Debt can be thought of as a disease–probably social. Most of the time, it was acquired through poor decision making, possibly while competing with your friends, occasionally after having a few too many, often as an ego boost. Unfortunately, you can’t make it go away with a simple shot of penicillin. It takes work, commitment and dedication. Here are three steps to treating this particular affliction.
1. Burn it, bash it, torch it, toss it, disinfect. Get rid of the things that enable you to accumulate debt. If you keep using debt as debt, you will never have it all paid off. That’s like only taking 3 days of a 10 day antibiotic. Do you really want that itchy rash bloodsucking debt rearing its ugly head when you’ve got an important destination for your money? Take steps to protect yourself. Wrap that debt up and keep it away.
2. Quit buying stuff. Chances are, you have enough stuff. Do you really need that Tusken Raider bobble-head or the brushed titanium spork? They may make you feel better in the short term, but after breakfast, what have you gained? A fleeting memory, a bit of cleanup, and an odd ache that you can’t quite explain to your friends. Only buy the stuff you need, and make it things you will keep forever. If you do need to indulge, hold off for 30 days to see if it’s really worthwhile. If it’s really worth having, you can scratch that itch in a month with far fewer regrets.
3. Spend less. This is the obvious one. The simple one. The one that makes breaking a heroin addiction look like a cake-walk(My apologies to recovering heroin addicts. If you’re to the point that personal finance is important to you, you’ve come a long way. Congratulations!). Cut your bills, increase your income. Do whatever it takes to lower your bottom line and raise your top line. Call your utilities. If they are going to take your money, make them work for it. If they can’t buy you drinks or lower your payments, get them out of your life. There’s almost always an alternative. Don’t be afraid to banish your toxic payments. Eliminate your debt payments. This page has a useful guide to debt and how to clear it off.
Update: This post has been included in the Festival of Frugality.