These are the days of quantified self. Using simple phone apps, we track our steps, count calories, analyze our sleep patterns and more; so that we begin to dwindle our lives down to mere numbers. Useful for goal setting? Yes! Potentially dangerous. Yes.
It’s way too easy to define ourselves by numbers.
How much we weigh. How much money we make. Our credit scores. And, most unfortunately, how much debt we have. Some of these numbers we flaunt, some we try to hide. (Though hiding the number doesn’t stop us from dwelling on it day in and day out.)
Problem is, the more we dwell, the harder it gets to actually do something. In debt, we let the number hang over our lives, drip frustration into our daily activities, and slowly come to define us. No more.
Debt should not degrade us. And there’s certainly no way to beat debt if we can’t reckon with it. Here’s how to face your debt number and NOT be ashamed of it.
Facing Your Debt Number Head On
Repeat after me:
Nearly everyone has debt.
Nearly everyone has debt.
Nearly EVERYONE has debt.
Got it? Good. Debt is NOT something to be ashamed of. Whether it’s a credit card, student loan, auto loan, a mortgage, or even payday loans, we almost all have debt. Honestly, can you think of anyone in your peer group that can afford to pay for something like a house or a car in cash?
I didn’t think so.
So why do we allow debt to make us feel so ashamed? I think the first problem is classifying debt as “good” or “bad”. In my book, owing anyone money for anything is less than ideal. And paying interest on it only makes it worse. But it’s so easy to classify certain types of debt as “good” or “bad” and feel ashamed of the “bad”.
Let’s face it. Debt sucks. Interest rates really suck. But sometimes they’re also a simple fact of life.
Take a look at your debt number. Face it head on. Don’t bury it in the sand out of shame. Don’t pretend like it doesn’t exist. Own it. It’s yours. Once you own it, you can eradicate it. You simply can’t win a battle you’re too afraid to show up for.
Making a Plan is the Best Plan of Action
I’ll never forget the first time I told my husband (then boyfriend) that I had debt. Until then, it was largely a private battle I was waging. And I wanted to keep it that way. I figured I’d tell people about it after it was all paid off... or tell people about it never.
But we were talking about moving in together and I knew it wouldn’t be fair to him to keep my debt a secret. So I shoved my shaking hands into my pockets so he wouldn’t see how nervous I was and ‘fessed up.
Why was I so scared? I was afraid it would alter his viewpoint of me. That he would suddenly think I’m not the responsible adult he thought I was. I feared I would change in his eyes.
Instead, he looked at me calmly and said, “Do you have a plan?” I uttered a quick “of course I do!” He nodded and said, “Okay then. If you have a plan, what’s the big deal?”
And he was right. Yes, it took me a long time to form that plan and many (many) mistakes along the way. But I had a plan and I was sticking to it. Eventually, the plan worked and I paid off my credit card debt. Now I’m proceeding to do the same with my student loans.
Making a plan is always the best course of action. Debt doesn’t (usually) happen overnight, so why do we think we can get rid of it overnight? We can’t. We just can’t. It takes work, it takes planning, it takes facing it head on, and it takes action. Then perseverance and diligence will win the game.
So sit down and make a plan if you haven’t already. And if you have a plan, keep going. Chip away at your debt each day and that number can turn into your badge of honor. Instead of thinking, “I have $x in debt,” you can think, “I paid off $x of debt!!!” A major win in anyone’s book!
Shannon McNay is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.