The hard work of getting out of debt

I think there is a common reason that many people fail to gain control of their financial life. So what is that, you ask? Are you ready?

It’s hard! In fact it is really, really hard!! It takes a great deal of discipline and discipline is rarely fun.

No magic pilldiscipline

I’ve often said that if you wanted to be a billionaire all you need to do is find a magic pill that makes a person’s debt go away or a magic pill that makes a person lose weight. Accomplish one of those and I guarantee you will have more money than you know what to do with.

But sadly there is no such pill and never will be.

I think this explains the allure of things like the lottery. People are hoping for a quick fix. I can pay off my debt, fully fund my retirement, take care of my kids college, quit my job and travel the world, all for the price of a $2 ticket. How great is that! Except for the fact that it’s an empty dream that never comes true.

Discipline  – No one’s favorite word

To make real progress there is only one real path, and that is discipline. I believe this is true in so many areas of life. It is true of weight loss. It is true of getting out of debt.

Spend less than you make

Do you want to lose weight? It is very simple. You need to eat fewer calories than you burn. Similarly, if you want to achieve financial success, you need to spend less than you make. I wish there was some way we could have whatever we want. I wish there was some way I could eat whatever I want. Unfortunately, that is not the way it works.

Track

I have done the Weight Watchers program to try to lose weight. One of the keys to success in the program is tracking. If you want to lose weight, you need to be diligent in recording exactly what you eat each day and keep track of your points. Creating a budget and sticking to it is a key to financial success. John Maxwell says a budget is telling your money where to go as opposed to wondering where it went. The key is to sit down before the start of each month and spend your income on paper, on purpose before the month begins, then stick to that budget as the month continues. You may need to make some adjustments along the way, but the key is having a plan and following it.

Accountability

Another one of the things that makes Weight Watchers effective is the weekly weigh in. The scale doesn’t lie. If you choose to cheat, you will see the effect of that on the scale, (and your leader might have some uncomfortable questions for you.) Sticking to your budget requires accountability as well. If you are married, your natural accountability partner is your spouse. If you are single it is important that you find someone that can help you. Someone that will love you well enough to bust you if you start to get off track.

Increase income

Lastly, in some cases the problems we face financially aren’t really solved by cutting our expenses. Sometimes the problem is really on the income side. To extend the weight loss analogy one more time, it is very hard to lose weight simply by cutting down our intake of food. Part of the key to losing weight is exercise. We need to be able to burn more calories than we take in. The more we exercise the more calories we burn. Part of the answer to getting out of debt is gaining control of our spending, but part of it also is increasing our income. That may mean a part time job. It may mean selling some stuff. If may mean getting some additional training or education so that we can get a better job with a better income.

The destination is worth the discipline of the journey

The discipline required to lose weight and the discipline required to achieve financial success is rarely pleasant.  Denying ourselves never is. But the end result is worth the effort.

Losing weight leads to an improved quality of life, better health and most likely a longer life.

Eliminating our debt allows us to achieve a place where we have peace financially, we are able to save to provide for our long-term well-being, and we are able to give generously when we see someone in need.

Keeping a focus on those end goals makes the discipline required to achieve them well worth the effort.

What would you be able to do if you had no debt?

Photo credit: Nanagyei (creative commons)

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