Debt can seem normal and needed (“everyone’s doing it”) until it starts to place demands on your life. Debt loads us down with financial burdens that keep us from things like financial freedom, generosity, and saving for future needs. We look to those who have money (and therefore who we borrow from) to provide for us what we can’t provide for ourselves…and what we won’t wait for God to provide for us.
With the typical college student leaving school weighed down with over $24,000 to repay, we get started off on the wrong track.
No one is contesting that your degree (if you have one) is a good thing, but it also can come with the reality of a heavy debt. If it’s not student loans, it might be credit cards, personal loans, car loans, or other debts (we’ll leave houses out of the discussion – another blog for another day).
Whatever the debt, you have a few choices:
- Compare yourself to others. You can take comfort in the fact that some people leave their schooling with over $250,000. Some people out there are millions of dollars in debt. Don’t stay here too long, remember that they’re not you and you have debt to take care of. And they certainly can’t help you out – they’ve got bigger problems, right? Let’s skip this one.
- You can duck, dodge, or try to throw a smokescreen. This can include choices like not paying, debt consolidation, and even bankruptcy. These are extreme measures that often have really significant consequences (despite the ads on TV and radio that make them sound like a trip to Disneyland). These things are for when there is nothing else you can do. Not a great choice either.
- Ultimately, the reality is, by taking these loans (yes, even credit cards count) you have given your word that you would repay the debt you now have (insert guilt trip about integrity here. Sorry about that. Sort of). Assuming you agree with that, you now have two other choices: pay it off slow, or pay it off fast.
The real cost of debt is not as much about interest charges or fees – the real cost of debt is our freedom. Debt loads us down with financial burdens that keep us from things like financial freedom, generosity, and saving for future needs. You can keep paying the minimum if you want, but get ready to drag that debt around with you for a few years, a decade, or more.
So, we’ll end it today with some tips:
- Get together a list of all your debts and your monthly payments. Stare at the list for a while. Think about it. Stare some more. If you’re feeling kind of sad, skip that emotion and go straight to mad. Don’t grieve something you can still do something about. Get mad at the debt, wish it gone, get ready to make the changes so it can happen.
- Go re-work that budget so that you’re cutting back on some things (caution: minor pain ahead. It’s OK, it’s worth it), and add that extra money onto one of your debts until it’s paid off. Then take what you had been paying toward that debt, and add it all to paying extra on the next debt, etc. Call it a snowball, call it a debt ladder, whatever – just do it!
- If you scratched your head when you got to the word “budget”, above, don’t stand around scratching your head – go back to the blogs about setting up your budget (a riveting two-parter if I do say so myself).
- Slow your roll when it comes to your spending. Only you can determine how extreme your debt problem is, but you’ve got to make sure you’re living on less than you’re making, or the debt will keep piling up while you’re trying to pay it off and you’ll feel like you’re stuck in neutral.
- Be patient. As the saying goes, if it took you some time to get into this, it’s going to take some time to get out of it. Find a way to track your progress so you can see things getting better.
Got questions? Need help? Ask away. My hope and prayer for you is that, if you find yourself burdened by debt from the past, you can say “no” and get unburdened sooner than you think, leaving you free to be to be more generous with your finances.