Paying off debt, for many, can seem like a never-ending cycle. You make some progress only to fall back into debt again when new a crises occur. Whether you succumb to the urge to spend or have an emergency arise, it always seems to be one step forward and three steps back when it comes to getting out of debt. It’s easy to feel like a rat in a wheel, trapped and going nowhere.
While this is a common experience, it’s not the only option for those who want to be debt free. If you want financial independence and control of your finances, keeping these three things in mind will help you break the debt cycle and achieve the freedom you desire.
#1 – The Way You Pay Off Debt Doesn’t Matter
There are a variety of ways to pay off debt – from the debt avalanche, debt snowball, or debt snowflake approach. The approach you use is up to you and depends largely on your circumstances. Some will argue that the avalanche method will save more money over time. They’re right, it will in nearly every circumstance.
Here’s the rub though…it doesn’t matter which method you use to pay off your debt! What matters is that you pay it off. Math provides a powerful rational argument, but debt is largely emotional so you need to find what works best for you and run with it. Instead of deliberating endlessly over which method to use and then second guessing yourself once you do pick a pay off route, make a plan and stick to it. Your commitment, more than your method, will form a new financial foundation that doesn’t include the debt cycle.
#2 – Breaking the Debt Cycle Requires an Emergency Fund
Paying off debt means nothing if you don’t set yourself up for success post debt payoff. This is where having an emergency fund comes into play. You might be thinking, “How can I build an emergency fund while paying off debt?” You won’t build it up immediately to where experts say you need to be, and you don’t need to. However, you do want to have a cushion to fall back on as emergencies do happen. Instead, focus on starting out trying to reach $500 then $1,000 as that will cover you in many situations.
The benefit of having the emergency fund is two-fold. First, it keeps you from using your credit card as a safety net. You won’t get out of debt for good with that mentality – you’ll only continue to fall back into debt. Secondly, it helps you create a savings mindset. It will also help teach you what a true emergency is and what it isn’t. By having the fall back of the emergency fund, you set yourself up for success instead of always relying on a credit card to bail you out.
#3 – Paying off Debt is not An Event
Succeeding at paying off debt can feel like winning a race. It makes sense, on one level; you’re done paying off the given creditor so you can slow down and move on. However, as any trained athlete will tell you, they don’t give up training after the race. They’d never be able to run in another one if they did. Their attitude won’t allow them to, as racing is a way of life for them.
Becoming debt free is the same way. It’s not an event; rather it can help create a mindset that focuses on being wise with finances and makes money work for you instead of being enslaved to it. Like the athlete, it comes down to having a changed attitude. That changed attitude helps you navigate the waters of managing your money without falling into the debt trap again.
It is possible to break the cycle of debt. You must want it, but you must also choose to live a new way.