Seven Steps to Changing How You Think About Debt (So You Can Get Out of Debt Quicker)
By Mandy Karlik

Getting out of debt does not happen accidentally. Well, even if it does happen accidentally (like a person winning the lottery) debt problems are rarely solved unless and until the person with the debt starts to think about the debt in a different way. First, you have to admit you have a debt. Believe it or not, this a stumbling block to many people who prefer to live in denial (it's cheaper) than debt. But denial will eventually crack under your feet and plunge you into the icy waters of reality. Size up your debt. How do you do that? Take a pencil and paper and start to write down all of your debt. You may have to call the toll-free numbers on your various credit cards and look up phone numbers on varies statements. Write down all of your debts and add them together. Don't look away, even if the number is scary. You need to know the truth. Sometimes it takes a scary number to get our full attention! Second, you have to "own" your debt. A lot of people act like their debt belongs to someone else. And maybe it did, in a way! Some people come into overwhelming debt because they wound up with the debts of a spouse (or ex-spouse). Some people end up paying off the debts of family members. Others got into debt when a house burned down or the family suffered a medical problem. You might get into debt over posting bond for a loved one. No matter how you wound up with the debt, you have to recognize it as your own. You have to take responsibility for it. There are lots of reasons that people get into debt. Even if you just overspent your way into debt, you probably had a lot of good reasons for what you did. Maybe you had a lot of debt left over from your college days. Maybe you were under a lot of emotional stress and found "retail therapy" helped. Maybe you just did not understand money. I know a woman who wound up paying off a lot of debt she got herself into while in the "manic" phase of undiagnosed manic-depressive illness. You may have reasons, and that's not the point. The point is: the debts are yours. Take responsibility for them. You won't ever get out of debt till you admit that you (not anybody else) have debt. Third, you need to forgive your creditors. That sounds very weird, but have you ever noticed that in the Bible, it talks a lot about "sin" and "debt" being related? The Lord's prayer, for instance, in some Bible translations talks about asking God to "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." In financial terms, overlooking a debt means to "forgive" it. You probably got into financial trouble because of some other trouble. Whether it was a failed marriage, a natural disaster, disease, devastation, mental illness, or just plain getting through a "rough patch," you probably need to go back and forgive the other people involved. Let's say you're heavily in debt because you owe child support. And let's say that there is a lot of pain still attached to the relationship that brought that child into the world. Maybe you even feel tricked or cheated into paying the child support. And it could be genuinely unfair. Forgive everybody involved. Forgive the other parent of your child, forgive your child, forgive the family of the other parent, forgive the state, and forgive the judge who made the ruling. Forgiveness does not mean that you agree that what they did was right. Forgiveness does not mean you like what was done or that you approve of what was done. Forgiveness means you accept it and you refuse to carry around that wasteful anger and animosity any more. What happened may or may not have been fair, but that's not the point. It's happened and you are ready to get past it. That's forgiveness. Fourth, you need to make a conscious choice to get out of debt. A lot of people are digging themselves deeper and deeper into debt not because they want to, they just have not decided to stop digging! Make a decision. Getting of debt involves one big decision (that's the easy part) and hundreds of smaller, daily decisions (that's the tough part). If you need to, find a way to remind yourself of getting debt free. Maybe you can write it on a paper and stick it on your desk, in the car, or on your bathroom mirror. You can make up a mantra for yourself and just say, "I'm going to get out of debt" whenever you need to and even some times when you don't need to. Don't buy anything new, but if you have a ring or bracelet or something special, you can wear that and use it to remind yourself that it is the symbol of your decision to get over your debt. Fifth, stop the bleeding. Most debt is a result of a lot of small wounds. Stop as many as you can. This means you have to look for them. A few debt areas will be obvious. Do what you can to stop digging yourself into debt. But search out other ways that money is slipping through your fingers. Don't be afraid to be zealous. Zealous, passionate people are the ones who can beat debt. Quit the gym, don't eat out so much, cancel cable TV, start shopping the garage sale circuit. Many of us get riled up at some of those prospects, but they are all viable strategies. They work. I'm not saying you have to do all of them or any of them but you need to stop as much hemorrhaging as possible. Sixth, get a plan. It does not seem to be as important to use a specific plan as it is to use any plan. You need a system. One good one is to line up your debts and start paying them off. Pick your highest interest debt first and devote every spare cent to paying it off. Then proceed from there. You can also try debt consolidation where you roll a lot of higher-interest debt together into one larger debt at more favorable terms. Certified credit counselors are available locally (check out or online. There are valuable books and courses on money management. Figure it out, get help, or work with somebody. But you need a game plan. Seventh, keep on. Getting out of debt is a bit like losing weight: it takes hard work, dedication, and just dogged day-after-day persistence.


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