10 Habits of Debt-Free families and what you should do to stop normalizing your debt and start living debt-free.
Instead of living debt-free, we’re currently in a debt crisis, and we’re not being political when we say that. We are talking about a personal debt crisis in which the average person pays for many purchases, both small and large, with money they don’t actually have, therefore taking on more and more debt.
And, the scary thing is that many people consider debt to be normal, so they have no problem taking on debt to pay for things. But, just because everyone else is doing it, that doesn’t mean you need to as well.
The average person has a lot of debt – in fact, the average S.A household has over R105,000 in debt alone. Between high mortgages, disastrous credit card bills, student loans, car payments, all the way to loans for furniture, funerals, and weddings, there is just too much debt.
There are loans for everything, and sadly, many only look at the monthly payment to determine whether or not they can make their purchase.
Some look to debt as a way of affording things for the rest of their lives. Instead of being more realistic with their finances, many people even “budget” debt well into their future.
Think we’re joking?
Take new car loans, instead of paying off their car and keeping it for years, many people will upgrade once their car payment is done. Rather than being happy with what they have, including that eliminated debt, many think when the car payment is done, it’s time to get a new car and take on a new loan.
So, instead of debt only being temporary, the average person sees debt as a permanent situation.
Plus, in an attempt to feel normal, many people compare the amount of debt they have to that of others.
An example would be if you are 30 and the average 30-year-old has R100,000 worth of debt (We completely made that number up), a mortgage, student loans, appliance loans, a wedding loan, and more. You then use this amount as a “guide” to feel more comfortable about your debt and spending levels. So, instead of focusing on living debt-free, you may think it’s fine to have that much debt because it seems like everyone else your age has the same debt.
However, WHO CARES how much debt another person has? How exactly does knowing how much average debt a random 30-year-old has affected you?
Is that person you?
So, why would another person’s amount of debt even matter to you? That makes no sense!
Just because someone else has lots of debt does not mean that you should too. You never know, this amount may be breaking them on the inside even if they aren’t showing it.
Of course, not all debt is bad – it becomes bad when you are paying high-interest charges that are impossible to dig yourself out of, when you can’t afford necessities when you are experiencing financial stress when you aren’t saving for retirement, and more.
Continually taking on debt will take a toll on you, and it can lead to digging yourself further and further into a hole that just gets more and more difficult to dig yourself out of.
For the average person, debt can lead to a lot of problems.
After all, can you really be happy when you’re up to your eyeballs in debt?
Here are the10 Habits of Debt-Free Families by The National Debt Review Center and what you should do to stop normalizing your debt and start living debt-free.
Stop thinking that debt is normal.
Debt should not be normal. Just think about what life would be like if everyone was living debt-free? What if we only purchased things we could afford? And, if we did need to take on debt, what if we were more selective and careful when doing so?
You shouldn’t have the mindset that debt is a normal part of life because this leads to thinking it’s okay to use debt to pay for everything instead of focusing on living debt-free.
You should make sure that you can actually afford the purchases you are making, and not by just looking at the monthly payment. You should make sure to fully analyze your purchases, differentiate between wants and needs (this is discussed below), and budget more realistically for your purchases.
Taking on large amounts of debt is not something the average person will want to do; instead, you should prioritize living debt free so that you can be in control of your financial situation well into the future.
Stop with the excuses.
Everyone is guilty of making excuses, and we know that people will continue to make them until they realize that excuses are just that- excuses.
Just think about the last time you said: “That won’t work for me because (insert your excuse here).”
As debt counsellors or financial experts, we hear a lot of reasons from people who are using debt to pay for all sorts of purchases.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons why some people have debt, but there are just as many people making excuses for it.
The problem with making excuses is that this bad money habit can hold you back, which means that you may never reach your life goals or be living debt-free.
To put it simply, excuses prevent you from living the life you want. You’re giving up before you’ve even begun.
Have a budget.
If you don’t have a budget or if your budget is not a good one, then this may be why you are using debt to fund your lifestyle.
A good and realistic budget can help you manage your money better. Yes, a simple piece of paper where you jot down your budget will help you start living debt-free.
A budget can help you realize where you might be going wrong with your finances and how to fix any financial issues that you have. A budget will also help you realize why you are in debt and what you need to do to free yourself from it.
Many people are afraid to create a budget because it means they will have to finally face their spending. If this is why you don’t have a budget, then please, just face your fears so you can start living debt-free.
Realize that debt causes a lot of financial stress.
Just because you see that others have a car payment, mortgage, monthly home loans, and so on, doesn’t mean that you need to have all of that too.
Remember, debt adds a lot of financial stress to a person’s life. The amount of happiness you get from purchasing something can never match the amount of hardship having debt will add to your life.
Debt can cause a person to:
- Not reach retirement
- Not reach their dreams
- Have fewer days off
- Stress about keeping up with others
- Stress over paying bills
Living debt-free means you can be in control and live the life you want.
If you make the decision to stop normalizing your debt, you may be able to retire sooner, build an emergency fund, go on a dream vacation, and more.
Your credit card is not an income source.
Some people normalize their debt by thinking their credit cards are an income source.
Your credit card limit, especially a high one, does not mean you have money to spend on whatever you want.
Your credit card is not a new income source. If you treat your credit card this way, then you should cancel it now as you are going into unnecessary debt.
If you are using a credit card, you should be paying off that balance each month so that you are not racking up interest charges and late fees.
Stop thinking that you deserve everything you buy.
Yes, you may be awesome and think you deserve something, but should you really be buying it? Just because someone else bought a 100 inch 3D TV (or a mansion, nice car, gadgets, paid for a crazy-expensive wedding, etc.) that doesn’t mean you should as well.
You might think “oh, well they have a comparable job to mine, so, if they can afford it, then I can too.”
The reality is you have no idea how this person is paying for these things. Maybe they saved for years, or maybe they are just putting everything on credit cards.
If you think you deserve everything, you are falling into a vicious debt cycle that may never end. Instead, you should be realistic with your financial situation and only buy what you can truly afford.
Stop confusing wants with needs.
Some items are needs, but many of the things we buy are just wants. If you don’t realize the difference between your wants and needs, you may feel like you have to take on debt to fund your lifestyle.
Remember, the only things you actually need include a place to live, a certain amount of clothing, food, and water.
Some think cell phones, massive homes, gym memberships, dstv, going to restaurants, and so on are all necessary, but they really aren’t. If you can only pay for these things with debt, then you need to start cutting them out of your budget and your life.
Living debt-free will be much better than being tied to unnecessary things that you have funded by debt.
Quit buying things to impress others.
Many people normalize their debt because they think they need to impress others, or if someone else purchases something they should be able to do so as well.
Whether you are a young child and want that new toy everyone is playing with, or if you are a parent and are feeling the need to upgrade your house, car, etc., everyone has experienced wanting to keep up with someone else.
The problem is that you can go broke while trying to impress others.
You might spend money you do not have. You might put expenses on credit cards to, in a pretend world, “afford” things. You might even buy things you don’t really care about. The problems can go on and on.
This can lead to a lot of debt and potentially set your financial goals back years, if not decades.
You should stop caring about what other people are buying, and only do what makes you happy and what you can actually afford.
Make More Money.
At some point, after cutting everything you can from your budget, you’ll either be living debt-free or you won’t be living. Cutting your life to bare bones can work temporarily, but it’s not sustainable if you’re sitting in an empty room eating dried beans every night. If your current income can’t cover a realistic budget, consider either asking for a raise at work or finding a side gig to bring in additional money.
Finally, get out of the revolving debt cycle.
Do you feel like you are stuck in a never-ending debt cycle and can’t manage to start living debt-free?
Perhaps you keep getting out of debt but continue to fall back into it. That is what a debt crisis cycle is, and many people fall into this cycle and can’t seem to get out.
Falling into debt over and over again can lead to insane amounts of stress, unhappiness, sadness, and feelings of hopelessness. No one wants to experience those negative feelings.
But, we want to tell you that it is possible to get out of the debt cycle, finally start paying off debt once and for all, and start living debt-free.
In addition to taking the rest of the advice listed in this article, to get out of a debt cycle, you need to:
- Face your problem. To begin living debt-free, you need to realize why you keep falling into debt. By understanding the problem, you can begin to prevent yourself from falling back into a debt cycle.
- Add up your total debt. This is related to facing your problem, as adding up your total amount of debt will help you realize how to gain control of it. This will help you truly understand how much debt you are dealing with.
- Start paying off debt. Paying off debt can lessen your stress levels, allow you to have more money to put towards something else (such as retirement), stop paying interest fees, and more.
- Create a vision board. A visual reminder, like having your financial goal displayed in front of you, can motivate you towards living debt-free.
- Start an emergency fund. An emergency fund can help you get out of the revolving debt cycle. This is because if an emergency does arise, you won’t be forced to rely on debt in order to solve your situation. Instead, you’ll have your emergency fund to bail you out!
Why are you in debt? Do you want to start living debt-free? What does a debt-free life look like to you?