Debt is up there with death and divorce as one of the major causes of negative stress. The feeling of being overwhelmed by debt causes physical and mental pain, from headaches and sleeplessness to panic attacks and nervous breakdowns. Debt enables us to have instant gratification of our wants – without having to work hard to save up for them. This is a powerful driver for most people; like the caffeine hit in the first coffee of the day it leads to a sense of excitement and euphoria. But, once this short term feeling has passed the trough of depression can be deeper than before.
Instant gratification or impulse buying is a habit – you weren’t born with it, you developed it. Like all habits it can be broken and changed. Each time you see an item that you ‘must have’, count to five slowly, ask yourself what you would be prepared to go without in order to have the item, give yourself at least three reasons why you do not need it right now, congratulate yourself whenever you avoid an impulse buy. Like all new habits you may well struggle to apply these simple steps at first, but if you keep applying these steps you will eventually find yourself moving more quickly through the process to get to the self-congratulation step; giving you a positive buzz which is more sustainable than the gratification high of going into more debt.
If you find it difficult to avoid impulsive decisions to buy, take yourself away from temptation. Don’t spend time ‘window shopping’; find alternative ways to spend your time, ideally ways with little or no cost, like a walk in the park or reading those books on the bookshelf you never got round to. These diversionary activities will not only reduce the risk of you increasing your debt but will also help reduce the feelings of depression your debt has created.
Keep a regular list of every item of expenditure and update it every day. In this way not only will you see where money is running away from you, but also, the daily discipline will help you to reinforce your efforts to avoid unnecessary spending. Use this list to identify all the money available to repay your debts.
It is essential to know exactly what debt you have, to whom, at what interest rates and under what terms. List all your debts by order of the rate of interest – highest rate at the top of the list. Watch out for any debts where there are penalties for missing repayment dates, although their rates may be lower, the penalty charges will usually be very high. If you can, reduce repayments on lower rate debts and use the money to repay high rate debts faster.
Keep your debt list updated at least once a month. When a debt has be fully repaid – make a particular show of crossing it out, but keep it on the list to remind yourself of what you have achieved.
Enjoy Your Debt Free Life
By avoiding instant gratification spending, controlling daily spending, reducing your debts in a structured and disciplined way; you will become debt-free. When you do, congratulate yourself on your achievements, feel the pressure of stress releasing itself from your body and enjoy your life and those of the people around you.