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5 Habits of Successful Debt Slayers

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 Today I am absolutely honored to welcome the Queen of Free herself, Cherie Lowe.  Cherie shares her wisdom and frugal adventures daily on her blog, Queen of Free, and she is also the author of the incredibly inspiring book, Slaying the Debt Dragon, which chronicles Cherie and her husband’s journey of knocking out more than $127,000 in debt.

In her book she shares practical tips and heartfelt encouragement for anyone facing a similar mountain of seeming unsurmountable debt. Cherie doesn’t just talk the talk, she has lived it and seen her way through the other side. Even if you’ve been feeling hopeless about your situation, she will show you that there is a way out!  If you are struggling with a similar mountain, I can honestly say that it this book a must-read.  In the meantime, I am thrilled to have her sharing these 5 habits of Successful Debt Slayers!

   xoxo, Ruth

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5 Habits of Successful Debt Slayers About Debt | Money Management | Debt Management | Budgeting | Money Matters | Financial Management | Life Management | Paying Off Debt |How to be good with money | Good Credit | Budget Transformations

This is a guest post from Cherie Lowe of Queen of Free

This week, I had the most unusual dream. In a flurried rush, I flew into my parents’ house and ran up the stairs. I opened their refrigerator and spied the most beautiful curvy bottle of Coca-Cola chilled at the perfect temperature. Hastily, I popped the cap and guzzled the sweet nectar of heaven down my throat.

It. was. delicious.

But the glorious moment shattered within seconds. I suddenly realized I just broke my decade long streak of not drinking pop (soda for all of my friends from other regions of the country). I woke up in a cold sweat, wondering why I had had such a bizarre dream.

5 Habits of Successful Debt Slayers About Debt | Money Management | Debt Management | Budgeting | Money Matters | Financial Management | Life Management | Paying Off Debt |How to be good with money | Good Credit | Budget Transformations

Habits are powerful. Ten plus years after giving up a very compulsive habit, I can still vividly dream about a precise taste. Biting our nails, overeating, criticizing others and ourselves, overspending – all of these habits can rule our lives in negative ways. However, the good, redemptive news is that positive habits can also reign supreme.

During our journey of paying off $127K in debt, we discovered that positive habits were the gas that kept our motor running. They motivated us toward the finish line when we felt like giving up, prevented us from wrecking our marriage, and provided structure when life got crazy. In particular, these five debt slaying habits kept us focused on our purpose.

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Habit 1: Believe in the Goal

 I’m a nuts and bolts sort of gal. I love blog posts that contain “10 Simple Ways” and “5 Fail Proof Methods.” However, to slay a debt dragon as enormous as ours, there was a first step that makes no sense to my practical nature. We had to believe that paying off debt was actually possible.

One of my favorite quotes is a paraphrase of G.K. Chesterton:

 “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

 Effective debt slayers believe they can actually pay off debt, that their dragons can be beaten. If you enter into an epic financial journey with the outlook that you will be defeated, odds are your dragons will eat you alive. However, if you believe that victory is possible, your rates of success increase.

My faith compels me to believe that if Jesus was born to a virgin, turned water into wine, healed the sick and broken-hearted, walked on water, and was resurrected from the dead, then He is more than capable of working a miracle in our finances. Habitually returning to this belief will give your debt slaying journey more success than any spreadsheet or strategy.

5 Habits of Successful Debt Slayers About Debt | Money Management | Debt Management | Budgeting | Money Matters | Financial Management | Life Management | Paying Off Debt |How to be good with money | Good Credit | Budget Transformations

Habit 2: Stay Organized

Believing in the impossible is crucial, but debt slaying requires legwork, too. You have to intentionally organize your life to be successful. No one runs a marathon without a training schedule or navigates the skies without a flight plan. You too need a written plan to pay off debt and manage your money well.

Financial organization begins with simply tracking your income and outflow of money. After you get a good handle upon how much you earn, what you spend, and what you owe, you can build a budget to help manage your finances. Again, your outlook on this process is vital. A budget is not the other “b” word or a cruel and unusual torture device. Instead, it allows you room to breathe, knowing you can actually afford your groceries when you check out.

Your method of organization will vary depending on your natural gifts and inclinations. Whether you use pencil and paper, a piece of software, or an online app or program doesn’t matter. Begin with the simple practice of gathering your receipts and bills into one place and go from there.

 5 Habits of Successful Debt Slayers About Debt | Money Management | Debt Management | Budgeting | Money Matters | Financial Management | Life Management | Paying Off Debt |How to be good with money | Good Credit | Budget Transformations

Habit 3: Communicate Regularly

My husband often quips, “The death of communication is the birth of resentment.” When we quit talking, we begin to begrudge or even dislike one another. This maxim rings out loud and clear when it comes to your finances, especially if you are married. Constant financial communication is a habit that every successful debt slayer I have ever known has practiced on a daily basis.

I’ll be honest. At first talking about your money can be incredibly uncomfortable. However, like any new habit, it becomes easier the more you engage in regular practice. A weekly budget meeting might be a good first step for you and your spouse. Or you could even daily begin looking over the bank account at breakfast, contemplating upcoming expenses and reconciling yesterday’s purchases.

The more you communicate, the clearer your objectives will become and your hearts will unify in a cemented shared vision. Even if you’re not married, you need to speak your financial goals out loud to another human being. This routine will solidify your commitment.

Word of caution: communication and nagging are not the same thing. I more easily see the things that my husband is doing wrong with money than what I am doing. Instead of gearing up for budget meetings with a “you should have” attitude, come teachable and most importantly dream big together. Ask the questions, “What would we do if we weren’t making so many payments? Where would we go? How would our family look different? How could we change the world?”

 5 Habits of Successful Debt Slayers About Debt | Money Management | Debt Management | Budgeting | Money Matters | Financial Management | Life Management | Paying Off Debt |How to be good with money | Good Credit | Budget Transformations

Habit 4: Plan Your Meals

This habit might seem a bit out of place; however, I find more people go off budget when it comes to feeding their faces than any other area of their money. From expired food to overspending at the grocery store to restaurant expenses that would make you blush if you posted them on Facebook, your eating and food preparation patterns can cripple your debt slaying efforts.

Weekly meal planning ensures that you actually use the items you already have, purchase only what you truly need, and avoid harried trips through the drive-through on busy nights.

The ability to manage your money in this one isolated area of your life overflows into other categories of spending in a domino effect. Planning meals keeps you out of the store, reducing your impulse purchases. You can work longer hours to bring in more income if you aren’t haphazardly scurrying to the vending machine. Regular meals eaten together as a family provide a platform for communication. Meal planning benefits your wallet, body, and heart.

Habit 5: Read More Books

Newsflash: you and I are not the smartest people on the planet. I know it might be difficult to absorb but we both have plenty to learn (and will until the day we die). Luckily, there are loads of other folks who have life experience and wisdom, outpacing our own and by some miracle they have written these things down to share with you and me!

While paying off $127K in debt, we read voraciously. In particular, we chased after books that would foster growth in our faith, increase our financial knowledge, and leave our hearts encouraged.

Added Bonus: The more we read, the less we watched television. The less we watched television, the fewer commercials we saw. The fewer commercials we saw, the less we wanted. And the cycle of contentment continued over and over again.

In the back of Slaying the Debt Dragon, I included a reading list of some of our favorites, most of which were checked out from our local library.

Habits are built over time due to gradual changes made and sustained. We must feed and reward healthy habits to slay the debt dragon. This fluid practice of beginning again and again to reach toward intentionality moves us into a place of financial health and well-being.

5 Habits of Successful Debt Slayers About Debt | Money Management | Debt Management | Budgeting | Money Matters | Financial Management | Life Management | Paying Off Debt |How to be good with money | Good Credit | Budget Transformations

Lean in close and don’t miss these final words of wisdom and grace. You will never perfectly hold all of these habits in balance. There will be many mistakes and course corrects as you slay your debt dragon. We failed on our journey more times than I can remember. However, returning to these habits always brought peace and success.

Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that perfecting a practice is the starting line for your financial happily ever after. There is no good time to begin paying off debt. There is only today.

Step into these habits to begin your own epic debt slaying battle, friends. That dragon will never know what hit him.

Cherie Lowe is an author, speaker and hope bringer. Her book Slaying the Debt Dragon details her family’s quest to eliminate over $127K in debt in just under four years. As her alter ego the Queen of Free, Cherie provides offbeat money saving tips and debt slaying inspiration on a daily basis.

 

 

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Have you paid off debt?  What habits helped you be successful?

5 Habits of Successful Debt Slayers About Debt | Money Management | Debt Management | Budgeting | Money Matters | Financial Management | Life Management | Paying Off Debt |How to be good with money | Good Credit | Budget Transformations

24 Comments

  1. Jean
    January 26 at 10:17AM

    Thanks for this list. I’m doing pretty good with some of them. I found ‘The Mealplan Cookbook’ by Sara Darden to be super helpful as I try to get in the habit of meal planning. Reading lots really does help with creating healthy habits. Thank you.

  2. January 26 at 10:24AM

    Laine’s husband never made over $29,000 a year yet she was able to pay off her home by living frugally. Here are the 50 ways she paid off her home with only one income!

    http://lorialexander.blogspot.com/2014/04/50-ways-we-paid-off-her-house-with-one.html

    She was my very first godly mentor; an amazing woman of God!!! Wonderful post, Cherie, by the way!

  3. January 26 at 11:58AM

    Such a great list. When we first started to take charge of our finances in 2008, reducing our grocery budget was one of the first areas addressed as a way of creating some wiggle room in the budget to put toward debt reduction. Meal planning became a crucial part of keeping that budget in check and it continues to be all these years later. It is way too easy to waste money on food when you don’t plan.

  4. January 26 at 12:34PM

    It is so true when you say “Effective debt slayers believe they can actually pay off debt, that their dragons can be beaten. If you enter into an epic financial journey with the outlook that you will be defeated, odds are your dragons will eat you alive.” So many people get psyched out by the amount of debt that they have and never really make progress because they are so worried about the big number. Chipping away at that big number little by little makes debt more manageable.

  5. January 26 at 01:23PM

    I truly love the idea of fairy tales and slaying dragons as inspiration–debt can truly feel like an unbeatable dragon. Thank you for that uplifting thought and the continuation of them.

    https://awellstockedlife.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/simple-parenting-6-tips-on-finding-imagination-and-play/

  6. Great tips! We are working to pay off student loans!

  7. Fritzie @ Frugal Fritzie
    January 26 at 04:47PM

    I love the emphasis on reinforcing positive habits. If you believe it, you WILL achieve it! Does it take hard work? Of course! But having a positive attitude about approaching eliminating debt can only help. Great tips! I especially like the tip about planning meals. I recently re-organized my pantry and have been planning dinners around what needs to be eaten first.

  8. January 27 at 10:12AM

    What a helpful list of ideas. I love how you write that we should believe in the goal. Sometimes it can seem like slaying our debt dragon is impossible became of the huge dollar amount! But we can conquer anything with faith and a plan!

  9. January 27 at 10:51AM

    great tips on saving money. thanks for sharing!

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  10. Nat
    January 27 at 12:33PM

    what has helped my husband & me save on money and pay of our bills. is organzing every month,waht bills and our goals for every month !

  11. Staying positive and believing you can achieve this goal is so important particularly since it will take time to achieve the goal. No one pays off thousands in debt over night. It took me 4 years to pay off 50K. Every step I made helped to keep my spirits up. I would say that the most important habit when you’re paying off debt is to convert to cash. Cash is essential so you get reconnected to both the money it self and the feelings evoked when you pay for things with cash. Plastic, in any form will keep you from experiencing money in its true form and will more than likely prevent you from getting out of debt.

  12. January 28 at 03:36AM

    Belief is the secret (or perhaps not so secret now) ingredient in changing negative habits to positive ones. If you don’t believe then the first upset will throw you off your path. Been there and yes, it takes work but once you’ve got that mindset you can apply it to anything in your life you want to change. Believe in yourself and anything is possible!

  13. January 29 at 01:55PM

    ‘Read More Books’! I love to read books (and blogs) that teach me! You’re so right … there is so much to learn and, why not learn it from someone who’s been there?! These are all great habits to have … we don’t do the meal planning one but we’re pretty good on the rest!

  14. February 5 at 09:44PM

    Paying everything in cash helps us to be more mindful of how much money we spend on things, and helps us evaluate better whether something is a really need or simply just a want.

  15. February 22 at 02:34PM

    Excellent ideas for tackling debt and paying it off. I think organization is the most important aspect. Some people have no idea how much money they owe and have no plan for paying it all off. Getting organized is the first step toward financial success.

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    The last no. 5 parfum was brief and pitifully weak – also the color was almost that of water.

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  20. May 21 at 04:17PM

    This article has really blessed me. Honestly, I totally agree with reading more books that are inspiring, empowering and educating. I did that in my struggle to overcome debt because I needed all the necessary encouragement and tools necessary to overcome the giant debt I had to pay off all in year.

  21. Beth
    May 25 at 01:46PM

    Excellent post! Encouraging, faithful, and humorous….all needed to achieve financial freedom. Thank you, Cherie!
    And Ruth, I always enjoy your beautiful website and posts. Your talents are appreciated!

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