Paying off debt is easy. In fact, it’s one of the easiest things on the planet, at least conceptually. Just like with losing weight, saving for retirement, or making sure your mortgage doesn’t leave you house poor, paying off debt is a matter of numbers. Anyone with elementary math skills should have the ability to stay debt free. If paying off what we owe is so easy, why on earth are so many people drowning in debt?
The Easy Part of Paying Off Debt
If you know how much you owe and how much you make, plus all your monthly expenses, all you have to do is plug your numbers plus any applicable interest rate into a debt payoff calculator. That will tell you how long it will take to pay off debt. You can even play around with different payments until you find the term you want. Easy as pie!
The Parts of Getting Out of Debt That Aren’t So Easy
It’s Hard To Admit You’re Wrong
I think Jim and I both wanted to be out of debt long before we made any effort to get there. You see, before we had any hope of being out of debt, we had to take a long hard look at our lives and realize we were doing it wrong. Everything society and many of our friends and family told us was wrong. Even though we have 16 years of college education between us, we were not smart enough to know we had it wrong. Until you realize you are wrong and make a decision not to be in debt, you’ll never make any progress.
It’s Hard to Change Your Lifestyle
If you are in debt, it’s probably because you spend more than you make or have made bad financial decisions in the past. We get used to instant gratification, eating out, and having new things every month. Accepting that you need to cook, use your stuff until it wears out, and that you need to have money in your account before you actually buy something takes a bit of getting used to.
It’s Hard to Find More Money
As we said above, when you’re used to conveniences, it’s hard to decide what to cut out of your montly spending. Should you cut cable? new shoes? the gym? coffee? your kid’s karate lessons? going on the annual summer trip with your in-laws? Do you cut some or all? If you decide to earn more money, it’s hard to find motivation to use what little free time you have for more work.
It’s Hard to Say No
If you’re used to going out with friends or buying nice presents for you family members’ birthdays, it’s really hard to say no when a spending opportunity pops up. It’s hard to say no to your kid when they want to do or have what every other kid seems to have. Sadly, there probably will be people in your life who don’t share your desire to change, and they will try and pull you back into the lifestyle of debt. If they really understood, then that might mean they are wrong too. As we said before, that’s hard.
It’s Hard To Overcome Setbacks
Inevitably, once you start paying off debt, you’ll have unexpected things that will set you back. One trip to the ER, one car repair, or one leaky roof can suck up your debt payoff money like an Oklahoma tornado. It’s easy to let that be your cue to start spending again. You’ll feel like saying “What’s the point?” or “I just can’t get ahead.” You can, but it’s really hard to start again after a wipe out month or months.
It’s Hard Not To Blame Others
Since it’s hard to admit we’re wrong, we often blame all kinds people or things for why we are in debt. Whether it’s your job, your boss, you health insurance or lack thereof, the stock market ,the banks, credit card companies, your family, blah, blah, blah. Does it really matter what choices led you to this point, even if they were beyond your control? Sorry John, but we have to be like Elsa from Frozen and let it go. If you truly want to be out of debt, you have to stop blaming and take responsibility for yourself. Dwelling on what could have been will kill your chances of what could be in the future.
There Is An Easy Part
After you get the ball rolling on your debts, seeing the lower balance every month becomes your reward. While there are always obstacles and devils on your shoulder, the longer you stick to your plan, the more it becomes habit. Somewhere along the line, you’ll learn an appreciation for money that you probably never had before. If you appreciate your money, you won’t spend it on stupid things that don’t add value to your life.
In a way, I’m very thankful for our debt because it made us become who we are today, people who don’t need to live paycheck to paycheck, keep up with the Joneses, or work until we drop dead.
What other reasons make it hard to pay off debt? Why don’t more people do basic math before buying something they can’t afford?