Note: This is a guest post from Lama Farran, a Certified Money Coach.
Having guided numerous families and individuals on their quest to pay off debt, I wondered about the characteristics which make them succeed on this path. Why are they able to successfully follow-through with their commitment to get out of debt when others fail at it?
After some reflection, I was able to pinpoint the 8 following behaviors which make them more prone to pay off their debts:
(For simplicity, I will refer to them as The Debt Slayers in this article).
1. They are goal-oriented and have a clear focus.
One of the first exercises Debt Slayers do before starting to pay off their debts is they define their SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Without them, people are left shooting in the dark. Would you get in your car and expect your GPS to get you to a specific destination without entering an address? Probably not. The same applies to money.
Debt Slayers are goal-oriented. They are clear about the path that lies ahead. They know how they are progressing and how much they have left before they get there.
2. They take steps to change auto-pilot spending habits.
Human beings are creatures of habit. We get comfortable in our ways and routines. As a result, it requires specific self-awareness to get off the auto-pilot mode.
When it comes to spending, we tend to: pick up the same coffee every morning; keep the same gym membership; automatically renew our home and car insurance; pick up the same take-out for dinner in the evening; buy gifts for everyone we know during the holidays because “that’s just the way it is.”
Debt Slayers are not afraid to stop and ask themselves the real reasons behind their spending: Is it out of habit? Laziness? Boredom? Stress? Social pressure? Or something else?
They’re comfortable getting off the auto-pilot spending mode. They are conscious about where and WHY they’re spending their money.
3. They work hard to identify the difference between needs and wants.
Debt Slayers don’t easily fall for advertisements purposely designed to make someone feel like they need the advertised product. For example, they know that clothing and shelter are definite needs. However, buying the latest trends of shoes and clothes, or having a bigger house than required are simple wants.
Debt Slayers are able to dig deep and honestly ask themselves if their purchase is a must-have or a nice-to-have.
4. They don’t “Keep up with the Joneses.”
The Joneses are not only your next-door neighbors and your close friends, but also your 500 friends on Facebook and Instagram.
Debt Slayers are aware that everybody else’s life looks plentiful on social media or when observed from the outside. However, they do not let the vacation pictures of friends or strangers derail their desire to become debt-free.
Some choose to simply limit their exposure to social media, knowing very well its negative effect on spending. Others stay on social media but with the added awareness not to allow it to affect their debt-free goal.
5. They communicate openly, honestly, and regularly about finances with their partner.
It is difficult to pay off your debts as a family if you are not on the same financial page as your partner. Once money becomes a topic that does not trigger fights and arguments, things will go more smoothly.
Debt Slayers perceive debt repayment as a common project to tackle together. Efforts are coordinated to move forward, just like a team paddling a canoe in-sync to move it fast and straight.
They also have regular, honest, and judgment-free money conversations. Finger-pointing is replaced with productive problem solving, especially when they hit bumps on the “debt-free road.”
6. They are patient and disciplined.
Debt Slayers know there is no magic wand that makes debt disappear. It takes a considerable amount of patience and consistent actions on a daily basis.
They do not get discouraged at the amount of time it’s taking them to become debt-free. They remind themselves how far they’ve already come. They focus on their daily efforts, knowing that, in the end, they will add up to a significant feat.
The process is indeed very similar to losing weight. No magic pill has yet been invented to shed weight overnight. The magic ingredients lie within: patience, discipline, and commitment.
7. They find ways to have fun while paying off their debts.
Who wants to live a life based on a restrictive way of being? Not Debt Slayers!
They know that debt repayment is their priority and they derive great joy from seeing it getting reduced. Nevertheless, they still find ways to have fun and celebrate milestones.
People have different notions of what fun is: to some, it may be a fancy candle-lit home-made dinner; to others, it could be attending a concert or going on a weekend getaway. So it’s essential to have something fun to look forward to.
Just like an extremely restrictive diet is bound to fail after some time, paying off debts without ever allowing yourself to have fun will also be doomed.
8. They are not afraid to ask for help.
Some perceive asking for help as a sign of weakness. But Debt Slayers know that properly managing money does not come naturally to everyone. So they guiltlessly ask for help because they see it as a sign of determination to make things better.
Help can come in many forms: it can be joining a Debtors Anonymous group, a Facebook support group or working one-on-one with a money coach. Help normally comes with accountability and support, which can increase the chances of success.
Lama Farran is a Certified Money Coach and an aspiring minimalist, living a debt-free life. Her mission is to help individuals and families achieve financial peace of mind by focusing on the behavioral and emotional sides of money. She also provides practical financial guidance to help her clients become empowered and lead more fulfilling lives. You can claim your free copy of her money guide at Max Worth.