Every day, American consumers are inundated by advertisements telling us how we should live and what we should buy to be happy. Those are messages that begin as soon as we’re able to watch television or go online. After a lifetime of that kind of indoctrination, it’s no wonder we end up with a feeling of entitlement and an unrealistic need for things. Left unchecked, those feelings can have a substantial and startling effect on our finances as we turn to credit, installment loans and other personal types of loans to buy more and more things.
When we can’t afford to buy what we want or when we eventually find ourselves facing a mountain of unpaid debt, we say things like, “That’s just for rich people,” “I’ll never be able to get out of debt,” or “I don’t make a lot of money, so some amount of debt is necessary for my life.” Or, we can fool ourselves by saying things like, “I’ll start paying off my debts when I get my tax refund,” or “Things will be better once I get a raise.”
Simply put, it’s easier to put something off than to face it head on and aggressively. But, the fact is, we can – and should – work hard to change those attitudes, tuning out advertisers’ messages, turning away from the negative scripts that rule our lives, and instead embracing a more positive approach that can enable us to pay off debts and even save for our futures. Changing behavior – especially entrenched behavior – isn’t easy, but here are a few simple steps to get you started:
- Redefine “enough.” Learn to tune out ads that tell you to buy more stuff and stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. Your life and your financial goals are a lot different than anyone else’s, so put your own real needs first and commit to your end goal of being debt free and financially solvent, which is more valuable than any “thing” you could buy.
- Make a budget. Yes, it’s difficult, but it’s a powerful tool in knowing how much you’re spending and how much you need to cut back in order to live within your means. It also identifies areas where you’re spending too much.
- Commit to cash. Credit is OK when you’re debt free and using it wisely, but if you already have debt, sticking to cash for purchases is a great way to rein in spending and keep yourself from going deeper into debt.
- Tackle debt. Look for a debt consolidation program to slash high interest rates and put your debt repayment plan on the fast track. These programs can get you organized about your repayment plan by rolling all of your debt payments into one monthly payment.
- Start saving. Commit to setting aside even a little each month to afford unexpected or emergency expenses not addressed in your budget. This is a great way to avoid turning to credit in a pinch.
- Educate yourself. Enroll in a credit counseling program to learn good habits to help you set a realistic budget, save money and avoid debt. Many debt consolidation plans include them.
Altering your mindset takes dedication, but living debt free and building a strong financial future is worth the effort. Make the commitment today to do just one thing – just one – to turn your financial life around and see how good it feels to take back control of your money and your life.