More than half of us are still struggling financially, as we continue to cope with the aftershocks of the double-dip recession.
But misery doesn't love company, not in this case.
One of the biggest fall-outs from debt is how it impacts your relationships, your stress levels and your overall happiness. We asked Kate Northrup, a creative entrepreneur and writer who has just written Money: A Love Story, which is published by Hay House on 10 September.
Through ongoing seminars and her 30,000-mile Freedom Tour, she has mentored thousands of people in their quest to create financial freedom. Here is her advice on how to recover emotionally from debt:
I challenge you to find a single person who, if they were totally honest with themselves and with you, doesn’t have an emotional relationship with money.
And when it comes to debt, the emotional stakes tend to be particularly high.
Owing someone money can be a major drain on our emotional energy. And when we’re feeling emotionally drained, we don’t have a lot of energy left over to do exactly the thing we want to do: get our debt payed off.
Luckily there are some things you can do right now to lighten the emotional weight of your debt to make paying it off easier and faster than you thought was possible.
Rank Your Debt According to Its Emotional Weight
Most experts either tell you to pay off your highest interest rate debt first or to pay off the debt with the lowest balance first to give you a feeling of satisfaction to give you energy to move forward.
But what if, instead, you started by ranking your debt in order of how bad it makes you feel? For example, maybe you own your parents $5,000 and there’s no interest rate. But, every time you see them you feel guilty and every time you think about it you feel like a failure. That’s weighing on you far more than the 15% APR balance of $5,000 with Visa.
Having the awareness of which debt is weighing on you the most (and why) is a huge step for getting clarity around your debt. Next is paying off the debts with the highest emotional weight first to free up emotional energy and get it all paid off over time.
Rename Your Debt
One of the most common emotions associated with debt is guilt. We feel bad for the past choices we’ve made and it keeps us feeling stuck.
The reality is that debt is simply an invoice for a blessing you’ve already received. It might represent a few years at university where you met your best friend. It might represent the gorgeous heals your wore on your first date with the man who became your husband.
Renaming your debt “Invoices for Blessings Already Received” is a powerful way to switch from feeling bad about it to reminding yourself to enjoy the dividends that the things you bought are still paying in your life.
Next time you go to buy something and you’re reaching for your plastic, ask yourself: “Is this something I would like to have an outstanding invoice for a blessing I’ve already received for in the future? Or would it feel better to wait until I have the cash?” Stopping to ponder before you pay will help you change your behavior so you don’t accrue more debt as you go.
Let’s be real: the person you are today and the person you were when you made the purchase that you didn’t have the money for in the past are different people.
There’s an erroneous belief that the more we beat ourselves up about something the more likely we are to change our behavior. But the reality is that when we put down the flail and forgive ourselves, we free up a lot of emotional energy that we can put toward actually making progress.
Use forgiveness phrase like: “I forgive myself for my past financial choices. I release myself from my financial past and I am now free to move forward as I create abundance in all areas of my life.” Write it on a post-it and read over it every time you’re paying your Invoices for Blessings Already Received.
Using these strategies to recover from debt emotionally will help you not only get it paid off faster and in a more pleasurable way, they’ll also help you change your behavior so you don’t go into debt again in the future.
To pre-order a copy of the book, click here.
For debt advice, visit the Debt Advice Foundation.
Draw Up A Budget
It might seem like obvious advice but how many of us actually manage to keep track of our spending (be honest!)? Keeping a record of all your incomings and outgoings is the essential first step when it comes to regaining control of your money, and it will instantly show you where you can make cutbacks. The <a href="https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/tools/budget-planner">Money Advice Service</a> offers an online budget planner, which makes things a little less overwhelming.
Make Your Savings Work Harder
If you’re fortunate enough to have a nest egg tucked away it’s all too easy to rest on your laurels and let them do their own thing. “Make sure you're getting the best interest rate on your savings,” advises the <a href="http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/debt_e.htm">Citizen’s Advice Bureau</a>. “Read any terms and conditions carefully to make sure they're what you are looking for. If you're not sure about anything, ask the savings provider or get independent financial advice.”
Check Your Household Bills
“Look carefully at your spending and see if there is anything you're able to cut down on. For example, you could shop around for a cheaper gas or electricity provider,” says the Money Advice Service. The organisation advises using an online calculator to help work out whether you can save by having a water meter installed. Sites like <a href="http://www.ccwater.org.uk">Consumer Council for Water</a> or <a href="www.uswitch.com/water">uSwitch</a> will help you make an informed decision. Similarly for energy bills, try the <a href="http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk">Energy Saving Trust</a>.
Review Your Mortgage
New mortgage deals are coming on the market all the time, and you should try to keep a regular eye out for the best deals around if you’re not locked into a fixed period. The <a href="https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/action_plans/get-free-financial-advice">Money Advice Service</a> recommends that at the very least you review your mortgage when interest rates change, because this will affect how competitive your current deal is. Also try to shop around for deals once a year if you’re not tied into a mortgage that enforces early repayment penalties.
Become A Smarter Shopper
If you can train yourself to be more self-aware as a shopper, it can do wonders for your pocket. Comparing prices and shopping online could save you hundreds of pounds every year on everything from groceries to clothes and electrical goods. The Money Advice Service recommends <a href="http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk/">My Supermarket</a> for checking out the best deals, as well as sites like <a href="http://www.google.co.uk/shopping">Google Shopping</a> and Kelkoo http://www.kelkoo.co.uk/. <a href="http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/shopping/cheap-supermarket-shopping">Money Saving Expert</a> offers plenty of handy recommendations – from being savvy to supermarkets’ subliminal selling tactics to learning the beauty of brand ‘downshifting’.
”You may find it helpful to set up standing orders and direct debits to pay your bills”, suggest the <a href="http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/debt_e.htm">Citizen’s Advice Bureau</a>. “Arrange for payments to leave your account soon after your pay date. If you can, try and save some money each month as a general savings plan or to cover emergencies when they arise.”