If you find yourself struggling with big debt and are having trouble solving debt problems, one of the biggest and most important initial changes you can make involve the changing of your attitude and the unhealthy behaviors that go with it.
Setting up a budget and a good, actionable plan are not enough. The first moment you have a bad day or you’re experiencing doubts about your goals, an unhealthy attitude towards spending could undermine everything you’re working for.
Some of our most unhealthiest spending patterns are passed down through the generations. Perhaps your parents carried high credit card debt. Or were never able to save meaningful amounts of money. But patterns can be broken if you’re willing to commit to living differently than previous generations.
If you can change negative, self-talk patterns in your mind and stand up to the pressure to make unhealthy financial choices that come from destructive spending attitudes, you can make good progress towards solving debt problems.
Here are 5 attitudes or thoughts that you should ignore when solving debt problems:
1. Ignore the “If only I had more money, everything would be fine” attitude.
It’s clear that having more money would probably fix your debt problem. But it’s only a temporary solution. There is a reason behind your debt and it’s often an unhealthy habit more than how much money you have.
Debt problems affect people off all financial backgrounds across the board. There are millionaires in major debt and having trouble solving debt problems. It’s common that we spend more as we make more if we’re not mindful and live without any self-control or a budget, regardless of how much money we may make or have.
It’s time to ignore the idea that having more money will fix everything and instead it’s time to change the way you manage money. It isn’t how much money you make, but what you choose to do with the money that you have available.
There are four words that affect how much debt you are likely to have:
There’s a saying that, “the best things in life are free.” When you can find happiness on life experiences that don’t cost money, you’ll likely need and want less, reducing your current debt and any future possible debt.
Take the time to do some soul searching and make a list of all the things you enjoy doing in life that don’t cost a dime. Turn to these activities when you’re stressed to help you unwind. Develop your natural talents and spend time in hobbies you enjoy that are free or cheap to do.
And find an appreciation for frugality. It can be an empowering concept when you’re trying to solve your debt problems. Some ways to live more frugally include:
- learning to cook simple meals at home.
- skipping a cable subscription and watching TV via online sources like Hulu or Apple TV.
- consider repairing some things instead of replacing them.
- avoid spending money on clothes for a set period of time.
- ride your bike to work on certain days.
It’s time to take personal responsibility for the financial mistakes you’ve made in the past, forgive yourself for your choices, and learn from them. Avoid these conditions by setting a good budget, follow it closely, and look forward to a better financial future.
2. Ignore the “I’ll fake it ‘til I make it” philosophy.
Sure, there are some things you can “wing” in life. Financial freedom is not one of them! And neither is solving debt problems. This philosophy of pretending and hoping for the best leaves you unprepared to face any issues or grow any real wealth in your lifetime.
Ignoring debt only makes things worse. Don’t ignore letters from creditors–they won’t go away and they will most likely will get more persistent. Ignoring debt is like ignoring weeds in your garden. At some point the weeds are impossible to control. As with many other bad life habits and problems, the first step to solving debt is to acknowledge the problem in the first place.
People that fake it ‘til they make it” like to keep up with the Joneses. They buy stuff they don’t need to appear wealthy. They have trouble appreciating things for their intrinsic value.
When you stop trying to impress others with your perceived wealth and come to terms to who you are and where you’re at, you can finally make the big changes you need to make for solving debt problems. Find and practice developing a grateful attitude. Focus regularly on the good things in your life as a way to channel any negative thoughts of not having what you want.
Set a concrete, actionable plan for solving your debt problems like creating a budget and sticking to it. It’s time to stop faking it until you make it, get real, roll your sleeves up, get to the hard work, and reclaim your financial freedom.
3. Ignore the “I deserve a treat” thinking.
This attitude is dangerous because it drives you to make and justify impulsive purchases as a reward for hard work or as a way to lift your spirits and give you emotional gratification.
But buying stuff as a way to feel better is a waste of money. Small expenses add up to large amounts. The stuff you buy adds up to clutter in your home. And the money that you spend on these treats can be better used to save up toward more meaningful purchases and experiences that would add much more value to your life.
Take the time to figure out what your triggers are. If you’re upset or depressed, avoid going to the mall or shopping, because your willpower will be at its weakest. When you feel the little voice telling you that you deserve a treat, channel and redirect it into the thought of a something bigger you’re saving for, like a dream vacation. Having long term spending goals for something you really love could help nip the little, frivolous, treat cravings in your life.
And if all else fails, visualize the item you can’t help but want in your yard sale pile with a 25 cent tag on it. Is it really worth spending your hard-earned money today on an item that will barely fetch a dollar in a yard sale in a few months?
4. Ignore the “that won’t ever happen to me” belief.
It’s human nature to believe that we are all free from problems and disaster, but life is unpredictable. Ignore the belief that “that won’t ever happen to me” and be prepared for whatever life may throw at you.
After all, the last thing you want to deal with during an unexpected emergency is how you’re going to pay for it. Or how much debt the unplanned event is going to saddle you with.
Most people didn’t think that an unexpected illness or car accident would happen to them. It’s best to be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. That’s what health, home and automobile insurance is for, to cover you in life’s unexpected moments. And a good savings cushion will help you get through life’s surprises without adding more stress or debt to your life.
Some of the most common “that won’t ever happen to me” events include:
- an expensive car repair
- home repairs like a burst pipe or leak in the roof
- an emergency room visits and the high hospital bills that go with it
- a car accident
When solving debt problems, having an emergency savings fund is essential to survive life’s emergencies. Without one, you may end up adding to your already difficult debt problems. Saving just $30 or $40 each month will create a good emergency cushion over time.
And if $30 sounds like a lot of money out of your pocket every month, you’d be surprised how quickly you won’t even miss the amount. Saving $30 is as easy as packing a sack lunch for work twice a month. Or skipping one fancy latte per week.
The best way to save for an emergency fund is also the easiest way. It’s called automatic investing. In automatic investing, you schedule a monthly transfer from your checking account into your savings account. It’s a no-brainer. The money automatically sends itself into your savings fund and you don’t have to even think about it.
The rule of thumb on building an emergency savings fund is to set aside at least three to six months of money to cover any unforeseen expenses.
5. Ignore the “I can afford it” thoughts.
If you’re in the mood to justify spending money, it’s easy to do so. We can all technically afford things–using expensive credit and financing! But is that item worth what you will really pay for it once you account for the interest charges?
“I can afford it” thoughts lead to impulsive shopping decisions. Just because you can afford the item doesn’t mean you should buy it. A good way around this is to give yourself some time to decide if you should afford the item or not.
Set up a price point where you will trigger a walk away attitude. Perhaps anything over $15 means you walk away. If you’re still thinking about the item a few days later, it’s worth revisiting it. Chances are you’ll be in love with some new item you can’t live without and have forgotten about the impulse item.
Now that you’ve learned about what attitudes you should ignore when solving debt problems, here are some tips to achieving financial success.
Create a budget plan.
Take the time to make a plan on how you intend to spend, save, and invest the money you make and have. In your budget plan, be sure to include:
- your predictable monthly expenses like rent, utilities and groceries.
- your variable expenses that change, like, vacations, entertainment and new clothes.
- and an allowance in savings for life’s unpredictable expenses like emergencies.
Make solving your debt problems your top priority.
Focus on paying off your debt is quickly as possible. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, focus on one debt at a time. Make a list of all your debts in order of balances owed and note the interest rate for each debt. Pay off the most expensive (highest interest) debts first until they’re all paid in full.
Of special note, secured loans should be a top priority. A secured loan is a type of loan that is backed by something you own. Should you fail to pay this loan off in a timely manner, you will probably lose the asset backing the loan, which is often your home or other real and valuable property.
Reduce your expenses from this moment on.
It’s obvious, but a good idea to remind yourself to spend less than you make. Get creative in reducing your expenses as much as possible. Renegotiate plans, cut back on things that aren’t essential and think twice before buying items that are not essential.
Hide your credit cards. Make them hard to reach by putting them in a box up in the closet, out of sight, out of mind. Or freeze them in a glass of water. It will take a few hours to thaw the ice block that contains the credit cards, giving you some time to cool down from the thought of the purchase (no pun intended). Learn to live without your credit cards. If you can’t afford to buy something without a credit card, then you can’t afford it. Make this a non-negotiable.
Hold yourself accountable for your spending.
Track your expenses regularly and know where your money is going so you can keep adjusting your spending as your life changes. Do this regularly so you can detect any changes and adjust before it’s too late.
Soon enough, you’ll be able to allocate a large portion of your monthly budget away from debt that is officially paid off and put it towards positive, new things in your life.