5 debt lessons from ‘Braveheart’

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.

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Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle
Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle

Don’t make decisions when you are feeling blue.

Sometimes all your bills and debt and financial responsibilities make you feel like you are being pulled in several different directions.

CT
CT

Lost me at this phrase: “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.” This type of thinking is not conducive to encouraging the personal responsibility necessary to live a financially healthy life.

KT
KT

Agreed. So much judgement.

LeRainDrop
LeRainDrop

Yeah, not all creditors are giant banks (not that they are any less entitled to repayment as agreed upon and due), but many are your family/friends, who have stretched themselves to help you personally because they love you, not because they’re swimming in a pile of hundred dollar bills and gold coins. And others have provided valuable services to support your health or make your life better — your doctor, dentist, hair stylist, snow plower, pest controller, plumber, etc. It’s not greedy to expect fair payment in exchange for the benefit of a loan/credit extended up front.

Ben Edwards
Ben Edwards

Fair point. That paragraph wasn’t directed at lenders who are friends and family.

LeRainDrop
LeRainDrop

That said, I did actually enjoy your writing style once you got to the Braveheart lessons, and I am interested in the concept of your book. Thanks for making it available for free this week! I’ll take a look.

Jo-Pete
Jo-Pete

The attitude shown at the beginning of this article is antithetical to the purpose of this site. Most people in debt are there because of choices they made, not because of some oppressive regime that was forced upon them. Demonizing creditors doesn’t improve their situation.

Marc
Marc

Not necessarily true. To me the intent wasn’t to demonize the creditors more so as to set the tone of the article with the movie Braveheart. People aren’t always in debt because they choose to be. I’m in debt because I was young and dumb and am now paying that debt down. I’m not choosing to be in debt right now. When you can’t make a drastic decision and have the debt paid off in a single year it does at times begin to feel like a war of attrition. That in turn can be tied to the movie Braveheart… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth

I think these kinds of inspirational posts are lost on me because they all pretty much say the same thing without offering practical strategies. I think a beter way to promote the book would be to give us a real life example from the book. That would make me want to read more.

Now I just want to watch Braveheart!

Jo@simplybeingmum

I love Braveheart!

The Norwegian Girl
The Norwegian Girl

haha, I love how you`re using Braveheart as an analogy to debt management!

Ben Edwards
Ben Edwards

Thanks!

beep
beep

Didn’t Wallace end up being drawn and quartered? And Scotland stayed under English rule? Not the best choice for role model….

Mr.Bonner@bonnersbillions

Mmmm…yeah…not my favorite post here, but if it hits a button with some readers then well done.

Dianne @ Skinny Seahorse
Dianne @ Skinny Seahorse

Analogies aside – some realistic tips are presented here. Regardless of the mechanical process you choose to follow in your “war” with debt, these strategies will likely help you triumph.

Michael
Michael

Agreeing to borrow money and pay it back with interest is “financial oppression”? And the people who loan you the money “have more than they need”? Really?

Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce

Great point about being aggressive with paying back the loan, as many as compounded. Great post!

Nicky at Not My Mother
Nicky at Not My Mother

“As you may know, debt demands regular interest payments regardless of whether you can afford them.”

Oh gosh, really? As you MAY know? You lost me at that sentence. The lessons themselves are fairly thin. I bet you could write a similar post about National Lampoon’s European Vacation and draw similar conclusions.

Big Al
Big Al

I have read your posts for years and have never commented. They are like watching me ten years ago. I will read something you write and go…yep I did that, or yep thought about that and it has been consistant. I have to comment on this one. Taxes levied by an oppressive government are not debt. This analogy is ridiculous. Also your Robbin Hood like comment about taking money from those poor debtors and giving it to the evil rich sounds like you have been assimilated into the current administrations views on getting ahead on your own. Maybe if you… Read more »

Eric Poulin
Eric Poulin

Like on the Dave Ramsey show when people call in who’ve “made it” to being debt free. William Wallace’s dying breath “FREEDOM!”.

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