This is a guest post written by Todd. He’s the co-founder and content manager at Fearless Men, a men’s blog on Manliness that inspires men to grow strong, get fit, be wise, kick fear in the face and become a better man. Check out what else he’s written on Overcoming Fear.
You want to know why I’m a consistent reader of Edward Antrobus over other frugality blogs? Because I generally don’t like frugality blogs. I mean, I don’t want to be a cheap bastard. But I do want to see people get out of debt. Edward shares thinking that is often contrary to the popular norm in the financial blogging community. So I hope to keep par with him as I dive into writing about frugality and getting out of debt.
Fear is a powerful motivator. It can force people to action, such as when a bill is due or a bear is chasing someone. It can also cause people to shrink back in paralysis, such as when a person closes their eyes to said bill or is eaten alive by the bear.
People get into debt for a plurality of reasons. The least of which is not being frugal. Racking up credit, loans they can’t handle, or bad investments that came as a fleeting opportunity. Some people get into debt for legitimate and even honorable reasons. Helping out a family member, unexpected medical bills, your house loses your value at the same time you lose your job.
But sometimes people get into debt, or at least spiral further into it, because of fear.
How does fear cause people to hesitate, stand still, and get knocked over by the bear of debt?
1. Feeling Fearful, and Feeling Down Causes People to Spend on Immediate Gratification
People rarely blow money on stuff they don’t need that doesn’t give them some measure of emotional fulfilment.
When a person is afraid, depressed, or just downright on a losing streak, they may spend money just to escape that feeling if only for a moment. Maybe it’s going to the movies, maybe it’s getting a few drinks, and maybe it’s buying an expensive car.
2. Fear hurts, so people ignore what makes them feel fearful
I’ve been in the place where a bill kept coming that I forgot was north of $8000. I kept thinking it was $3000 and I have no idea why. So whenever I would get an email notification that another monthly payment was due, it was easy to let that settle to the bottom of my inbox.
Why? Because it made me feel bad. Stupid. And fearful of the future. As I would think about the interest racking up on that $8000 bill I would get a sick feeling in my stomach.
It’s simply easier to ignore stuff that makes us feel bad, stupid, and remorseful than it is to face it head on.
And that is a leading reason why people drive themselves further into debt. Looking at bills hurts, so they choose to not look at them.
3. Fear that they can’t succeed
People know that it’s possible to get out of debt, but to some it’s just a pipe dream. They are fearful they can’t succeed because of past failures. It can be a paralyzing feeling to think you can’t win and dig yourself out. Some people are immobilized waiting for their “big break.”
What can a person do who’s strung up by fear?
A. Take a long hard look at the problem. Even if it hurts.
Got debt? Look at it.
Got fear? Look at it.
Straight in the eye. Without identifying what it is that’s hurting you, whether it’s that looming $8000 bill or just the fear of looking stupid, you’ll never overcome it.
B. Determine if the fear is real
What are you actually afraid of? If you’re paralyzed from taking action, then recognize that. Why? Failure in the past? Insecurity? What is it that prevents you from taking the first step forward?
C. Find out what the first step is
If a person is in a cycle of financial defeat, sometimes all they need to do is get just ONE WIN under their belt. Doing this gets people in a rhythm, a win streak. And win streaks build momentum.
If you can’t seem to find the strength to pull together how to pay down everything and get smarter financially, then don’t try to do that. Find out what is one thing you can do to improve your financial situation.
D. Create a plan
You’ve already taken the first 3 steps—now that you’re rolling write down what else you must do.
It is as simple as writing down how much money is coming in. Now you know how much money can “go out.” Decide to spend more on the minimum payment on your loans that you will on your immediate gratification.
Once you get some wins under your belt, you’ll feel better about your situation, and you’ll need less to make you feel better.
Conquering a mountain of debt and investing within yourself strategies to save money and get more frugal will help you drive forward and conquer those little voices in your head that were telling you to be afraid.
Have you ever let fear rule your financial life? How did you overcome that fear?