Debt is Squalor

 If you were covered in feces, while you might certainly have some explaining to do, you would be in a rush to clean up.  Hot water, cold water, brillo brush, acid bath or otherwise you would be singular in your purpose and your actions would all serve notice.

Though most refuse to admit it, debt carries a similar stench and liters many a household budget – or metaphorically marks the floor where a budget should stand.

But ignorance is bliss and some simply have their nose plugged against the pungent odors.  There are legions who, while in agreement that debt is bad, remain unwilling to take the steps required to address the situation.  Instead they knowingly continue their path to ruin rather than face the resolve they so fear – “it’s too hard” is the loosers’ whine.

This is surely an interesting pathology worthy of numerous studies and perhaps a couple future articles, but today I want to outline an easy-bake cycle-breaking solution – in three acts:

Wake Up!!

Even the most thoughtful amongst us will occasionally become numb to a negative facet of our behavior.  I may eat too much, exercise too little, drive too fast, or hold love too close.  There is always something upon which we can improve and debt spending is just one of many such examples.

But recognizing debt is easier than so many of the other vices because we have a built in, crystal clear barometer –  our income.  I can never know which bite of food fulfills my daily caloric requirement but I can track to the single red budget-busting cent where I overstep my monthly intake. 

Even better, I have two handy levers with which to address the situation – stop my spending or raise my income.

Just the same, the very first step to getting out of debt is to stop going further into it.  Spend and then stop when the money runs dry.  Now that’s an easy concept to grasp.

Grow Up!!

Ever see a kid whine and pitch a fit when mom or dad refuses to buy them a candy bar in the checkout line?  Even better, ever see the signs promoting ‘Candy-Free” lanes in a grocery store?  Since no one will impulse-proof our life’s lane, it is time to recognize that part of being an adult is being able to curtail and control such impulses.  Instead, too many people simply redirect those impulses to more expense candy bar equivalents.

No more!  Now that we’re awake, let’s take full advantage of our adulthood.  Not only should we resist future impulse purchases, we should take stock of our previous impulses and consider shedding those which are crippling our monthly cashflow.  How do I do this?  Again, simple – Reconcile your needs vs. your cash outflows.  Do you struggle to put food on the table but have no trouble making a $400 car payment?  Do you always have the latest gadget-y cell-berry device but also routinely pay late fees on your water bill? 

Be an adult and make a hard (yet obvious) choice for the benefit of your future.

Step Up!!

By now your relationship with money will have started to change.  Money is a tool for your use rather than a rope for you neck.  In this step (the hardest and most rewarding), you begin working to lower your debt balances.  Question every dollar that flows into and out of your home to ensure it is being used for maximum effect.  Deploy budget tools and a Debt Snowball to track your progress.  Focus on your objective and align your behaviors accordingly.

In short order you will experience success and become galvanized in your efforts.  This is the path to financial freedom and you will feel it more and more with each debt paying step.

So get off the sofa and unplug the nose and get to work cleaning up the smelly mess!

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This article was featured in the Money Hacks Carnival hosted by Stretchy Dollar