This is a guest post from Jen of Frugal Millennial. I truly love this post, because yes, the debt-free journey is an emotional one and is not for the faint of heart.
Paying off debt is challenging, but the basic formula is actually quite simple: earn more and spend less. These two methods are crucial for paying off debt, but there is another side to debt that often gets ignored – the emotional aspect.
Creating a plan to make more money and cut your expenses is only the first step. If you do not know how to handle all of the negative emotions associated with debt, it will be more difficult to pay off your debt – even with a solid payoff strategy in place. If you are focused on stressful emotions instead of your debt payoff goal, you may become frustrated and give up. Here are some of the common negative emotions associated with debt and how to deal with these emotions so that you can focus on ditching debt for good.
Maybe you feel angry toward your spouse for racking up credit card behind your back and putting your family in a hard situation. Perhaps you are mad at society or your parents for encouraging you to take out student loans. Maybe you are angry with yourself for making poor financial choices.
If you are angry with someone else, you may have some legitimate reasons for being upset, but learn to work through those emotions and forgive the other person. It is hard to get out of debt if you are constantly playing the victim and blaming everyone else for your problems. This mentality does not serve you – you have the power to change your situation and you need to start believing that you can.
Even if someone else is responsible for the debt (for example, if your spouse maxed out credit cards behind your back), staying angry with him or her will not solve your debt problem. The two of you need to work together as a team to tackle the debt monster. Express your feelings to your partner in a healthy manner (possibly with a therapist present), learn from your mistakes, and work together to improve your future.
If you are angry with yourself, stop beating yourself up. You made mistakes, but you have learned from your bad choices and you will make better decisions in the future.
Paying off debt is not easy. You may need to get a part-time job, start a side business, and/or live extremely frugally. You might feel envious when you hear about your coworker’s extravagant vacation, her new car, or her fancy date nights with her husband. The best way to prevent envy is to stop comparing yourself to others. Many of the people who seem to “have it all” are actually financing their lifestyles with credit card debt. It is not worth putting yourself further into debt just to “keep up with the Joneses.” It may be tough to skip vacations, new cars, or dinners out, but it will be well worth it when you pay off your debt and attain financial freedom. Stay focused on the end goal.
Related Post: How We Paid off $5,000 of Debt in One Month
It is natural to feel some sadness when you are buried in debt. Debt holds you back from doing things that you want to do. It takes away your freedom and can make you feel trapped. If you are intensely focused on paying off debt as quickly as possible, you may feel like you do not have the time (or money) to have fun anymore. It is important to cut back on expenses and to work hard to bring in more income, but you still need to relax and have a little fun once in a while. Give yourself a break sometimes, and try to find free or cheap things to do for fun.
It is completely normal to experience some sadness while paying off debt. However, if you find that you have little interest or pleasure in doing things you used to enjoy, you may be experiencing clinical depression. If you suspect you are depressed, consider seeking professional help.
Paying off massive debt can be scary, especially if you earn a low income or have unstable employment. Having a solid debt repayment plan in place can help to alleviate some worry. When you are feeling anxious, try doing whatever it is that helps you to relax and unwind – like reading a book, taking a bubble bath, doing yoga, listening to music, chatting with a friend, or going for a walk.
It is typical to experience some worry, fear, and nervousness about the future when you are faced with huge debt. However, if you are experiencing panic attacks or nonstop obsessive worrying, it may be time to make an appointment with a therapist.
Guilt or Shame
You may feel ashamed for making poor financial decisions, and you may think “I should have known better.” If your debt is from student loans, please know that there is no shame in pursuing higher education. You should not be ashamed of trying to better yourself and improve your future earning potential. Regardless of your situation, feeling guilty and wallowing in regret or self-hatred will not fix your problems. Recognize that you made some poor choices, learn from your mistakes, and move on.
One last thought!
If you want to pay off your debt as quickly as possible, you need to earn more money and spend less. If you do this but ignore the emotional aspect of debt, you may struggle with your commitment to paying off your debt. Debt can lead to all sorts of strong emotions, such as anger, envy, sadness, fear, and shame. Working through these feelings is crucial so that you can alleviate stress and focus instead on ditching debt for good!
Jen is an HR/Finance professional and frugal lifestyle blogger. Jen and her husband are paying off $117,000 of student loan debt in just three years. She writes about healthy eating on a budget, affordable wedding tips, destroying debt, and living frugally on her blog Frugal Millennial.
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