Getting Out of Debt – How My Attitudes Helped Slay the Financial Beast

My attitude: debt doesn't have a grip on me, I have a grip on the problem and I'm going to whip it.

My attitude: debt doesn’t have a grip on me, I have a grip on the problem and I’m going to whip it.

When getting out of debt, it’s helpful to sincerely adopt a new way of perceiving things, thinking about issues, making decisions, and taking action. It helps to adopt new attitudes that work in your favor. What works for one doesn’t always work for others, but there is certainly something to be learned from everyone who has had to go through the challenges associated with indebtedness.

Without re-living the entire story of how I came to be deep in debt, suffice to say it wasn’t because I didn’t know how to manage money, it was simply because I stepped away from what had worked so well for me for so many years. I had abandoned the proper attitudes that had served me so well.

Therefore, getting back into better financial shape wasn’t so very difficult to do because I didn’t have to relearn or reprogram myself, I only had to re-establish mindsets that I knew, through years of experience, worked very well for building wealth instead of piling up debt.

It’s these attitudes that I want to share with you. I’m hoping some of what worked (and still works) for me will rub off and help you too. So, let’s dive in.

First off, I stopped being my own worst enemy. We’re supposed to be enemies of debt, not enemies of ourselves. To fix the problem, I simply made up my mind to get back on the right path to financial success, starting with the right attitude. It required that I toughen up quite a bit, but it was essential for my success, and it worked just fine as a starting point.

An essential part of my toughening up program was to apply mental toughness, an attitude I learned as a long distance runner in high school. I thank my track coach, the late J. D. Edwards, for introducing me to this essential tool for success. In a nutshell, the concept dictates that even though it’s painful, you ignore the urge to throttle back, retreat, give up, let it slide, back off, or otherwise change course or speed — instead, you press on to success. Being deliberate and relentless is all part of being mentally tough.

Perhaps the easiest attitude to adopt was getting back to essential needs versus wants. That meant ignoring the “noise” out there begging for my attention and money. It was also very easy for me to identify what was important and urgent, and only that earned my time, energy, money and emotion…almost everything else was set aside until I had my head above the financial waters.

I naturally have a can do attitude, and that’s essential for success in just about anything. Although my debt was considerably more than what most people might have on their plates, I pressed on with confidence that I could slay the beast. For me, getting out of debt wasn’t something I was going to attempt, it was something I was going to do. My strong will was going to make it happen. The alternative was to allow things to happen to me, and that’s just not a good mindset.

My last attitude was to make a game of it. If you remember the song from the movie Mary Poppins, “For every job that must be done there is an element of fun…find the fun and snap, the job’s a game.” With that idea in mind, the game I used to play (and still do to some extent) is to see how little time and money and effort and emotion I need to expend, and how much time and effort and passion I can divert towards making money. If you’re getting out of debt, it’s essential to apply much more time to creating income and as little time as possible to spending what you earn.

I’m aware that I haven’t given anyone even a single idea as to techniques for getting out of debt…the steps that one might take. This has been done deliberately, as my interest is simply to convey the attitudes that helped me be mentally and emotionally prepared to deal with the task of getting out of debt. For me, the mental and emotional preparedness was the first step in approaching the challenge. Attitude is certainly part of having “the right stuff” when approaching a problem.

Recognizing there is only so much “cheer leading” and “pumping up” one might do, perhaps my next article will discuss some of the techniques I used to extricate myself from a world of debt. As an associate of mine is fond of saying, “I can hardly wait to hear what I have to say about that.” Until then, you ought to know that my Team EOD T-shirt has my personal slogan and attitude boldly displayed on the back…it reads, “Debt be Damned.”

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About Clair Schwan

6 Responses to “Getting Out of Debt – How My Attitudes Helped Slay the Financial Beast”

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  1. Alan says:

    hi Claire,

    Good post. I think you bring up a very strong point that by changing the way you think about your finances is the biggest step a person can take to getting themself out of debt. Being in a relationship makes it harder because you have to have buy-in from both people, not just one. Sometimes I feel like I have my wife’s buy-in but other times not so much. I feel like it has delayed us a little in getting our debt down further than it currently is.

    • Clair Schwan says:

      Alan, I think you’re right on both points: 1) you have to be mentally and emotionally ready to do something, otherwise, you’ll likely slip right back into trouble; and, 2) it can be much more difficult to do this as a team simply because as my dear late friend Oscar Favors was fond of saying, “Everybody got their own ideas.” There is probably no limit to the number of jokes we might tell about outcomes when a committee is involved.

      Nevertheless, having another person can also be helpful as they might have strengths that the other member of the team lacks. They can also provide an independent source of suggestions and progress review. And, most importantly, they can also provide an additional source of income. As long as both members (and the entire family) are pulling on the oars (in the same direction), it should be easier…at least that’s the theory.

      When conflicts arise, I’d suggest taking the course that my grandparents took. They made an arrangement whereby he earned the money and she managed it. They spend about 60 years living as a team that way. The idea was he was better able to earn money, and she was a good money manager. It worked out very well for them. Each had their strong points and that allowed them to focus on their mission as part of the team. Of course, success in this regard hinges on each member of the team understanding their strengths and weaknesses, and agreeing to work as a team. As we all know, it’s much easier said than done.

      • Alan says:

        Sorry I just realized I misspelled your name. My wife is from Ukraine. We met at work and then progressed. The one thing with her is the different culture mindset. She was so used to her parents doing and giving her everything that any little flaw in the matrix, she gets stressed out. We both work but I do most of the finance stuff. As much as I would love to stay home while she worked and I manage the money, in this day and age, that isn’t really feasible for middle class people. Over the past few years I think my wife has gotten a lot better with things but the minor things that cause her stress seem to be the same.

  2. I agree the first step is attitude and mindset because if you don’t give it 100% then it’s just a matter of time before it fails. I started the grocery game challenge for the exact same reason, to play a game against ourselves to challenge us to stick to our grocery budget as it was getting out of control. It’s worked for us and many of the fans that post their grocery shops. When I read what you posted about Mary Poppins it really is how I was thinking when I thought you are your only challenger in the game. I look forward to a post on your techniques to getting out of debt. Cheers

  3. Great post; thanks for this. Very down-to-earth advice.

  4. Gars says:

    Living debt free is easy. Spend less than you make. Not doing that is what got you into trouble in the first place.

    Either cut your expenses or increase your income. Better yet, do both and you’ll get out of debt more quickly.

    The author is right. Debt free is not a financial state. It is a philosophy or epistemology.

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