Are You In Denial About Your Debt?

When you think and write about budgeting day in and day out, you start to see things that are lost on most financial civilians.

For instance, I watch my neighbors driving in new cars, pulling up to beautifully decorated homes, and leaving again to eat in nice restaurants. But all I see are cars that aren’t paid for, homes that are mortgaged to the hilt, dinner on credit cards and a whole lot of stress.

If I think about it too hard, I fear I’ll become a crazed proselytizer, “You need a budget! Your life would be so much less stressful! I can help you!”

Of course, I don’t know the details of their lives. And maybe they are happy and healthy and not at all stressed about money. Maybe. But probably not.

Study after study keeps telling us, what we at YNAB have known for a long time (because we see it every day): Most people live very, very close to the financial edge, just one small emergency away from total devastation.

The good news is, if you are saddled with debt, you aren’t alone. The bad news is it could be tempting (because everyone is doing it, right?) to accept it as normal and settle for life as is. A couple things to think about:

Guilt Is Robbing You

When you are living with a lot of debt, sometimes, even when you are doing something fun (eating out, vacationing, buying fill-in-the-blank, driving that new car) you can’t really enjoy it. Somewhere deep down inside, or late at night staring at the ceiling, you feel bad. No matter how much you try to stuff it down, it’s there and it feels awful.

Stop the Shame Cycle

Despite the fact that debt is common—something so many people are dealing with—it can feel shameful. Don’t let shame stop you from being honest about your situation and taking the steps to change it. There is no sense wasting time feeling bad about what happened when you could be spending that time and energy crafting a plan to live differently.

Your Kids Are Watching

I don’t think any parent wants to teach their kids that credit cards are the key to eternal happiness. Or that going into debt is just a part of growing up. We want to teach them the value of a dollar and the virtue of patience, and what it feels like to work hard for something. And they are watching. If you aren’t motivated to get out of debt for yourself, it might just be one of the most powerful lessons you teach your children.

You Are Settling

When you are living with debt, you probably don’t even realize the toll your finances are taking on you. If you’ve lived like this for some time, you might not even remember what it is like to not feel stressed and fearful and guilty all the time. You might forget what it is like to sleep deeply and wake up refreshed. If you knew what freedom felt like—and the options and opportunities you could take advantage of when you aren’t paying off minimums and overdraft fees every month—you would do everything you could to get out of debt. There is so much more to life when you are free.

However, You Can Get Out Of Debt…

I’m not going to tell you that it will be without effort, but you can get out of debt. And you might find that it is a lot easier than living under the crushing weight of your current situation.

Track every dollar. Pay attention to what is really important to you. Simplify where you can. Commit to being free of your debt and getting to funnel your money toward the things that matter most. You will never regret taking this step toward living a fuller life than you ever thought possible.


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