The US has had some crazy weather this fall and winter. The recent snow storm that hit the Northeast dumped two feet of snow and caused all kinds of mayhem. Southwest Colorado often gets hit with storms producing that much or more snow. While we don’t generally get the media attention that more populated areas receive, we know all too well how to deal with a winter storm. Actually when you think about it, winter storms are like getting out of debt in many ways. Tropical people bear with me as I show you how a winter blizzard can be used as an example of how to get out of debt.
Make a Plan
When the forecasters are predicting feet of snow, you check your pantry, buy batteries and candles, make sure the propane tank is full, and get out your snow boots and shovels. No one wants to be stuck at home with no food or heat.
Likewise when you are facing a mountain of debt, you need to get your plans in order. List all of your creditors and their interest rates and make a budget consisting of how much money you expect to make vs what you expect to pay out. Next, make a plan of how you are going to pay back the debt. Don’t get buried in the blizzard before you decide that you should have made a plan.
Don’t Get Sidetracked by Volume
During a huge snowstorm, you might wake up to find feet of snow surrounding your house. If you look at all that snow, it might seem like you’ll never get out of the driveway. The best way is to start with each area that you need to shovel. Maybe do the front walk first, then the area around the cars, until you have made a path. Keep remembering how much great exercise all this shoveling is!
With debt, don’t get discouraged by the total number. Divide the debt into how much you owe each creditor. Always make minimum payments on all accounts, but take one balance and concentrate on that until it’s gone. Then apply that payment toward the next. It doesn’t matter if you use the debt snowball, avalanche, or some combination. Start with one debt and go from there.
You Will Get Stuck
Even if you prepare perfectly, have snow tires, and always carry a shovel in the trunk, you will get stuck in the snow if you live in a wintry climate. It’s a terrible feeling to know you need to be somewhere and all you can do is spin your wheels. If you get stuck, do you abandon your car? No way! You start calling your family, your friends, your cousin Jed with the big 4×4, until you find someone who can pull you out. Worst case, you’d have to call a tow truck, but eventually, you’ll get back on the road.
If you are in an agressive debt repayment plan, you will have setbacks. You might have a medical emergency, a car or house repair, or you could make less money than you expected. This doesn’t mean you have to quit. Get back on track when the crisis is over. Worst case would be that you have to use a debt service or possibly file for bankruptcy. You can recover from that if you are willing to change the behaviors that got you into debt.
Calm After the Storm
Although I make comments all the time about how I would like to live in a warmer climate, days like yesterday make me eat those words. We had stormy, gloomy weather for four days, and then the sun came out. Sun on fresh snow is one of the most beautiful sights. With my new found freedom, I took half a day to go cross country skiing. Being in a forest covered in snow where the only sound is your skis and the whoomp of snow falling off the pines is incredible, and makes me realize how lucky I am to live where I do.
I am not completely debt free, and it will probably be a few years before we achieve that goal. However, paying off all of our credit card debt last year was the most amazing feeling. It was the mother of all debt storms for many years at our house, but the sun finally came out. While I wouldn’t encourage debt just to experience the feeling of how good it feels to pay it off, you get the point. If you can think ahead to when your debt is gone, it can keep you pretty motivated.
While we can’t control the weather, we can control whether or not we choose to get out of debt. If you need some help trying to find your way out of a blizzard of debt, check out the people who have joined the Debt Movement to get started and find strength in numbers.
How have you weathered a debt storm? Any tips to get through the cold winter months?