If you have been following me or have been in the City Girl Savings community for a while, then you’d know that I have been in debt and out of debt multiple times. I have been in deep credit card debt because I failed to budget and control my spending. I have also been in debt because I thought I was investing rather than spending. My debt free journey wasn’t a pretty one.
In fact, my debt free journey was a lot longer than it should have been. You’d think paying off debt once would be enough to keep a person out of debt. I went through my journey alone. To be honest, I’d gotten myself into debt, and only I could get myself out of it. I want to share with you a few things no one tells you about the debt free journey. This is solely my experience, but if you can learn from my mistakes, then it was all worth it!
What No One Tells You about the Debt Free Journey
#1 It’s not an overnight process
I think this may be an obvious debt free journey observation, but it must be said. It’s not that I didn’t think getting out of debt would take a short amount of time, but I really underestimated the amount of time I did need.
The thing about accumulating debt is that it takes minutes (literally) to put yourself years behind. I remember getting a promotional offer for a new credit card – spend $5000 in the first 3 months and get 100,000 points or whatever. I easily spent $5000, I got the reward points, but I spent so much time and money (thanks interest) paying it off.
Getting out of debt took me years. I thought my income would cover my debt free journey and it would be over relatively quickly, but I was wrong. Things always came up that required financial attention, and that meant less money could go towards my extra debt payments.
Just the thought of how long it can take to get out of debt may seem daunting, but the longer you wait to get out of debt, the longer it will be before you can really start building your wealth. Understand and accept the fact that it will take time to get out of debt, but don’t let that stop you from trying. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
#2 You absolutely need a budget to be successful
I truly believe that a lack of proper budgeting is what contributed to me getting into debt the first time. I didn’t understand what I could afford, and that resulted in me using credit cards to buy things I shouldn’t have. Now that I’m debt free, I only spend on credit cards what I can afford to pay back in the same month I spend.
If you don’t understand your numbers, you are pretty much blindly using credit. Little purchases that seem easy to pay off can add up quickly. Not to mention, if something comes up and you need to spend the money that was supposed to go towards your credit card, you’re now left with a balance rolling over.
A proper budget is the foundation for financial success. If you have debt, get your budget set up so you can see what you can afford to put towards your debt payments. If you don’t have debt but want to use your credit cards for the perks, get your budget set up so you can see exactly what you can afford to spend on your cards that can be paid off immediately.
#3 Get to the root of what caused the debt
I feel like the focus is so heavy on paying off debt that we lose sight of what got us into debt in the first place. I’m not necessarily talking about student loans (unless you took more than you needed and spent it on things you shouldn’t have). I’m talking about what drove you to use credit when you didn’t have the money.
Getting to the root of what caused you to get into debt is going to be so valuable for staying out of debt once everything is paid off. If you don’t fix the true issue, you could end up back in debt.
The first time I was in debt, it was because of a lack of budgeting, a lack of spending control, and a desire to have what I want when I wanted it. This wasn’t the exact reason I got into debt the second time, but a lot of the deeper issues were there that second time.
The second time I got into debt was because I went crazy with spending money on marketing my business (this one actually). I saw how much website traffic I was getting when I paid for marketing, and I wanted that non-stop. I didn’t have a budget that outlined how much I could afford to spend on advertising. I didn’t have control over how much I was spending. I justified all of credit card spending on the fact that I was “investing” in my business.
Marketing can be a black hole. I did not see a return on my investment, yet I continued to spend money I didn’t have on advertising. Completely different from the first time I got into debt. I was no longer accumulating material things and experiences. However, the same root cause came out to play.
#4 Don’t think you can’t get back into debt
This leads me to the final thing no one tells you about the debt free journey. Just because you got yourself out of debt the first time does not mean you won’t get back into debt. I learned this lesson the hard way.
I really convinced myself that I was doing things differently. I tricked myself into thinking I had a handle on my credit card usage. The reality was that I was spending money I didn’t have because I wanted what I wanted when I wanted. The exact same root cause that got me into debt in the very first place.
Mark my words. If you do not get to the true issue of what caused your debt in the first place, you will very much likely end up back in debt. You have to fix the true issue to get debt free and stay debt free. It’s not easy to take a look in the mirror, but it’s so important.
We all make mistakes. Instead of kicking yourself and feeling bad about where you are, promise yourself that you will fix the true issue. Get to a mental headspace where your debt does not control or overpower you. You can get out of debt and stay out of debt, but only if you do the work. Trust me, it’s totally worth doing the work!
So, what should you do if you have debt?
I don’t believe you need a debt management program to help you get out of debt. I don’t believe you need to remove debts on your credit reports to improve your score. I believe you need a solid budget and debt repayment plan. You also need to want to do the work and understand that the journey will not happen overnight.
If you need help setting up a solid budget and debt repayment plan, schedule a free consultation with me right now.
Related: 5 Mindset Shifts to Help You Manage Debt
I’ve helped plenty of clients pay off their debt (the right way). If you’re willing to do the work, make the investment and put in the time, then make the move! The longer you keep putting off your debt, the longer it will be until you’re debt free. What worries you about the debt free journey? How are you making moves to pay off your debt? Post a comment below to share!
2 thoughts on “What No One Tells You about the Debt Free Journey”
Dealing with debt? Check out a few key lessons to keep in mind while paying down your debt! @carapetersen @ashleyjoann @brigid @djparro @taradawn4 @alynch124 @hillbushway @roxanareeves
Though my journey was longer and harder than it likely should have been, I wouldn’t change my experience for anything. I learned a lot and it’s made me the person I am today, especially with my finances!