“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” – Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”
If you know the feeling of piling debt with no sure way to get out from under it, then you will understand when we say you are fighting a war against debt. How is it going so far?
The list can seem to grow every day: car payments, medical bills, unemployment, and so forth. You might have read all the tips and lists out there on how to get rid of debt and maybe you still aren’t making headway. So let’s change the narrative a bit and instead of discussing how to beat debt, let’s talk about habits that could be undermining your efforts.
Underestimating the magnitude of the issue
If you want debt to pile up and cover you over many times over, then underestimate it. Bury your head in the sand and pretend that it will go away on its own. By talking yourself into thinking that the debt is no issue, you are running away from the reality that it really is a big issue. The amount of debt doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are aware that it is there, and that you don’t act surprised when the bills start coming in. You don’t want to be hiding from reality when they start piling up.
But just as importantly, don’t underestimate your ability to overcome debt. If you truly believe that you can get rid of debt, and are ready to take action, you can beat it. Belief in yourself isn’t just about being nice to yourself; it’s also about assessing your strengths and weaknesses. Are you good at savings? Is it easy for you to make extra income? Do you impulse buy? Do your plans for the future include more big purchases?
Paralysis by analysis
Many are guilty of this when it comes to personal finances. We can analyze and debate with ourselves until the sun comes up. It’s not bad to take a step back and critically look at the issue, but it will all be worth it if you just choose a solution and act on it, fast. The problem for many people is that they get so caught up in the analysis stage that they fail to move forward and, meanwhile, their debt accrues interest while they process.
Stop trying to be perfect. You’re fighting a war, remember? Things will get messy and painful, and there are no style points in war. Pick one battle and unleash your offense on it. Put that win under your belt and move on to the next one. Slowly but surely, you will make progress. Stop playing defense; take direct action.
Don’t give up
Your fight against debt is going to feel awful some days, and you will be discouraged and tormented at times. Remember, debt is your enemy, and it will land some good shots on you. There will be times where you feel like you are treading water, despite your best efforts to fight the good fight. Don’t give up. You do not want to lose the progress you’ve made and have to start all over again. The second you give in to temptation to get another credit card or go on another shopping spree, you have set yourself back.
You can do it.
Getting out of debt may be one of the best decisions you ever make, but you have to be smart about it. Come up with a debt-relief plan that takes advantage of your strengths and covers all your weaknesses. Consider where you have to stop spending money, and which loans you will have to pay off first. Your tax deductible, low-interest student loan could be wiped off in a matter of months, but is it worth doing that and having no emergency fund at this juncture? Think first. Anyone in debt has probably thought about borrowing against it. Consolidating the debt isn’t a bad idea, but it is important you borrow from the right places. Borrowing against your retirement fund is not a great idea, but taking out a home equity loan can be.
5. Don’t let yourself feel isolated
Lastly, you are not alone. Millions the world over are in debt, and owe more on homes, educations, and cars than any other generation in human history. Many have found ways to get rid of debt. If they can do it, why not you? Remember that you are not alone and that many people feel hard-done-by by the education and real estate systems that seem to trap families and students into debt. Be sure to talk about it with family and friends who you trust with the information and get both their advice and their sympathy. Money troubles can cause so much stress in people’s lives and you don’t have to deal with it alone. Don’t be too hard on yourself; what’s done is done. Make a smart plan and start working towards your new, debt-free life today. It will be so nice to breathe easy again.