Today I am happy to welcome back my friend Cherie Lowe from the Queen of Free, who has graciously joined us here at LWSL as a regular monthly contributor. Cherie is the author of the amazing book, Slaying the Debt Dragon, which she wrote after paying off more than $127,000 in debt! I am so excited to have her bringing her wealth of knowledge & experience on this subject to LWSL–please join me in making her feel right at home!
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The longest family road trip we have ever taken is one I’d never like to repeat. Traveling from our home in central Indiana all the way to the coast of North Carolina, we wound our way through the mountains with two daughters, both very prone to carsickness. Our family car packed to the gills with everything we would need for an eight-day stay in a beachfront home, this trip was meant to be a vacation to end all vacations. After all, we were celebrating paying off over $127K in debt. We had not adventured together as a family for four years. I spent months researching the perfect home to rent (and got a great deal!). However, after driving eight of the fourteen hours of our trip, I was ready to throw in the towel and head back to the Hoosier state.
As our car neared the exit where I had booked a quick night’s stay, my weary bones rejoiced. Soon, we would all be sleeping. After a good night’s rest, recharged we could hit the road and finish our journey. And then I saw it.
Lit up in the night sky, placed neatly behind the mountainside hotel, was the biggest neon sign for a local *ahem* Gentleman’s club. Enormous Xs glared at me and immediately I knew no one would be getting much sleep.
A long night just got much longer.
Maybe the trip was a metaphor for the four-year quest we had just completed. Those days were long and grueling, too – filled with unexpected twists and turns. More than once, I wanted to give up. More than once, I wish we had never begun our epic debt slaying journey. More than once, it seemed like everyone else had all of the fun, all of the money, all of the luck while we were faced with challenge after challenge – broken down vehicles, burnt out water heaters, and a mound of debt that just wouldn’t die.
Perhaps you’re in a similar situation, wanting to be free from debt but ready to throw in the towel, filled with frustration and weary from the task. Lean in close and let me whisper a little secret to you. You are stronger than you realize, much more gifted than you know and this battle will be worth it. Still not convinced? Might I make a few suggestions of what you can do to redouble your efforts?
Your mama was right. The world truly looks like a much better place after a good night’s sleep. Sometimes the best way to refuel your tank is to turn off the TV and go to bed early, even if that means hitting the hay soon after tucking in your kids. A solid eight hours (or maybe an afternoon nap) could be all it takes to give you the perspective and energy you need to keep on keepin’ on. Obviously, you can’t sleep forever, but physical rest will do much to repair your body and soul.
Recount the Journey
If you’re beginning to feel the pull of quitting, it likely means you’ve already traveled a long road and that, my friends, is a very good thing. Sit down and take stock in what you’ve already been able to accomplish. Have you saved up an emergency fund? Have you paid off a debt? Two? Four? How many dollars (and cents because every single penny counts) have you been able to repay? What sacrifices have you made? What lessons have you learned? Recounting the journey will help you realize just how far you’ve come and why it’s been worth it, regardless of the struggle. We kept every bill we eliminated, stapled together in a pile and magneted to the refrigerator. Each time we left our home and returned again, we passed that ever-growing pile of paid off debt. This simple act fueled our hearts and souls when days seemed long.
Read a Good and Encouraging Book
My soul functions much better when I pour life-giving words into it on a regular basis. Reading was such an essential part of our journey that included a massive list of books we found to be encouraging in the back of Slaying the Debt Dragon. Certainly reads about personal finance and saving money will be worthwhile, but other books have the potential to put a spring in your tired steps. From classic fiction to marriage or parenting books, great works on faith to poetry, lose yourself in wise and hopeful words and your inner self will be renewed. Hit the library, check out a great book, and refocus your gaze.
Revisit the Budget
Let’s be honest, crunching numbers is probably the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed. But hang with me here for a minute. Sit down with your spouse and look over your budget again. See where you might able to loosen the reigns, if even only for a week or a month so you can afford a small splurge. Even an amount as small as five dollars for a simple pleasure you have been forgoing can give you a slight reprieve, re-energizing your efforts.
Recalculate your Goals
The long-term objective of paying off all of your debt is one of the most high and noble pursuits that you may ever endeavor. But before you reach that ultimate ambition, you most likely need to set smaller, bite-sized milestones. Whether it’s a single bill or a set dollar amount, consider not only aiming for a smaller achievement but also celebrating when your mission is accomplished. Plan a weekend getaway (budgeted for with cash of course). Go out for dinner. Indulge in a guilty pleasure. Set your sights on short-term attainable deadlines and party it up when you make the mark.
I’d by lying if I said I slept well at that hotel nestled into the mountains the night before we arrived at our beach house (for what turned out to be an amazing vacation). In fact, the next morning, we were up before the crack of dawn, already driving when the sun rose and the mist lifted off the rocky peaks. Sure, we were a little sleepy, but the difficult situation had led to a breathtaking result. Without a little challenge, we miss the beautiful things of life.
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Paying off debt isn’t for wimps. It’s a battle that requires much of you physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But, it’s a valuable pursuit and the freedom you gain, along with the lessons you learn are priceless. If you’re weary, take a day or two to refocus your efforts and refuel your tank.
You’re stronger than you think you are. You can do this. And it’s worth it.
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.