by Susan Paige
When you’re swamped with overwhelming debt, it’s hard to know where to point the finger and place the blame; it’s a frustrating process of discovery. Of course, there are special circumstances when you are in no way to blame, but each of us has picked up a few bad spending habits over the years.
The truth is that there are specific things in your life that can unnecessarily increase the weight of your debt. While there are companies that provide debt relief for those suffering from crushing debt, the first thing you should do to get out of debt requires no contracts, no fees, and no interest rates: start by removing all bad spending habits from your life.
How We Nurture Negative Spending Habits
The reasons we continually make certain purchases are complex — they can range from habits picked up from childhood to a personality trait that influences your decision-making process. However, the fact remains that if you are in debt, you will need self-control to overcome it.
Nobody is immune to the deadly disease of bad spending. Even those who are debt free are susceptible; they are likely even more susceptible than those who are in debt because they do not have the same fear of wasting money. We must all be careful and aware of the personal habits we have learned over the years.
For example, I am obsessed with sit-down restaurants. I will accept any and all invitations to eat out, even when I’m not even hungry. Even though it hasn’t plunged me into the abyss of endless debt, I have spent way too much money on overpriced pizza and fancy fried chicken.
I have a friend who has a weird obsession with vinyl records. He buys any and all records he can get his hands on. I don’t think I’ve heard him listen to any one of them more than once. Before we can become truly financially secure, we must learn to give up these costly habits.
The more you give in to one thing (even if it’s relatively harmless, like Dr. Pepper), the more likely you are to give in to other, more financially damaging practices. We literally train ourselves to give in. Personal boundaries and rules not only protect you from forming harmful dependencies, but they also help you nurture self-reliance and an inner strength that will carry over to other aspects of your life.
The Wrong Response to Debt
We’ve already established what causes debt, let’s take a look at the misdirected avenues people sometimes take when in debt.
No matter how rational we are, humans tend to think that ignoring something will make it go away, at least for a moment. It goes without saying that ignoring debt will only make it worse. The most common response to debt, creditors, and bad financial situations is to just ignore them. Debt is too often a hole we dig in fear of facing personal issues.
Debt consolidation, debt settlement, and other debt relief programs can be good options, but only if you do the right amount of research first. Believe it or not, there are some consolidation and settlement companies that don’t have your best interest in mind.
Too many people fall prey to scams intended to target you while you’re down. Make sure you read debt relief reviews, customer complaints, success stories, and ask company representatives the hard questions before making a final decision.
Stop Bad Habits
The correct response to debt should begin with an examination of everyday habits that lead to unwise spending. To get back on track financially, there are probably dozens of bad spending habits you will have to root out and remove from your life. Here are a few things you should stop doing in order to begin the road to responsible spending:
- Stop driving aggressively. Not only do faster acceleration and higher speeds increase fuel consumption, they decrease your vehicle’s lifespan due to wear and tear. Not to mention the risk you’re taking for wrecking your vehicle or injuring yourself or others.
- Stop spending what you earn. Understandably, there are bills to be paid and food to be bought, but there is no reason why you can’t set aside a small portion of your income each month. Whether it’s $1, $10, or $100 set a firm goal to save a certain amount each month.
- Stop making late payments. Paying late will lower your credit score, which will make it harder to qualify for larger purchases like a home. Late payments can also cause you to have higher interest rates in the future.
- Stop giving too much money to your creditors. Did you know you can often cut your debts in half through debt settlement programs? There are many debt relief options for those looking to escape the high fees and interest rates of pesky creditors.
- Stop changing your oil so often. According to Alina Tugend, the standard oil change every 3,000 miles is outdated for cars newer than about 2005 (check your owner’s manual for specifics). Newer vehicles need oil changes every 5,000 to 7,500 miles, instead of every 3,000 miles.
- Stop buying so much bottled water. Some people spend around $1000 per year on bottled water alone when they could be spending just 50 cents every year on tap water.
Start Good Habits
- Start cutting down on subscriptions. Some subscriptions can seem like a good idea at the time you sign-up but are just unnecessary. Even subscriptions you truly enjoy like Netflix or Hulu should be among your first sacrifices on your path to financial responsibility.
- Start tracking finances. Once you start tracking every penny you make and spend, you’ll start to find a lot of money has been slipping through the cracks. You’re likely already wasting money on out-of-network ATM fees, fast shipping for online purchases, unnecessary eating out, lottery tickets, speeding tickets, and many other bad spending practices. Tracking your finances will help you find and end these practices.
- Start a blog. Though it does take effort to start a blog that brings in extra cash, the connections you make and lessons you learn will be invaluable. Blogging Away Debt offers a few blogging tips for those thinking about starting a debt blog.
- Start free hobbies. Hobbies can be expensive. Try to find at least two hobbies that don’t cost anything at all. If you already own a bike, start riding it more. Start running, walking your dog, or doing simple exercises for a specific amount of time every day. Discipline in one part of your life will train you to be disciplined in all other aspects of your life.
Though you may need to spend a bit of money to wipe away your debt, it’s comforting to know you are in control. Changing your habits only takes one second to start; you can have a debt-free attitude starting right now.