Debt freedom, debt relief
I haven’t talked a lot on Pocketmint about getting out of consumer debt, in part because our own climb out of the credit-card debt pit is now some years in the past, and so less on my mind. Also because I’m not sure I have any ‘how-to’ wisdom that hasn’t been said multiple times by every other personal finance writer on the planet.
But there’s one thing that I think cannot be said often enough, and that’s “Becoming debt-free is worth the effort.”
My partner Jak wrote last week on his personal blog about his (successful) attempt this past year to lose 35 pounds. This was after several years of exercise regimens and category-based diets (low-fat, low-carb) had failed to produce the desired results.
What made this effort different was simply that he started counting calories every day and staying, mostly, under a predefined limit. He became minutely aware of what he was putting into his mouth every day, and then he started to control what he ate.
In our conversations around the subject I’ve been struck by how attached Jak has become to both that awareness and that control. Now when he talks about tracking his food he becomes intensely animated. The very action that he most resisted is now a central source of both security and pride.
I’m exactly the same way about our personal finances.
The knowledge of debt hangs over you like a stygian storm cloud that threatens to break and soak you to the bone at any moment. It’s gigantic and looming and entirely beyond your control. You might try to put your head down and focus only on the ground in front of you, but you can’t see much because somewhere above, that ink-black umbra is eating up your light.
When I was carrying debt, I avoided thinking about money as much as possible. I didn’t keep track of how much was coming in or going out. I dreaded paying bills and often put them off until the very last minute. Occasionally I put them out of my mind so effectively that I missed the due date and incurred a late fee.
Would you believe that now not only do I pay bills the day they come in the door (or the email inbox), but I enjoy doing it? It’s true. I haven’t been charged a late fee for anything in years. I keep a spreadsheet of our total financial picture and update it once a week — not because I need to, but because I like it.
Emotionally, paying off your debt is almost magical — like pulling that storm cloud out of the sky and holding it, tiny and damp, in the palm of your hand. You feel powerful, and safe, and free. Everything in your life becomes brighter and easier once it’s gone.
First, awareness. Then, control.
Getting started can be hard. But I promise you it’s worth it.