Now more than ever, many people are beginning to wonder how they can pay off debt in order to reduce the stress of their daily lives. Whether you find yourself barely making ends meet, or you have major savings goals, paying off debt can certainly be a good place to start in reaching your financial goals.
What you probably have not considered about becoming debt free is that in doing so, you will become an inherently happier person. One of the aspects of debt that is rarely ever mentioned is the mental strain that the debt looming over your shoulders has on your daily life.
Those who are able to live a debt-free lifestyle are able to take care of their basic needs while also maintaining the funds to travel, spend time with family, and save for the things they may need in the future like retirement.
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The Trap of the Materialistic Mindset
Research done by a Psychology professor, Tim Kasser, at Knox College suggests that a mindset focused on material goods may be a negative trait in the personality. In fact, the study he conducted found that there is a serious link between shopping addiction and mental issues like depression and antisocial behaviors.
This study has been reviewed by many other experts on the human mind. There seems to be a general consensus that purchasing items has a temporary joy attached to it. That “retail therapy” as our society has labeled it is actually a mask for a much deeper psychological problem which is not a healthy way of coping.
Unfortunately this materialistic mindset is often directly linked with high debt to pay off. People who are trying to mask an underlying mental condition are more likely to run up a credit card bill that they are not able to easily pay off. Thus, they are more likely to have a connection between high debt and a mental issue like depression or anxiety.
The Relationship Between Debt and Stress
The link between stress and debt might seem fairly cut and dry, but there have actually been quite a few studies done and there is more to it than there might seem. In fact, studies show that debt is reported as one of the largest stress factors for more than 60% of people who are living in America. Among the top of the list was also healthcare related financial stressors and the state of the economy.
Most often, people report emergency financial stress to be their biggest source of financial stress. In fact, more than 60% of people report that they would not be able to handle an emergency that costs $1,000 or more. These same people worry about their own ability to save money toward their eventual retirement.
Additionally, when it comes to the economy, many people find themselves worried about their ability to overcome unforeseen obstacles as they relate to the economy. A fiscal recession, for example, may affect someone in a way that they did not expect.
Psychologists suspect that the stress that is associated with debt is actually one of the factors that perpetuates the problem. What that means, in a nutshell, is that when someone is overwhelmed by their stress, they may be more inclined to do a little “retail therapy.” As discussed in the previous section, this behavior is temporary and will ultimately only lead to more and more debt.
All of this to say that learning how to live debt-free is truly a lifestyle change that requires some serious habit changing mindsets. These financial issues will not get better if the behavior behind the issue is not also addressed.
One of the biggest issues standing in the way of your ability to become debt-free might actually be your own negative behaviors. Learning to overcome these may be difficult, but the payoff can be huge in the long run.
The Link Between Feeling Better and Living Debt Free
People are motivated by tangible results. This is why getting one room in your house organized can often motivate you to complete another organization project. This feeling, much like the happiness gleaned from indulging in a little retail therapy, is addictive. We thrive from feeling accomplished.
When we set our mind to accomplishing a goal to live debt free, we will feel really good about the small steps accomplished along the way to make a dent in that goal.
Further, when people begin to see that they have actually created some extra wiggle room in the midst of their once tight budget, they tend to see their money a little differently. This means that instead of spending all that extra money, they may be able to do things like put that money in savings for retirement, or save for their children’s future. These healthy habits can also be quite addictive especially when the once strained budget can begin to see the fruits of the labor.
So, How Can You Be Debt Free?
Much like any major life choice, the choice to live debt-free is one that should be measured carefully and planned for accordingly. Paying off debt can be overwhelming and different situations are going to call for much different plans when addressing the debt you are dealing with.
The first step you need to take is to lay it all out on the table. Make some kind of visual representation that shows you where your money goes each month. For some people, seeing it in writing is enough to spark the desire to make a change.
Depending on the amount of debt you are juggling, you may consider debt relief services such as debt negotiation or a settlement program.
Make a Long-Term Goal
This process is not going to be completed in a day. In fact, it might actually take quite a few months to begin to see a
real difference in the amount of money you are saving by choosing to live debt-free. However, knowing what your end goal is to begin with can be a great motivation tool for pushing through to the end. You should have a written plan with your short-term and long-term goals laid out in writing to keep you motivated.
No matter how dire the situation is with your current debt payments, there is always a hope for a brighter future. Paying off your debt will lead to reduced stress and anxiety as well as provide you the financial means to spend your money on the things you love.