This blog post is part of the Pay Down My Debt (PDMD) blog tour, sponsored by US Equity Advantage. PDMD is a solution that accelerates debt payoff and helps consumers monitor their credit and make smarter purchasing decisions. If you’re looking to pay off debt, find out how they can help. This post contains affiliate links.
In theory, paying off debt should be simple right? Cut expenses, increase earnings and put more toward debt. Though these concepts are relatively simple, putting them into play is much more difficult.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Paying off debt is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Why? Because the process is so emotional.
You have to give up certain beliefs that may have gotten you into debt — or kept you there. You have to change your lifestyle and go against the status quo. It can be a very isolating experience.
Because of that, it’s very easy to let your debt fall to the wayside and get back into old beliefs and bad habits.
Everyone’s in debt.
You only live once!
I can pay off debt later!
What really worked for me was not going through the process alone. If you want to pay off debt, it’s crucial to have accountability systems in place.
When I published my first post on January 3, 2013 I felt alone, scared and overwhelmed. I had tried to pay off debt on my own while barely getting by.
I didn’t know what would happen when I published that first post, but I can confidently say it changed my whole life. Through my blog I created a community of other debt fighters who were going through the same things I was.
I had people I didn’t know cheering me on — rooting for me. They wanted me to succeed. Having that positive external reinforcement really made the difference.
Every month, I published my debt updates and I felt accountable to all my readers. I didn’t want to fail. In many ways, it was what kept me going.
If you don’t want to start a blog, find a friend who is also paying off debt. Set weekly meetings where you talk about your progress and setbacks.
One of the best things I did to pay off my debt was make multiple payments toward debt each month. This helped me lower my interest and put more toward debt.
I’m not going to lie — sometimes I made excuses. It’s very easy to lie to yourself when paying off debt. Being consistent is a skill you have to master, but our will and temptation can get in the way of our best intentions.
If you want to stay accountable and make multiple payments toward debt, consider using a service like Pay Down My Debt.
Pay Down My Debt helps users automate their debt by making automatic payments that are deducted from your account biweekly or bimonthly.
According to their website, “Our system makes the equivalent of an extra monthly payment on each loan every year. This also reduces your balance faster, again with less interest going forward. It’s a win-win!”
While the service isn’t free, it is only $9.99 per month for managing up to three loans. But you don’t just get the benefit of accountability and biweekly payments, you also get access to your credit score and credit monitoring. They’ll also send you reminders and payment alerts.
For the price of two lattes you are essentially paying for the accountability to propel your debt forward. No excuses.
Sure you can do this stuff for free, but sometimes you need a little extra help. You can work out on your own, but sometimes you need a trainer to kick you into shape.
Sometimes, putting a little money upfront can go a long way and help you battle your own doubts and demons. Like I said, there were some months I made excuses and only paid once a month. If I had a foolproof, automatic way to make biweekly payments without thinking about it, I could have gotten out of debt earlier.
In order to pay off debt, you need to change your financial habits. To do that, you need to actually track where things are going.
I created a daily habit of checking my bank account. I signed up for Mint and stuck with it — I enjoyed seeing their weekly spending reports and seeing my net worth (if you read my book, you know that I initially deleted my Mint account because I was seriously in denial!).
I signed up for text and email alerts from my student loan servicer. All of these things kept me accountable and got me out of denial. If you want to pay off debt successfully, it’s crucial that you get out of denial and take action.
It’s tough but putting systems into place can help!
Paying off debt is tough. Doing it alone? Even harder. Don’t leave your debt repayment up to chance and put accountability systems into place so that you can finally get out of debt.
The other day I woke up from a bad dream.
In the dream, I was in graduate school (again) pursuing a different degree — this time on a full scholarship (yay).
As it turns out though, there was a fluke and my scholarship didn’t go through, and somehow I had $100,000 in debt.
In my dream, I was so panicked.
“Nooo!” I thought.
“I just paid off nearly $100,000! I have to do this again?”
I felt demoralized, scared, and daunted by the task of having to go through that experience once again.
I woke up looking around, blinking twice to make sure this was my reality. Living debt-free in Los Angeles, living the life I want.
Yes, yes, it was. A wave of relief crashed over me as I tried to forget the pain of being in debt.
It’s been over a year since I paid off my student loan debt, but I was in student loan debt for my whole adult life. I am just now coming to terms with what life without debt looks like. In many ways, it’s very sweet.
I have less guilt, less anxiety, and more freedom. I have more choices or access to them at least.
But in the year or so since becoming debt-free, I haven’t completely shaken the pain of debt. I’m still worried that something will happen and I’ll be back in debt.
Having medical issues this year stirred up that worry. Taking on a project like Lola has me concerned about managing my business finances.
I realize I think about things differently because of my experience with debt. I am cautious.
It’s like I got burned and I’m a little too scared to get close to the fire again. Though I am doing everything in my power to rock the debt-free journey by saving money, investing, and paying off my credit card in full every month, I still have these lingering worries.
Ultimately, I don’t ever want to be in debt again. I don’t ever want to feel like everything I earn belongs to someone else and can be taken away from me.
After paying off close to $100,000 in student loans and interest, I know that paying off debt can be trying on your finances, your health, and your relationships.
Though I have my freedom now, I want to keep it. So I acknowledge these feelings and where they are coming from, and try not to let them rule my life.
As a blogger, I’ve always tried to be honest about the emotions related to debt. It turns out that some of those feelings don’t go away — at least not right away — even when you are debt free.
Let me guess. At the beginning of this year, you set all of these financial goals. You were going to finally pay off debt. Start investing. Get your spending under control. And now? You’ve made some progress, but you’re not where you want to be.
Don’t worry, I’ve been there. Making financial changes in your life is tough. That’s why having accountability and a coach to get you through can make all the difference. But what options are really out there for regular folks? Financial planners can cost a fortune. Not only that, most of them won’t look at you twice unless you have a certain amount of assets. It sucks.
The good news is there is a new financial initiative in town that can help: The Financial Gym.
The Financial Gym is a brick and mortar gym based in New York City. The gym has financial trainers to help their clients get their finances in shape. It’s a brilliant idea and so amazing. I had the pleasure of helping plan the opening and being there to witness it in all its glory.
The Financial Gym is the brainchild of my good friend Shannon McLay. If you listen to Martinis and Your Money, where I’m a regular guest, you probably know her. She is fun, passionate, hilarious and hard working. She is a mom, a good friend, and a financial services veteran working hard to turn the financial industry on its head…and actually help people.
At the Financial Gym, financial trainers work with you one-on-one to help you create a financial roadmap. Shannon always talks about how saving for retirement is like planning a roadtrip. You know you want to go from New York to California, but how will you get there? What pit stops will be along the way? Shannon and The Financial Gym team can help you get there.
Their clients have seen positive results, too. In fact, 90 percent of their clients have reached their financial goals, and their clients’ assets improved 50 percent over the course of two years. They’ve paid down a bunch of debt and boosted their credit scores. Not only that, but their relationship with money has shifted from one of stress to one of empowerment.
Though The Financial Gym is located in NYC and you can see their kick-ass space if you’re in the area, they also take clients over the phone or Skype. In other words, anyone can take advantage of their services.
Currently, as part of a March Madness promotion (so good for only a few more days!), they are offering a kickstarter package for 50 percent off the standard price. The typical price is already a steal at $250, but for the month of March, they are offering this package at $125.
I will say that if you sign-up with my link, I will get a referral bonus. But let me assure you that I would not recommend this if I didn’t wholeheartedly believe in what they’re doing. You see, I’m a blogger and financial writer. I can give advice and suggestions, but I’m not a “professional” or an “expert”.
Shannon is a former financial advisor at Merrill Lynch and quit her job so she could work with people like you and me who don’t have a lot of assets, but who could use the help. She’s the real deal, and I’ve seen firsthand how she has impacted others.
If you’re ready for a little more accountability and assistance on your financial journey, then I recommend this as a great investment in your financial future.
Hey everyone, let’s kick off the week with a dear debt letter from Katie. She is a Case Worker in a Treatment Center for drug & alcohol abuse, and absolutely loves her work and patients. With a Bachelors Degree but in Communications, Katie wants to use her money for experiences, not acquiring things — a big change in her perception on money.
Katie is currently dealing with the heavy burden that debt can weigh on us. Please take a moment to reach out with some words of encouragement. We could all use them sometimes.
I lost everything to you… my house, my savings, foreclosure, bankruptcy.
I bought 9 couches in one year, furniture, clothes, meals, haircuts, shoes, cars…
The list is endless. My Dad died, and I went to town spending instead of grieving. I have discovered you cannot mask grief with spending or with anything for that matter. Because when all the stuff is gone, except the debt… the grief is waiting, waiting, waiting. The hole in my soul still needed filling with something healthy and healing.
I am 6 years from my first and, God willing, last bankruptcy. But I am now again $8500.00 in debt. Now, some might think (erroneously) that that amount isn’t irretrievable, but remember… it was only 6 years ago I was $50,000 in credit card debt and lost the $325,000 house I bought. Bankrupt, broke. 6 short years ago.
Have I not learned anything? Maybe I did, but clearly I have since forgotten.
But now I have found DearDebt and I am no longer in denial or alone, and I can join all you courageous folks working and living in the solution.
Goodbye Credit Cards. Good riddance. You want to derail my prosperous future. No, you cannot and you will not steal my future. You played way to big a part in my past. It is OVER.
First step…I need help, 2nd step…restore me to sanity;
“…with God all things are possible…”
Please God help me.
Hello debt fighters! We’re back with another killer dear debt letter from Monique. Enjoy!
I would introduce myself to you, but you already know me. Unfortunately, we still haven’t broken up, YET…. but, don’t get too comfortable, though because “you’s gots t’go,” my unwanted friend!
We were introduced when I was in college and we began courting each other shortly after when I got approved for my first credit card.
Back then, I was young and dumb. I took myself out of the cool kids’ “Debt Free” club and fell for your shiny, plastic authority with very little knowledge of this lasting relationship you longed for.
God blessed me with a free, all expenses paid vacation through my full ride scholarship to school, but I neglected my blessing when I opened the door to your charming, yet deceiving face. Free of all student loans, all loans for that matter, I was stuck on stupid when I activated my card with the first purchase. Understanding and learning little to nothing about you, I made decisions that bit me in the butt later and I refuse to continue this ongoing, daunting relationship. The buck stops here!
I’ve heard of your horror stories and I will not be another one of your victims you tally in your little black book. Erase my name from your list because I’m leaving you. You may have had your long-lasting relationship with my parents and their parents, but I break the generational curse and bondage of debt upon me and my generations to come in the name of Jesus.
Debt, you have no authority to rule over me, my daughter and the rest of our prosperous lineage coming forth.
In the beginning, you and I were attached at the hip, but now, I’m cutting you off. You have extended your stay and I’ve learned a whole lot more about you. I only have a couple hundred dollars tying us together, but I’m leaving you for good once that gets washed away!
Your brother from another mother, MORTGAGE, is excited to meet me this week. Little does he know, I’m not the same naive and irresponsible young lady I was when we met. The bank’s already approved me for your buddy there, but mark my words: YOU ARE PAID IN FULL in the name of Jesus! Paying you and your brother off glorifies the God I serve and I know that your brother will be sad just like you when I leave him prematurely and unexpectedly.
You see, Debt, you were finally exposed and now, I can punch you in the face and kindly demand you to get the hell out of my life. Thank God for Soul’d Out Christian Center International Las Vegas because this ministry helped me reveal your true colors. After all these years, I will be saying goodbye for good!
Debt, just like my exes from the past, you are no longer welcome in my life. Have a seat on the sidelines and watch as God blesses me to combat your evil ways. There is nothing good about you in my life, so do just like my girl Beyoncé instructed and move ‘to the left, to the left.’
Consider this your eviction notice, Debt! Get your crap and scurry on down the road, far, far, far away! Debt, you’re going down ….and you’re never inserting yourself back into this family or our prosperous generations to come!
Thanks for being a good sport in your efforts to break me, but they didn’t work. I serve a BIG GOD and my BIG GOD loves to do BIG THINGS; therefore, grab a snack, pull up a chair and watch the PROSPEROUS LIFE God has for me! Save one of those seats for your boy, Mortgage because you both are going to be enjoying the sidelines in my life for a long time.
I don’t blame you completely because I know you, SOMETIMES, have good intentions, but I am calling this quits because I will no longer be needing your services, Debt and I definitely will not miss you.
Consider yourself warned, Debt! Start packing because your über driver has been contacted and is on his way!
The 27 year-young widowed, single mommy YOU THOUGHT you had.. You know? The same one who will be putting you to shame …SOON AND REAL SOON
M O N I Q U E
In my last post, I mentioned how I was working on something that was BIG. Bigger than myself, bigger than Dear Debt, and majorly scary and exciting.
For the past few months, the brilliant and amazing Emma Pattee aka Emma Lincoln and I have been working on a women + money retreat. We launched last week!
After many brainstorms and buying a few too many URLs, we settled on the Lola Retreat. Why? Because we wanted something fun, feminine, and unique. We had names that had the word “money” in it, but the thing is we want to attract all people — not just the personal finance choir.
So we got some feedback and we landed on Lola retreat.
I love it because when I think of the word “Lola”, I think of someone ambitious, cool, fun, and confident. Also, I love the song from Damn Yankees with the lyric “Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.” In my mind, the women we want at this event are women that want to go after everything they want in life. They know that money can help them get there, and getting their finances in formation will help them achieve their goals.
Funny thing. It’s in Portland, Oregon! Yes, where I used to live! Emma lives there and it is an affordable, fun location.
Friday, August 18 to Sunday, August 20, 2017.
Any woman who wants to take control of their finances. Girlbosses looking for support and friendship. Women looking to talk candidly with other women about all things money.
We just launched and are working on getting speakers and an agenda ASAP. I can tell you the four core things we are working on are:
If you’d like to apply to be a speaker, fill out this form.
Our regular tickets are $399. Our VIP tickets are $499. If you buy now until April 14 and use LOLAWANTS as the code, you’ll get $100 off the ticket price. This includes all programming and we are covering most food and drink, so you don’t have to worry about that.
Now, let me tell you something. Pricing an event like this was so hard. Like, so freaking hard. We want to provide affordability and value, but yes, we want to make sure we can pay for our expenses and support the event.
We realized we had to walk the walk and talk the talk. We would never ask you to undersell yourselves or undercharge, so we knew we had to settle on a price that made sense with everything we’re offering. In my opinion, it’s still a killer deal.
The networking and learning opportunities alone will be worth an education of a lifetime. And being able to have the conversations about women and money you can’t have anywhere else? Priceless.
Emma and I are feminists. There, we said it. We believe in the power of women and we believe women should be equal to men.
Not only that, but we believe that women should have equal access to opportunities as men. We want to fight the gender pay gap, prepare for uncertain times ahead (ahem), and empower women to get in control of their money so they can do whatever they damn please, whenever they damn want.
Money is all about freedom. Control. Access. Choices. Through the Lola retreat, we aim to empower and teach women about money. And there is no better time than now.
Will you join us? If you can’t make it, feel free to share and suggest ideas. We’re open to all kinds of support. xo
This post contains affiliate links.
The problem with debt is that it can become so normalized. Debt is a national pastime and it seems like nearly everyone has it.
Not having debt goes against the status quo.
All of this can add to the difficulty of paying off debt. Doing something that most people don’t do can be isolating and tough, but let me tell you something.
Being debt-free provides you with freedom. It provides you with more choices. Having that extra money allows you to pay for your future, not your past. It allows you to do the things you’ve always dreamed of, while also dealing with some of life’s difficulties — without it being a crisis.
I’ve been debt-free a little over a year now. In many ways, I’m living my “debt-free dream”. I work for myself. I moved back to Los Angeles. I was able to go on the Italy trip my mom and I talked about for nearly a decade.
Just last week, I was able to whisk my mom away for her big 6-0 birthday bash. We went to New Orleans and had a ridiculous, joyous time. These are memories that will last a lifetime.
These things were all out of reach for me not that long ago. To be able to do the things I only dreamed of is so incredibly sweet. But debt freedom isn’t just about the sweetness, it’s about the sour, too.
By being debt-free, I’ve also been able to better deal with the hard times instead of going into panic mode. It seems the year has just begun, but there’s already been some tough times behind-the-scenes.
Some clients have put their content on pause or shifted their strategies, which directly affects my income. I’m putting my heart and soul into another project that is bigger than myself — but is also risky (launching soon!).
On top of that, I’m dealing with a health scare that is leaving me a bit frazzled and distracted. At some point, I might write about it, but I’m currently in it and simply trying to take care of myself.
All of these things have been incredibly stressful. Life can have unfortunate timing, especially when it comes to accomplishing your goals and dreams.
But being debt-free makes it so much more manageable.
As soon as I realized I would be going to the doctor more often, I put $500 in a Capital One Savings Account called “Medical”. That amount happens to be my deductible through Liberty Healthshare. I didn’t want to be caught off guard.
I’ve also been allowing myself not to worry about work as much, or hustling hard. And I’m grateful I can do that at this point, thanks to my emergency fund. If I was dealing with some of this stuff while paying off debt things would be much worse.
My point with all of this is that life is going to happen, for better or worse. Your dreams and your freedom are right on the other side of debt.
As you can see, being debt-free isn’t just some magical fairyland devoid of problems — life can still throw you some curveballs.
Being debt-free allows you to deal with crises on their own, without having a chunk of your paycheck already spoken for. It allows you the freedom to deal with what comes your way, without having the emotional and financial drain of debt.
I remember when I began my debt payoff journey, it felt like I would never get there. It seemed so far away, like a destination I’d never reach. But I did.
What was the shift that made it all happen? I started treating debt as a crisis.
I realized that debt was holding me back from my dreams. It was affecting my relationship. It took a toll on my mental health (feeling shame, guilt, depression, and anxiety) and my physical health (hustling all the time). It was this heavy weight that was always there.
I made the mental switch that there was no other choice but to become debt-free, NO MATTER WHAT.
I am now on the other side of debt, dealing with some other personal and professional stressors. But I am managing. If I had debt still, I’d be in straight up panic mode.
I want you to experience debt-freedom so you can have a chance at living your life to the fullest.
What people don’t tell you is that you have to change your mindset first. Action follows thoughts and if your mind isn’t in it, you’re not going anywhere. Tell yourself there is no other choice but to become debt free and that you will do whatever it takes to get there — no matter the time frame.
This also means being uncomfortable. You will need to cut back on certain things that you probably see as a given in your lifestyle. It means hustling more and working more hours. None of this stuff is fun, I’m not going to lie.
In 4.5 years, I was able to pay off the $68,000 I had left after NYU — after already paying my loans for 5 years before that! Paying off that amount was hard and at times I wondered if I would ever live the life I knew I was meant to live. At that time, I did a lot of work I didn’t want to do. I scrimped where I didn’t want to.
It was all worth it though. And I want that for you. Now, I think it’s more important than ever to get your financial ducks in a row and pay off that debt. We live in uncertain times and while money can’t save everything, it certainly helps.
So I urge you. This year, commit to paying off debt. Start small and put your spare change toward debt. Make biweekly payments instead of monthly payments. Put $10 more to debt. Focus on slashing the big three expenses: housing, food, and transportation.
You can do this.
Hey everyone, we have an amazing new dear debt letter from Ellie. Ellie is a grants analyst and technology consultant in Nashville, Tennessee, and is on a 4 year plan to pay off $58,000. She has a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration and is a minimalist, living in furnished apartments, airbnbs, and subleases while she figures out where her life is headed. Everything she owns fits in her car. She enjoys reading, going to the gym, and cooking with her boyfriend.
Debt and I decided to sit down for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Here is my monologue to her.
Thank you for agreeing to meet me here. I don’t appreciate that you didn’t bring your wallet and made me pay, again. Rude much? Anyway. I asked you to come because… we need to talk.
I know about you and my parents.
I knew all along. I heard about the way you taunted them, how you wove your threads into the fabric of their lives until the entire garment belonged to you. Looked like you. Was nothing but you. I watched my father go homeless because of you, his marriage crumble because of you. I heard endless, frightful tales of your spite when he filed bankruptcy.
I witnessed the way you mangled his relationship with his parents. I watched as you took my mother’s hand and sold her a life that didn’t, and never would, never could, belong to her. I saw her driving that shiny car of yours and living under the roof that you pretended she deserved. And I could not look away as you took. it. all. back. Foreclosure is your ugly sidekick.
So I swore I would never speak to you for the rest of my life. I had every reason, every single good intention not to give you the time of day.
I proudly marched through Freshman year of college without a single cent of my life given to you and your selfish, cunning ways. Everybody told me you were such a nice girl. My peers warned me I was missing out on all the fun because I was hanging out with all my jobs instead of just letting you into my life, just a little. I was mocked, I was left out, I was looked at like a crazy person because graduating debt-free just wasn’t a thing.
Then I met a man.
I fell in love with him, this man much, much too old for me. And… flinched when a few weeks into this budding, green relationship he told me he knew you. When I found out the history the two of you shared I was sick. I looked at this guy and I thought, “A life with him is a life with debt.” Two hundred thousand dollars. That was what stood between me and him. You.
I told myself I would never marry into debt. But somehow, that man convinced me to take on my first student loan. You were in his head. He couldn’t see the light of day anymore from your blinding, dark cloak over his eyes. He didn’t know what it was like never to owe anybody anything because he’d been there for decades. Still, I was in love and young and foolish.
Before I knew it, I was taking you on joyrides through drive-thrus, hating myself for every secret large fry you watched me eat. Our life together was one step forward and nine steps back.
When the doctor told me I had a lump, months later I stared at the stack of tens of thousands of dollars of medical bills I would never pay and I just gave up.
You were such a monster then. You slipped your hand around my throat and caressed my skin, making me feel something when all I wanted was to surrender and say, no, no, no.
Tires. Dress slacks. Gasoline. Ice cream. School fees.
After my marriage fell apart, three years after you first slipped your unwelcome presence into my life, we had our last hurrah.
Like a bad lover, I embraced you with one final, terrifying dance. In a blaze of maxing out every card application that was not denied, we got massages together, drove across city lines at midnight together, slept on stranger’s couches together. Just to get by. Just to be alive a little while longer while I built my life again.
By the end of it, your name was fifty-eight. Thousand.
The shame was a spiraling, oozing combination of credit cards, my silvery used car, and a pile of loans.
So my dad called.
And he’d heard we’d been fooling around.
Dad wasn’t happy.
After a long talk, he pulled out his debit card and we made some changes.
And the way that you do, you kept your sliming, disgusting fingers around my neck as you transferred the stress of revolving interest to the depression of cyclical familial wounds. My father loaned me money for the first time in my life, and he swore he never would.
And what did you do?
You convinced me to buy a goddamn plane ticket. And another that I didn’t even end up using. We spun around once more, you and I, and we had our fun. And then, I wept when I revealed to my father that I stupid stupid stupidly maxed out one of the cards he’d just. paid. off.
He was so bitter.
He was so disappointed.
I was so ashamed.
So. Debt. Well, first of all, screw you. You’re a sick, conniving monster and I utterly hate you. So, there’s that.
But we’re not going to get anywhere with that kind of negative thinking so here’s what’s going to happen.
I’m going to cut you off. Every credit card is closed and is never getting reopened. Next month? I’m getting my tax return and that last credit card is going to be paid off forever. I’m going to pay back my boyfriend so you can stop influencing anything about our love.
I’m spending my time now with YNAB. Heard of him? Yeah, he HATES you. And Consulting? She said she has some ideas that will get me far, far away from you.
I have to live with your lurid presence a little while longer. But I hope you feel terribly uncomfortable around me. I hope you feel a horrible anxiety every time you hear my key turning in the lock. I hope you start to pack your bags. I hope you know you’re on a very short leash and that your time is running out.
You are not welcome in my life.
You are not welcome in my heart.
And I will do everything in my power to ensure that your influence on my family lineage stops here.
Thank you for teaching me where I was weak. Because now I know how strong I can be.
We have a brand spankin’ new dear debt letter from Dyana. Here is more about her in her own words:
Like many millennials, I’ve acquired a large amount of debt early on in life from student loans, credit cards, personal loans, and a car payment. I graduated from college in 2015 with roughly $30,000 in debt, and have yet to find a job using my Bachelors of Arts degree. Until that moment comes, I work as a Customer Service Rep to support myself and my four-year-old daughter. I’m the main breadwinner in my home so it gets hard trying to juggle bills and paying off my debt. I’ve recently started a blog at adebtfreejourney.com to document my journey to financial freedom.
This secret relationship that we once had is no more. I’m so tired of the back and forth, and the amount of stress you’ve put on my life is no longer worth the temporary rushes you once gave me. I feel as though I eat, sleep, and breathe you, and quite frankly you’re not worth anymore of my precious time.
What’s the big deal you may ask?
Well, let me tell you what you have done to my and my partner’s happiness…it’s nearly gone. The constant bickering about money and what’s owed has replaced all of the laughing and sweet gestures. You’ve maliciously licked your fingers and gently squeezed the flame from our wick. I’m still not quite sure if it will burn again.
I’ll admit that you are entirely my fault. I became addicted to the instant gratification of running up your balance, and I never once thought of the consequences that would await me once the giddiness fizzled out. I wanted to fit in and show the Joneses that they were not the only ones who could have nice things, and I must say that they handle owing masses of cash to everyone but themselves very well—not me however.
I was convinced that I needed you to get me through school, and I foolishly assumed that once my degree was placed into my hands you would just disappear. You were to scram like roaches when faced with Combat, but it appeared that my degree was not potent enough for you.
There were many times when I felt completely hopeless about you. I barely made enough to cover my living expenses, and when my daughter was born, you began growing out of control. I had no idea how I was going to separate myself from you, my income was minuscule, but her little smiling face kept telling me that something had to be done. It was my duty to prepare her for a successful future, and I couldn’t do that with mounds of debt.
At 25-years-old I’m chopping away at this house of debt we’ve built together. It won’t happen overnight, but I WILL be released from your grip. You will no longer have control of me because I am taking the reins to my life back, so I suggest you go find your next victim.
When it comes to personal finance, it feels like everything is about the numbers. And us personal finance bloggers are obsessed with them. Looking at the dirty details of someone’s budget or net worth is like personal finance porn — we get hot for it. It’s sexy to see how much someone saved, or get a peek at their budget. We congratulate people on paying off debt.
While I love consuming the numbers as much as the next person, I’ve come to realize that all the numbers are a lie.
The numbers are simply one-dimensional representations of what someone has done. These numbers work hard at making us feel either incredibly good about our situation or incredibly bad.
Usually, it’s the latter. Maybe you thought you killed it this month, but then someone made twice as much as you. You thought you put a lot toward debt, then realize someone put your entire salary to debt. In these moments, it’s easy to get sucked into feeling like you’re not good enough.
But here’s the thing: the numbers don’t tell a whole story. There is absolutely no context to compare ourselves to others. After all, personal finance is not apples to apples. Yet we get sucked into these numbers thinking that if they can do it, so should we.
I implore you — look at the bigger picture. There are so many things that affect what you can ultimately do with your money. Things like:
I remember when I was paying off debt, I used to get jealous of what others were putting toward their debt. I’ve had people say the same thing about me. But our situations, inevitably, are always wildly different. I cannot compare myself to someone who is married and lives in a low-cost of living area, as that is not my reality. Someone struggling to find work and take care of a baby should under no circumstances compare themselves to me and what I’ve done.
You see, in personal finance context is everything. The numbers mean absolutely nothing without any context. We all have our privileges and setbacks that are uniquely ours. They can either help or hurt us on our financial journeys. Some we can change, others we cannot.
But it’s important to acknowledge they are there. It’s important to look at the big picture and avoid comparing your financial situation to others at all costs. Doing so will be the fastest route to misery and if I can make a guess, could sabotage your own financial well-being.
In your own quest toward financial freedom, it’s important to find inspiration from others who have gone before you and have done what you want to do. But don’t get paralyzed by empty comparisons — focus on what you can do with your own particular situation.