Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Drowning In Debt? Start Here!
When you are drowning under an ocean of debt, it's easy to get discouraged. If the total amount you owe is in the four or five figure range, it can seem like you'll never be able to make it to the surface for a breath. Throwing an extra $10 or $20 towards your debt now and again just seems like an exercise in futility.

Well, don't lose hope. The internet is full of stories of people in exactly your situation and who managed to swim their way out of debt. Most of these stories are about Millenials, probably because they tend to have thousands of dollars in student loan debt and they also tend to share more info on the internet than prior generations. However, their stories and lessons can be applied to any age group. I'm going to list a couple of sites that I find encouraging as a starting place for those needing some inspiration.

Getting The Right Mindset

Make no mistake - getting out from under a huge pile of debt is not an easy task. It takes hard work and lots of sacrifices. It also takes time. Hard work and sacrifices over a long period of time - that is a perfect recipe for failure for many people, so it's really important to have the correct mindset when you embark on your debt reduction journey. You have to be fully and totally committed to your goal, every day. You will also probably have to change your views about money, debt, and how you want to live your life, so you don't fail.

This short article at Psychology Today shows how debt can make people feel like failures. It also shows the importance of overcoming that feeling so that progress can be made.

The Dear Debt blog has a similar concept. Readers send in letters they have written to their debt, stating how the debt makes them feel and how they plan to conquer it.

Both these sites illustrate an important point - if you truly want to get out of debt, you have to face it head on. You have to confront the reality of your situation without excuses or guilt and be determined to change. This site has a short quiz that can help determine just how serious you are.

Case Studies

Staying inspired over a long period of time is not easy. There are all sorts of tricks people use to maintain their inspiration - for example, taping a picture or statement of their goal to the bathroom mirror so they see it each day. The internet provides a plethora of success stories that can serve the same purpose.

There are hundreds of blogs written by people who have overcome mountains of debt or who are their way to doing so. And since blogging can be interactive, it's easy to leave comments and join discussions with like-minded people and form support groups.

Amanda paid off $42,800 in one year and over $47,000 in student loan debt in 14 months. Andrew and his wife paid off $55,000 in debt, also in 14 months. Jacquelyn paid off $48,000 in debt. This is where she started and this is where she ended up. I really like her story because she's very candid about how hard it was to eliminate her debt. She worked extra jobs, long hours, and sacrificed a bunch, but clearly, she says, it was worth it:

I needed to pay off my debt. I needed it. I was lost, confused, devoid of work ethic... I had lost belief in who I was becoming, what I could do... I needed to feel this pain. It’s opened my eyes to why time should be deliberately spent in a way that aligns with your actual dreams.

And Finally, How-To Guides

There are tons and tons of sites out there with tips on how to reduce your debt. Not all methods work for every person, so it's simply a matter of surfing around until you find one that will work for you. Here's an article on how to get out of credit card debt. Here's one on how to sell stuff on eBay for extra cash.

How about a list of things people trying to get out of debt usually get wrong?

Here's a guide on how to save money when you have an irregular income.

One thing these guides agree on is that it is vitally important to have a budget and know exactly where all your money is going. This site has links to almost 20 budget spreadsheets and links to several budgeting websites. Of course, my own magical budget spreadsheet can be found here.

Another important step in conquering your debt: Accountability. One thing you'll read time and again on these blogs is that they were started to force the authors to become accountable for their actions and help keep them progressing towards their goal. (Heck, that's why I started this blog!) So even if you've never written a thing in your life, start a blog to document your progress. Even if no one reads it, forcing yourself to be publicly accountable is a major motivator. If you put ads on your blog, you might even make some extra cash!

The Journey Starts With A Single Step

It may take a long time to become debt-free, but it will take forever if you never get started. Persistence is key.

"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." - Calvin Coolidge

(Remember when I talked about staying motivated? Get this quote on a poster! I got one for my daughter and it's hanging on her door.)


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