Seven Debt Busters
Today, in these uncertain times, when our energy bills are constantly rising, food prices are skyrocketing, and living costs seem out of control, many are worried about debt more than ever before. More and more people are using their credit cards to pay for food and basic needs. A UK survey in April 2023 showed that 700,000 households missed their rent, mortgage, or utility payments due to the rising cost of living and their income not keeping up with rising inflation prices.
On a personal level, several years ago we experienced the emotional and psychological trauma that was caused by debt as our mortgage lender was ringing up constantly, even on Sabbath! They were hounding us for the next payment even when we had already agreed on an amount and the date when payments would be made.
The credit card companies, who are happy to take the minimum payments, know full well that the interest you pay is almost as much as the minimum payment you made, so, in effect, you only pay less than 5% off your debt. What is the way out of this cycle?
1. Don’t Bury Your Head in the Sand
The most important thing to remember when you are in financial difficulty is not to be in a state of denial. Generally, when people consider their definition of debt, they often make the mistake of excluding their loans. But the reality is, anything you don’t own outright, if you are making payments on it, is a debt. Examples of this could include mortgage, car finance, credit cards, store cards, catalogues, buy now pay later agreements, and so on. We are not saying that all debt is bad; as there is good debt and bad debt. A lot depends on how it is managed and the purpose of the borrowing. In everything, common sense and knowing how you will repay needs to be applied.
The first step in managing your debts is to list all the amounts you owe and the dates when the payments are due. Create a budget which will enable you to work out your monthly expenditure, and from this, you will need to decide what is a priority compared to a luxury, and make adjustments accordingly. You will need to identify what are needs (e.g., food, accommodation costs) and wants (e.g., new car, latest fashionable clothes). Remember the words of Proverbs 24:3, “Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established” (NKJV).
2. Develop a Repayment Plan
In order to develop a payment strategy, you need to have a clear understanding of your income
coming in as well as your expenditure. The goal is to spend less than you earn. Firstly, look to see if you have any assets you can sell, even small things such as clothes you no longer wear, old books, things in the attic, etc. All of this could be sold through garage sales, online, etc. This can assist with paying off smaller debts, but the larger ones may require you to sell bigger items, such as cars, houses (consider downsizing), and other types of investments.
When making a decision on whether to sell more significant items, you need to consider your
lifestyle needs and then go on to review any excess savings you have. It is pointless having large amounts of savings acquiring little interest when you might be paying a higher interest on your debts. Finally, look into reducing your living expenses and canceling any subscriptions.
3. Stop Falling Further into Debt
No matter how tempted you may feel to purchase “that great deal,” resist the urge to use your credit card. This may be a challenging decision to make, but if you are a person who cannot manage their spending and work within an affordable repayment plan, then it is the only sensible course of action.
- Another good practice is to start repaying off the smallest debt first. Once you can get rid of this one, use the amount you were paying on this first debt to add onto the next debt, in addition to what you were already paying. This will then increase your monthly payments, saving you interest in the long term.
4. Perform Plastic Surgery
- If you have been tempted to spend on your credit card without any sense of control, the best advice we can give is to get a pair of scissors and cut your card into pieces. The psychological effect of this will be the beginning of the process of ending debt now, instead of accumulating any more new debt.
5. Don’t Suffer in Silence
The worst thing you can do if you have severe financial difficulties is to keep quiet. Don’t be embarrassed to seek out advice and help. There are numerous organizations from which you can seek assistance in the UK: Step Change (https://www.stepchange.org), Citizens Advice (https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/), and Christians Against Poverty (https://capmoney.org/). Each country will have their own organizations that you can approach for free advice. Remember, a problem shared is a problem halved. A trusted friend could also represent a valuable starting point. The most important thing is that you seek help and free yourself from the bondage of debt.
6. Establish Accountability
We all, from time to time, need someone who can support us, someone who can encourage us, someone who can be an accountability partner for us. An accountability partner is someone who supports another person to keep a commitment or maintain progress on a desired goal. The mere fact you are reporting to someone ensures you keep the commitment you have made to get yourself out of debt.
7. Reward Yourself
When you begin paying off your debts to become debt free, creating a reward system is crucial to give you something positive to work toward. This will motivate you to keep pressing on toward your ultimate goal. Practice the principle of rewarding yourself as you pay off each debt. For example, go out for lunch when your first debt is paid off. For the second debt, maybe an extra special dinner. When the third debt is paid off, you could be rewarded by purchasing something for the house or one new clothes item. The fourth and final debt could be rewarded by you going away for a weekend. Make sure you do not get into more debt through your reward system, but rather seek ways to motivate yourself to maintain your newly disciplined structure of systematic payments.
This statement by T. DeWitt Talmage about the seriousness of debt provides an additional motivation for the debt-free journey: “Debt ruins as many households and destroys as many fine characters as alcohol; it is the devil’s mortgage on the soul, and he is always ready to foreclose. Pay all your bills. Look every man in the face, conscious that you owe the world no more than it owes you. Be indebted for nothing but love, and even that be sure you pay in kind, and that the payments are frequent.”