Debt is no fun. It is stress-inducing, anxiety-producing, and just makes you want to curl up in a corner to the dull tunes of a television show. I know, because I used to be in debt myself. I also know because these are some of the very words you all used to describe your debt situations in the survey I offered last November. Many of your responses were what most of us would consider typical for people in debt, such as feeling stress, living with fear, and dodging creditors at all points of entry into our lives. But then there were two responses that were radically different. To the question, “How is Debt Affecting Your Life,” two people answered in very optimistic, inspiring ways by essentially saying that even though they felt down about it from time to time, they did not let it get in the way of their overall quality of life.
That is two people out of 50 total respondents.
What does this say to me? The number of respondents is too small of a sample to write up a paper with any conclusive evidence. However, from being in debt myself and from the answers provided, I can tell that debt is sucking the enjoyment out of many lives. So how can we come back to enjoying our lives again, despite our debt loads?
Confront, Confront, ConfrontSomething is always scarier in the dark when you have no idea of its boundaries, shape, or characteristics. Click To Tweet
If there is one thing I have figured out in my short thirty years on this earth it is this: something is always scarier in the dark when you have no idea of its boundaries, shape, or characteristics. Many people’s instinct with debt and other difficult challenges is to hide and ignore the situation. At least you know the situation that you find yourself in now, right? It’s comfortable. The unknown is uncomfortable, and it takes courageous people to walk into it. But a little known fact is that confronting something head on—finding out each creditor that you owe, interest rates, the amounts, and debt payoff date—will bring down your stress and anxiety levels significantly. When Gail Vaz-Oxlade goes into people’s homes on ‘Til Debt Do Us Part, at the first on-camera sit-down she runs through all of the honest, and oftentimes ugly, numbers. It’s typically a screen full of negatives, with a total equaling more than the sum of the couple’s annual salary. Many times the people are completely shocked because they likely had never done so themselves. Some cry, others laugh nervously. But then something amazing happens: they have motivation to do something about it, and for the first time in a while they are filled with some hope.
Have Faith and Gratitude
Faith and gratitude will keep your mindset positive, and keep your thoughts out of the endless negative chatter that oftentimes surrounds debt. Having faith gives you hope, and allows you to dream again. Having gratitude makes you thankful for all of the wonders in your life, which truly helps to lighten your mood. Each of these positive feelings will likely open your eyes to ideas you had not thought of before.
Do Not Always Forsake the Present for Your Delicious, Debt-Free Future
Everyone looks forward to the day when they can finally declare themselves deliciously debt-free. People call into Dave Ramsey’s radio show all the time and you can just feel the tension over the airwaves from the exhilarated person(s) who can’t wait to yell out, “We’re Debt-Free!!!!” Trust me, these are precious moments. We declared our own debt freedom from $25,000 on September 1, 2010. The promises of this gorgeous day are so seductive that it becomes easy to only go through the motions of living in the now without really living.
Do not wish your life away, whether you are chained down with debt or not. You may live to regret the five years you spent in a holding pattern, and the taste of that eventual debt freedom may be more bitter than sweet.
Be Social Anyway
One of the surprising and heartbreaking comments received from several people is how their debt has cut them off from relationships and from being social by either finding new friends or spending time with old ones. Sure, you may not be able to go out to posh restaurants anymore, or meet up with a group of people for drinks. But what is stopping you from meeting up with a buddy to go for a run? Joining a free group like knitting or playing cards or a book club that meets at someone’s house, admitting to your old circle of friends that you just don’t have the funds to splurge right now but would love to continue hanging out with them? Realize that it is likely you have friends and relatives who are in the same boat as you. Debt should never be a reason to become a hermit.
Realize the Lessons You Teach Your Children and the Time that You Spend with Them are Far More Important than the Things You Buy Them
I have few items leftover from my childhood that I brought into my adulthood: the thesaurus my aunt bought me in 7th grade, the children’s book my great-grandmother typed for me with me and my sister as the main characters, two scrapbooks from the year I was Chester County Dairy Princess. Yes, I treasure these belongings. Out of all of the Christmases and Birthdays of my youth, I can only recall a handful of the actual gifts that were bought for me. What do I remember most? Playing badminton in the front lawn with Dad, feeling happy and joyous around the holidays when all of our family would gather, playing scrabble as a family on vacations, going to my great-grandmother’s pool with my mother, sister, and brother. These are feelings, moments, and experiences, not gadgets, electronics, or things. And these are what I will carry with me for the rest of my life. You can do the same for your children, regardless of your current financial situation.Life is now, pieces and all. So let’s make the most of it. Click To Tweet
Many of us will spend decades getting out of debt. But really, we should look at these decades as not getting out of debt, but as living with debt. It’s already caused financial havoc, why allow it to cause more havoc? What is in our control is to continue living our lives despite. Don’t allow debt to ruin relationships, take away the trust that we have with one another, or forsake those decades by saving up all of the living we want to do for some future date.
Life is now, pieces and all. So let’s make the most of it.