Note: This is a post from Joan Otto, Man Vs. Debt community manager. Read more about Joan.
So how’s your war on debt going?
Ours has been a rough slog lately. I’ve shared about that in my past few updates, and one thing that has stood out in the comments is how many others in our community are also going through rough times.
Unemployment. Medical emergencies. Car problems. The list goes on and on.
And I’m beginning to realize that, while I don’t have “the perfect” advice on getting out of debt, I do know a lot about what NOT to do.
So today, that’s what I want to talk about – how NOT to win this war.
1. Underestimate the power of the enemy – or yourself.
It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.
~ Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”
Want to lose the war against your debt? Underestimate it. Put your head in the sand. Pretend it’s no big deal. By convincing yourself that it’s not a big fight, you’re not steeling yourself for the reality that it is.
The dollar amount of your debt doesn’t matter. What matters is that you KNOW the dollar amount. You know your creditors. You’re not surprised when the bills come. You’re not HIDING the bills when they come.
Doing those things is a sure way to lose the war.
Meanwhile, you’ll also lose the war if you don’t know yourself. What are your strengths – good at savings? Great with making extra money on the side? And what are your weaknesses – tendencies to impulse-buy, a failure to have an emergency fund, something else?
Know your enemy. Know yourself. If you don’t, it’s incredibly easy to get sucked into denial, to let bad habits accumulate, to slip out of the good habits.
2. Fail to take offensive action.
A good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution applied ten minutes later.
~ Gen. George S. Patton Jr.
Paralysis by analysis. Oh, we’re so famous for this in the personal finance realm. We debate and debate… what’s “the best” way to pay off debt? What ways could I come up with to make more money on the side? These aren’t bad questions – IF you pick a solution and act.
The bad part is when we get so caught up in the planning, the spreadsheets and the ideas… that we fail to take action.
Get rid of the perfectionism that keeps you from doing the things you need to do to win the war.
Pick one battle – one Very Next Step – and fight it. Rack up a win. Then another, then another. One at a time.
They add up – when you’re taking action and not just playing defense.
3. Wave the white flag.
If you are going through hell, keep going.
~ Winston Churchill
It’s going to feel AWFUL, fighting this war. You are going to be bruised, beaten, kicked around, discouraged, tormented and abused.
Your debt is a BIG enemy, and it WILL get in some solid shots against you. There will be those weeks, months, maybe even YEARS when all you’re doing, it seems, is treading water.
Don’t give up. Don’t wave the white flag. If it feels like hell, keep going, because above everything else, you don’t want to lose the ground you’ve gained and have to start over later.
It’s not easy. Sometimes, it’s an act of such incredible faith and determination to keep fighting that it seems impossible.
You can do it. Keep fighting.
So what’s keeping YOU from winning your war on debt? What pitfalls or minefields should the rest of us look out for? How do you overcome them?
Comment and let us know!