Kelly Blodgett launched Money Gal Coaching with a goal of serving people who, like her, were burdened by debt. You can get her tips for paying down debt on a regular basis at Bring Me The News, in addition to the Money Gal Coaching website and Facebook page. Here is her latest story:
Debt comes in all shapes and sizes and it’s so normal we don’t even see how it affects our daily lives. When we choose to look at debt as something that consumes our monthly incomes, we can start to see how we ended up as a paycheck to paycheck nation. By paying off debt I have more flexibility in my income to say yes to things that make me happier, and you can too!
We have to reframe our thinking around debt
We all know debt isn’t necessarily a good thing and we are taught to try to avoid it, but do we actually avoid it? Maybe you take out loans for college because you can’t foot the bill with cash (who can) or your car is about to take the turn for the worst and you need an upgrade. It’s so normal to have payments in this country, I often don’t think we understand what we are actually signing up for.
When we think about ‘avoiding debt’ I don’t want you to just think of keeping your credit card balance as low as possible. I want you to think about anything that will require a payment in the future, even if it is 0% interest.
Payments can be a means to getting something that we want or need, but do we understand how these payments really affect our everyday lives?
Debt payments hold your income hostage
A ‘no big deal’ $200/month payment might not seem like a lot when you are signing up for it but I want you to think about it this way. If someone offered to send you a $200 check every month for the next three years, would that make you happy? What would you do with that money? How would it change your life?
When we think about debt as ‘is this something I can afford right now’ we are missing out on asking ourselves ‘how would this extra money per month change my life?’
When asking clients this same question, I often hear they would travel more, take a lower paying job that they have a passion for or build up their savings for early retirement.
The opportunity cost of debt is not being able to go after the things that truly matter to you, because you frankly can’t afford to!
Having more income means you have more flexibility
My partner Derek was recently approached by his company to take a job in the Pacific Northwest and to be honest, if we would have had debt there is no way we would have been able to make it work.
We said yes without knowing if I was going to be able to keep my job. We said yes knowing that I was going to lose all of my side hustles which added a lot of income to our house each year. But we said yes because we knew that if we had to we could live off one income for a period of time and still be ok.
Maybe making a move halfway across the country isn’t what you would do with flexibility in your income but would you keep your same job? Would you buy a larger house? Would you finally upgrade your car that has been on its last leg for three years?
Staying on budget to maintain happiness
While not having debt made the decision to move that much easier, it also wouldn’t be possible without staying on some sort of a budget. I know I lose a lot of people here but hear me out. When we overspend we go into debt. When we go into debt we bring those monthly payments back into our lives. Sticking to a budget allows us to afford our monthly expenses, save for irregular or unplanned items and reach our long term goals.
So here’s some homework for you. Add up all of your monthly payments, and yes ‘good debt’ counts such as your car, that couch you just financed or your student loans (you can exclude your mortgage).
How much money are you sending to debt each month? How would your life change if you were able to keep that money? What would you say yes to if you got to keep more of your paycheck each month?
If you are up for an exercise that goes a little deeper into this work, I encourage you to download my free 90-Day Expense Tracker tool to see just where you’re sending your money each month. It’s really eye-opening and helps you highlight areas you can reduce your spending as you are starting out.
Remember that one tiny change or step forward can lead to big things! Let me know how it goes and as always, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or when you want to celebrate your wins!
Disclaimer: Bring Me The News will receive a portion of the proceeds from readers who purchase a service from Money Gal Coaching via our articles.