to see how much you are paying in interest.
Reflect on those numbers.
What would your life look like if you were able to use all of the money flying out the window in debt payments for yourself?
How do you feel about the fact that all of the money you are paying in interest is just padding someone else’s pocket? You do all the work and they have all the fun. How is that fair?
Since I know that some of you are like me and just read right through those action steps without opening your bank account, we will take a look at my numbers.
This month 23% of our income is going to debt payments.
23% of our money is paying for things in the past that we probably no longer have or enjoy. That means we are working for an entire week each month to pay for the past. An entire week of work goes straight to someone else’s pockets- the bank, credit card companies and Sallie Mae.
How much of your paycheck are you throwing toward the past?
Let’s make it worse, let’s look at the interest.
I have a credit card with a balance of $2,500 at the moment. Let’s say that I had used that money to go on a vacation. According to my last statement, if I pay only the minimum payment, it will take me 16 years to pay off that vacation. 16 years! I won’t even remember what we did during that vacation in 16 years!
What is worse, after 16 years of payments, that vacation will end up costing me $4,888. My vacation doubled in price because I didn’t feel like saving up for it first.
Are your purchases are doubling price as we speak?
Are you mad yet?
If the idea of throwing your money away and paying double for things doesn’t make your blood boil, you are not ready for this journey.
Go ahead, keep throwing the money YOU worked for at other people’s feet. Have fun.
Just be warned, it will catch up with you one day. One day, you too will be at the grocery store hearing the words, “declined”.
I’m mad! What now?
Perfect. Let’s get started.
Step 1: Sign up for the 30 Days of Change Challenge to start working on managing your money spending habits and setting goals. (The sign-up form is below.)
Step 2: Listen to the real experts. Consider signing up for Financial Peace University or ordering a personal finance book to learn more. I recommend these:
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Mom. Writer. Lover of all things DIY. My mission is to empower my fellow creatives to show money who’s boss, ditch debt and follow their dreams. Achieving debt freedom isn’t easy but our dreams are worth it!