This guest post is by Ben Edwards of MoneySmartlife.com. His book “Debt Heroes,” which chronicles the stories of 21 people who got out of debt, was published in December.
Get Rich Slowly readers may download a free copy of the book from Sunday, March 24, through Thursday, March 28 on Amazon.com.
Ask anyone struggling to pay off big loans whether debt is oppressive and their answer will likely be yes.
As you may know, debt demands regular interest payments regardless of whether you can afford them. The hard-earned money you pay in interest comes out of your barely full pockets and goes into the coffers of people who have more money than they need.
If this type of financial oppression sounds familiar it’s because it’s been going on for centuries. For example, William Wallace battled against an occupying English king who demanded payments from the Scots.
There are several lessons we can learn about paying down debt from Wallace’s struggle in the War of Scottish Independence as it was portrayed in the Hollywood movie “Braveheart.”
1) Stick to your mission
Wallace was doubted by some of the Scottish nobility. His ability to lead and succeed were questioned. Some of his own countrymen tried to sabotage his efforts, but he didn’t let that stop him. He was convinced he was fighting a worthy cause and pressed on regardless of the lack of support.
When you’re battling against debt you might make some lifestyle decisions that your friends and family question. They might not agree with your choices and may not support your efforts. However, you know it’s best for your future to get rid of your debt. So ignore their judgmental comments, hurtful actions, or demands to borrow money, and pay off what you owe.
2) Be aggressive
Wallace knew what he was fighting for and wasn’t afraid to go on the offensive. He led a surprisingly bold attack into England to take the fight to his oppressors.
Although you’re not fighting for the freedom of your country, you are working toward the financial freedom of being debt free. Don’t be afraid to go on the offensive against debt.
Whether you’re negotiating medical debt or bargaining with credit card companies, the time you spend reducing the amount you owe, your interest rate, or coming up with a new payment schedule is worth it.
3) Don’t give up
All battles have setbacks. The War of Scottish Independence had its ups and downs, but the people believed in what Wallace was fighting for. They kept on fighting even after his death and finally won independence.
Paying off debt is a journey and you will have setbacks along the way. How you handle those bad times will determine how long it takes you to get rid of your debt. Expenses come up that might push back your payoff schedule. If you let those mishaps discourage you and take away your momentum that will only lengthen the amount of time you’re in debt. Don’t give up on your mission to be debt free.
4) Sacrifice is necessary
Wallace gave up a lot to lead the fight for independence. He lost a “normal” life and the lives of many friends in battle.
Luckily your life isn’t in physical danger from debt, but you’ll probably have to make other sacrifices to get out of debt. There may be expenses you thought you could never cut, but some of those things might have to go in order to pay down debt. Getting a second or third job may mean giving up your free time or taking a break from a hobby you love.
The good news is that these sacrifices aren’t forever. Dave Ramsey uses the term living like no one else to describe how delayed gratification can pay off later in life. It might be really stressful not to take a break and go on vacation, but how nice would it be to wait and go on a debt-free vacation?
5) Pay off smart
One of the ways William Wallace found success in battle was by avoiding the standard military tactics of the time. To offset the disadvantages of less military might, he played to the strengths of his men by making use of their knowledge of the local countryside and avoiding fully pitched battles.
There is no one right way to pay off your debt. Just because someone else had success with a 12-step program doesn’t mean that you will. Even though bankruptcy is a scary term, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t research it and understand the implications.
Everyone’s situation is different and you need to find what works for you. Make sure you explore all your options before deciding that you must pay off debt in a certain way.
To read about different ways that people got into and out of debt you can check out the book Debt Heroes. As part of a collaboration with the Debt Movement the book looks at your personal journey to get out of debt and looks at various methods of people who have successfully paid off their debt.