Shifting to a cash only lifestyle to pay off debt is all about developing good financial habits that will stick. And with any kind of behaviour modification, it takes time, patience and commitment to see the change through and reap the rewards.
“It’s important to develop a tactical plan to pay off debt, but it is equally important for you to develop the right mindset towards executing that plan. If you aren’t in the right mindset, it can actually be a barrier to your success. Spending within your means isn’t a punishment or a sacrifice. It is a smart move that will help you achieve your financial goals. That’s a reward,” says Jeff Schwartz, executive director, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.
“Spending within your means isn’t a punishment or a sacrifice. It is a smart move that will help you achieve your financial goals. That’s a reward in and of itself,” says Schwartz.
Here are some attitudes toward debt that can be counterproductive and self-destructive.
Being casual about debt
First and foremost, debt is a burden that causes stress and financial hardship. Why would you want to carry a burden when you don’t have to?
When you do the math and consider how much money you are directing towards servicing that debt, you quickly realize that you have given debt control over your life. It’s time to take back control and pay off debt.
Forgetting about the long term in favour of the short term
When you have been accustomed to living a certain way, it can be hard to bear the day-to-day sacrifices in favour of the longer term benefits. If you’ve been used to the instant gratification of credit, you might feel deprived if you have to choose patience over the immediate reward.
This truly is short term pain for long term gain. Keep focused on your goal and remind yourself how each and every purchase decision you make can get you closer to your goal. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Equating happiness with money
It’s worthwhile to pause frequently and count the blessings in your life. Chances are, none of them have to do with purchase power or money and they definitely don’t have to do with the debt that goes along with that behaviour.
Start finding joy in the company of your friends and family and seek low-cost or no-cost activities.
Caring about the Joneses
Don’t compare yourselves to others because chances are you are going to feel inadequate. Especially if your spending has come as the result of trying to impress others with your material goods. There is no shame in spending within your means.
The fact is that debt is something that you have to shoulder on your own, so don’t take it out in order to impress someone else.
Accepting debt as a way of life
If you resign yourself to the fact that debt will be a way of life, then it will be your way of life. And that path flows in the opposite direction of your financial goals and your physical and mental health. Debt is not a means to an end; it is the result of a lack of budgeting and planning, or as a result of encountering unexpected expenses. Either way, it can be paid down.
What’s more, is that you can avoid debt altogether as you move forward. It’s a choice, not a necessity.