If you’re one of the majority of Americans, then you’ll be carrying debt. Hopefully, this will just be manageable debt, which means it’s not having an overly negative influence on your finances, or your mental well-being, and so on. But alas, this isn’t the case for some people. For them, their debt is a heavy weight that they bear on their shoulders, one that causes much stress and worry. If you’re in this position, then there is good news: there are ways to lighten the load, and make things easier for yourself. We take a look at some useful, practical tips below.
Demystify the Number
It’s easy to get bogged down just by the idea of “debt.” If you don’t have a clear understanding of what that actually entails, then it’s likely that your imagination will run wild – and cause unnecessary pressure. So instead of burying your head in the sand and spinning the same negative thoughts everywhere, confront your debt. Everything becomes a lot clearer if you know who you owe money to, and how much. Don’t just focus on the total number (“I have $18,000 of personal debt”); break it down into the different companies, different amounts and so on.
Prioritize the Debts
Not all debts are created equal, and, as such, it’s worthwhile making a list of the order of importance for all the debts you have. Your likely to have a couple of debts that are causing you more financial difficulties than others. For example, if you’re paying high interest on one of your debts, then that one’s going to be harder to clear. It may be worthwhile doing something about the most troubling debts first, even if it means transferring it to an interest-free credit card. On the other hand, some people suggest tackling the smallest debts first, as seeing them removed from your list of obligations provides such a psychological boost that you’ll be motivated to carry on working on clearing the others.
Create a New Budget
Stress enters our lives when it feels like we’re living under circumstances that are beyond our control. So you need to find a way to take back some of the control that you’ve lost. A simple way to do this is to create a budget – and then, of course, stick to that budget! There’s much to be gained from knowing that you’ve taken one small step towards controlling your finances. It might not make for a pretty picture at first, but the ship might have sailed on pretty pictures. Just take a look at your outgoings and incomings, trim the fat, so to speak, by cutting out all but the most essential expenses, and then take steps to see where you go from there.
Look at Your Options
There are no final curtains when it comes to debt. There are always options, no matter how deep into debt you may be. You may be well-served by consolidating all of your debts, and then making just one monthly payment. If there’s no way that you’ll be able to pay back what you owe, then look at speaking to bankruptcy attorneys. It might not sound like an instantly appealing option, but don’t rule it out – there are a lot of myths surrounding bankruptcy, and in some cases, it’s not “the last option” but “the best option.”
Take Care of Yourself
While your mind will be focused on figuring out solutions to your debts, it’s important that you don’t let it become “all-consuming”; it’s important that you’re taking care of yourself while you’re plotting a route out. What does this look like? It’s simple. It means eating well, getting enough exercise, and avoiding alcohol – it won’t make anything better, and will very probably make things worse. Debt is not an enjoyable position to be in, and it’s easy to fall into bad habits that won’t help in any way. Take care of the basics of a healthy life, and you’ll find it much easier to navigate to a debt-free life.
Build an Emergency Fund
You might think that all of your money should be spent on reducing your debt, but it shouldn’t. You should put money into an emergency fund. Remember, it’s likely that a lack of an emergency fund was one of the reasons why you fell into debt in the first place. Just because you’re trying to get out of debt, that doesn’t mean that your car won’t break down or the hot water system won’t need replacing. If you’ve got “rainy day money” set aside, then you’ll be able to weather these problems without complicating your debt-free aspirations.
See It as a Challenge
You’ve found yourself in a situation of bad debt. It’s tough, yes it is, there’s no getting around it. But like all obstacles in life, you get to frame how you think about the situation. If you’re kicking and screaming all day long, cursing your luck, then you’re going to have a terrible journey towards a better financial landscape, one that’s much more complicated than it needs to be. Instead, see it as a challenge, a game that you can win if you only do the right things.
It’s not easy to live with debt. If you’re riding the challenge all by yourself, then it won’t be like before the pressure inside begins to build. You have to let it all out! If you’re struggling with the pressure, then talk with a friend or family member. Some people think that it’s a taboo issue to talk about, but take a look at the number of people in debt – the sheer numbers make it likely that the person you talk to won’t just be sympathetic to your plight, but will have first-hand experience of what you’re going through.
A Positive Attitude
Whatever you do, stay positive! Debt isn’t nice, but there are much worse things in life. Stay optimistic, and believe good things are coming – you’ll find that they are if you’re patient!