I’m finally debt free and in the process of becoming debt free, I read a lot of articles on how to do it. While most of these give good advice, they often leave out the most important part that, I have found, will actually make or break your debt reduction journey. I have no idea why most articles don’t talk about this, but my guess is because it’s different for every individual which makes it more difficult to put it nicely in to a 10-step debt reduction mantra.
Yes, it’s important to come up with a debt reduction plan whether that’s doing a credit card debt snowball, consolidating debt or even bankruptcy. Yes, you need to look at ways you can reduce your debt, spend less money and create a workable budget. Yes, you should probably look at ways you may be able to bring in some extra income through side jobs or part-time work. But before you do all that, you need to take a look at the emotional triggers that brought you to the current debt you have.
While many personal finance writers and gurus talk about the need to get control of the numbers, those numbers will never be contained until the emotions that drove the debt are addressed. That can make for some strange conversations. When people learn I managed to reduce my debts of over $40,000 and asked me how I did it, they are often surprised when I tell them I was able to do it because I finally decided to go to a psychologist.
I’m sure there are exception to this rule, but I believe in order to get out of debt, the first step most people need to take is to go to a psychologist to better understand themselves. I tried to get out of debt dozens of times over a 10 year period, and I failed miserably each time before I decided to see a psychologist. I knew what I was supposed to do, but much like dieting, knowing how to do something and actually doing it are two completely different things.
For me, it was about security. I grew up poor and we never had a lot of things. As I got older and I was able to earn my own money, I liked to have things. It made me feel secure. My income allowed me to get credit and that credit allowed me to get into debt as I continued to buy things to make myself feel more secure (when in reality I was actually damaging my financial security). It wasn’t until I was able to work out the emotional reasons behind why I was purchasing and going into debt that I actually had the opportunity to begin to free myself from it.
Most people know they spend too much and that’s the reason they are in debt. Again, just knowing this isn’t enough to help you get out of ebt. What most people don’t know is the emotional impetus that leads to their overspending. Not taking the time (and often the difficult emotional journey) to understand why you spend the way you do is the biggest mistake most people make when they are trying to get out of debt.