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Freeing Yourself From the Financial Ball & Chain

Many people imagine that using a budget would be like strapping a ball & chain to their leg, when it fact, it’s the opposite — a tool that leads to great financial freedom.

But there is a financial ball & chain. It’s called debt. It’s actually far worse than a ball & chain. It’s a joy-killer, marriage-stressor, and roadblock to a financial life that works.

I know because I once had $20,000 of credit card debt.

Today, having lived free of all debt except a reasonable mortgage for a long time, it drives me crazy that so many people have so much debt, and that some people are so resigned about it they think debt is unavoidable.

The truth is, it’s possible to get and stay debt-free, and that’s a much, much better way to live.

Practical steps toward getting out of debt

If you have debt, here are my recommendations.

First, find out how much debt you have. Just add it up. The truth can be hard to face, but you have to know exactly where you are if you are going to get to a better place.

Next, think about why you ended up with so much debt. While I know many people who accumulated debt because of some horrible life events, such as a divorce, a long illness, or unemployment, it’s helpful to take as much responsibility as you can. Financially speaking, what could you have done differently?

This isn’t about beating yourself up about it; it’s about taking responsibility. What I’ve found is that when it’s someone else’s fault or due to circumstances beyond your control, it’s much harder to get and stay out of debt. But when you own it, it works out better.

The next step is to commit today to go no further into debt. It’ll help to tell someone about your debt — how much you have and how committed you are to being done with debt once and for all. In fact, with so much image management going on in our culture, working up the nerve to tell someone about your debt may be the most challenging — and helpful — step you can take toward getting out of debt (and it might prompt the other person to come clean about their debt!)

Take whatever steps are necessary to keep yourself from going further into debt. I’m not a fan of one-size-fits-all advice, like “no one should ever own a credit card,” but if debt has become a problem for you, it would be the better part of wisdom to get rid of your credit cards—at least for the foreseeable future.

Next, fix your payments, and then read these articles for additional guidance.

If you’re really serious about pursuing a life of financial freedom, I’d strongly encourage you to get a group together—whether a church small group, a group of work associates, a group of neighbors, or a group of friends—and go through my seven-week Money. Purpose. Joy. video course.

The seven-segment video package costs $40 and each discussion guide is just $10—far less expensive than a popular financial course now being taught in churches. Money. Purpose. Joy. provides a comprehensive, practical plan for creating a financial life that works tremendously well.

Keep in mind that it may take some time to get out of debt. In my case, it took over four years. Be patient. Work the plan. If you’re consistent about it, one day you’ll wake up and you’ll be debt-free, and that will be one amazing day.

If you haven’t done so already, sign up for a free subscription to this blog. Twice a week you’ll receive ideas and encouragement for using money well.

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