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One of the things I realized early on when I went looking for answers on how to get out of debt, it was going to take significant changes in my behavior to overcome a $109,000 hole my family and I had dug for ourselves.
Discipline was a word that often surfaced, and others used to describe what it takes to turn your money mindset around. Often people make the weight loss comparison to debt reduction. If you’ve ever tried to lose a few pounds, you know what it takes to skip over the cookies or make healthy choices when eating, self-control.
It was why when I started to blog, and I named my site “Debt Discipline” because I recognized how big of a part the behavior piece was in personal finance. The math part is relatively easy; breaking bad habits is something totally different.
Working towards any goal like getting out of debt will be meaningless unless you have a reason to do it. Defining a “why” will help keep you focused and motivated. Our why was to stop living paycheck to paycheck, build a better financial future for our family, and teach our children better money habits.
Even with the goal in place and a why defined, it will not be easy. Making change will take sacrifice during the journey of debt repayment. Remember the first week of any diet ever? Feeling hungry at night, well you will have similar struggles when curbing your overspending. However, do you remember the first time you stepped on the scale and realize you dropped three pounds? Instantly the hard work was worth it. It the same when it comes to your money.
Getting out of Debt Steps
I have written about getting out of debt several times, so let’s recap the steps I recommend:
- Realize you need help/find help/educate yourself
- Define a “Why”
- Build a plan (Budget)
- Communicate and agree upon plan with spouse/family (Budget)
- Stop building new debt
- Place expenses into “wants” verse “needs” buckets
- Build an emergency fund (Cash Savings)
- Pick Debt Payoff method/Track progress / stay motivated
- Build Wealth
Many of the items in this list are actions and behaviors, find help, educate, communicate, build, plan, etc. There’s no mention of math in these items. Sure, you will have to calculate your numbers along the way, but those actions and behaviors will take the most discipline. That’s why it’s important to get off to a great start finding the right resources to assist you on your journey.
Educate Yourself/ Find Help
One of the best things you can do when tackling any new subject is to increase your knowledge on the topic. I did this by reading and listen to as much information on personal finance as possible. Start with the internet in the comfort of your own home. Look at the mainstream sites like Yahoo, USA Today, etc. they all have personal finance sections, then dig into personal finance blogs. I always find the reading the different points of views of other people help me glean bits and pieces of information from their stories that I can incorporate into mine.
Dust off the library card and check out some books on the topic from your local public library. I’m a big fan of Dave Ramsey’s “A Total Money Makeover” and Thomas J. Stanley’s “The Millionaire Next Door.” Several other great books are free to use at your library.
“Many people have difficulty paying off their debt. Although well-intentioned, people get distracted by competing priorities, and some are not good at sticking to their budget plans. Let’s face it, if we’re not pre-budgeting for our expenses, at the end of the month, the extra that you plan to pay to your targeted debt(s) may already be spent.”
Maybe you will need an accountability partner along the way to help keep you on track. Perhaps it’s a spouse, a friend, a family member or a service like PDMD.
My wife and family helped us stay accountable to each other. We were working towards the common goal of becoming debt free and helped one another stay focused. Along the way, I started my blog as another way to stay connected and disciplined on reaching our goal of being debt free. Sharing our money goals and net worth on a blog for the world to see can be an incredible motivator to stay on track.
No matter what obstacles you face in organizing your finances, remember that many have done it before you. They call it personal finance for a reason; everyone’s situation will be different. Income, family, expenses, starting point, debt, etc., so don’t get caught up in the comparison game. Just remember with discipline your goals can be achieved and your why can be reached. The good news is if you happen to stumble along the way, help is available.
What bad behaviors did you have to overcome to get your money organized? Does discipline play a part in your money behaviors or any other parts of your life?
Brian is a Dad, husband, and an IT professional by trade. A Personal Finance Blogger since 2013. Who, with his family, has successfully paid off over $100K worth of consumer debt. Now that Brian is debt free, his mission is to help his three children prepare for their financial lives and educate others to achieved financial success. Brian is involved in his local community. As a Financial Committee Chair with the Board of Education of his local school district, he has helped successfully launch a K-12 financial literacy program in a six thousand student district.