5 Steps to Begin Your Debt-Free Journey
Here’s the deal- most people don’t like to talk about money. Trust me, I’m raising my hand over here on this side of your screen. But in the last year and a half, my relationship with money has started to shift. Money is a tough subject, especially if you have no idea what your relationship with it looks like. That’s right, I said relationship because that’s what it is. We have emotions that come up when we think of money, and like any other area of our life, a lot happens subconsciously that drives our decision-making.
Have you found yourself thinking things like:
“I don’t make enough money to pay on my student loans right now, so I’ll defer them until I make more money.”
“I can barely afford to pay my bills each month. How am I supposed to save?”
“My family and friends mean a lot to me. If they want to go out to eat, I’m going no matter what. $20 isn’t a lot of money for food and drinks. What’s the big deal?”
“I’ve always lived paycheck to paycheck. I’ve made it this long. Why should I care about what my credit looks like? I am doing just fine without dealing with creditors.”
Whether you are single or partnered up, living debt-free with a great credit score is something a lot of people only dream about. Historically, marginalized communities are left out of the conversation around economic development and financial literacy. Personally, as a black woman with my own glorious student loan debt, I have had to learn through how to shift my relationship with my money and set myself up for success. Now in my best Obama voice, let me be clear, I am NOT a guru nor do I profess to have this shit figured out. I’m smack dab in the trenches of my debt-free journey as I type this blog post. What I can offer are a few things that have helped my find my footing as I got started.
Be honest with yourself about where you are.
Listen. If you are gonna lie to yourself about how you make money moves, your desire to get out of debt will be just that, a desire. Be honest. If you know you eat out 5 days a week, say so. If you have debt and have no idea how much because it’s been years since you’ve taken a look at your credit report, ok then. This is a judgement-free zone, and the only way to open up the conversation with your money is to be vulnerable and tell yourself the truth.
Take a deep breath and hug yourself a sec.
Alright, so that may have taken a bit out of you emotionally, and that’s understandable. Show yourself some compassion. Acknowledge how difficult or freeing is was to show up for yourself in that way. Remember, money talk is hard, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve engaged in a healthy way. You may not be able to gather all the pieces right now, but at least they are out there, Hug or high five yourself. Hell, cry if you need to. Take some deep breaths. You’ve already gotten started.
Find a friend or mentor who is already making strides and ask questions.
I remember how difficult this step was for me. You may already be thinking, “You just asked me to bear my money mishaps to myself, and now you want me to share them with somebody else? Are you wildin’ out right now?!” Well, kind of. I didn’t say go find your boss or supervisor and tell them your money situation. A close friend, partner, or someone you trust who has shared some of their financial successes with you already is a good place to start. If you have student loans and know someone who has managed to rid themselves of their own load, see if they’d be open to sharing their plan with you. If you can’t think of anyone you know in your personal life, check out powerhouses like Patrice Washington, who shares her story of having to completely rebuild her life after serious financial hardship. She offers free resources, including her podcast “Redefining Wealth” and videos series. You are not alone on your journey. You are not weak in reaching out to others.
Write down three realistic goals you’d like to achieve within your current financial situation.
As to not overwhelm yourself, start small. Your achievements can be to go from eating out 5 times a week to three times a week and putting that money into your savings account. Maybe thinking of saving $1000 up front feels out of your reach. Save $100. Refer to step #1. Be realistic and honest with yourself about what you CAN do, without judgment. Then refer to step #3 for accountability and explore different ways to keep setting yourself up for success.
Write down three money-related topics you’d like to know more about.
Becoming debt-free means operating differently with your finances. You might not understand all the parts and pieces, and that is ok. This is a journey, not a quick get-out-of-debt-overnight scheme. So think about ways you want to expand your learning about money. Allow yourself to dream big and have fun! Are you interested in investments? Do you have any clue how interest rates affect your payback schedule? If you want to buy land, what’s the best way to make that happen? Building your knowledge base around money will help as you grow and move forward in your journey. I’m learning to have fun with it in my personal journey, and it helps when I start to feel overwhelmed discouraged. We’re learning a new skill set that will absolutely transform our lives.
This may be my longest blog post yet, and I’ve been blogging for several years now! I only share information that I relate to and experience myself, so if you’ve read this far, know I’m right here with you.
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