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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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This is a Guest Post from Cherie at Queen of Free
“The journey of one thousand miles begins with one step.”Lao Tzu
The more time I spend breathing on the planet, the more I realize we’re all walking somewhere. No one really stands completely still. We run toward goals or we run away from problems. We chase dreams or flee from nightmares. We are always in motion. Even our inactivity has direction. If we remain motionless, we’re still heading in the opposite direction of our objectives.
A new year provides the perfect opportunity to put plans into action. Ripe with potential, we see endless possibilities. And perhaps our own unrestrained jubilation during the holidays causes the need to scale back. Our finances or eating habits or lack of exercise or staying up too late or imbibing in too much Christmas cheer – take your pick – may be a little out of control and need some course correction.
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So we organize and research and plan and budget. And we whisper a prayer that this time it will be different, that we’ll have the fortitude to stick with it and the wherewithal to beat back temptation. Then some of us take that one step and actually begin working the plan to eliminate debt, reach savings goals, and scale back our spending. But others? They stand in the distance, longing to take the first step but terrified of what it might entail.
How can you become the brave traveler who takes that first step instead of the backward moving aimless jogger headed in the wrong direction? How can you make this year your best financial year and come out of the gates racing forward?
Stop Making Excuses
For years, we delayed paying off our massive mound of debt ($127,482.30 to be exact).
The timing just wasn’t right.
We didn’t have enough money.
We needed a new car.
Our kids had to have new shoes.
That trip we really wanted to take.
There were so many “reasons” why we just couldn’t begin the process. Not now at least. Maybe someday, but just not today.
While there may have been some legitimacy is all of the above, now I can see they were just excuses. Excuses we made primarily because we were afraid.
Afraid that we would have to make difficult sacrifices.
Afraid that it was impossible.
Afraid that we would fail.
While it might seem like our fears simply delayed the inevitable they did more than that. During our years of excuse making, the debt multiplied.
Your first financial assignment of this year is to drop the excuses. Over and over again, I tell people, “There is no good time to begin paying off debt, there is only today.” And the maxim rings true no matter your financial goal.
Now that we’ve moved beyond the tough love necessary to launch your journey, it’s time to put your feet in motion.
Begin by clearly defining your goals and then putting pen to paper. Did you know you are 42% more likely to achieve goals if you physically write them down? Who wouldn’t want to increase their odds of achieving their dreams by 42%?
Be as specific as possible when outlining your financial aims. Don’t just say I want to pay off all my debt or save X amount of dollars. Instead, drill down how much and in what time frame.
Be realistic, too. Consider your current income, ways you might raise more income (selling things, taking on extra work, scaling back your lifestyle) when clarifying goals. We’re not talking about a fairytale dream board filled with wishful thinking. Instead you need focused obtainable mile markers.
Get Your Organizational Act Together
Next, tackle the difficult task of actually doing the heavy lifting of financial organization. For some of us (hi there, it’s me), this can be incredibly difficult. Block off an afternoon to get an accurate picture of your current economic situation. Gather statements and receipts. Comb through online and paper documentation.
And then begin to budget. I know what you’re thinking. You hate budgets. You always have hated them, you always will. I’ll be honest. Budgets haven’t been my bestie either.
In fact, I had to alter my semantics and refer to the entire process as “forecasting.” Clueless as where to begin? Check out these free printable budget forms, read 31 Debt Free Missions: (Re)Build Your Budget and How to Organize Your Monthly Finances.
Seek Out Inspiration
Few are able to travel the road to their financial aspirations alone. You need encouragement. You need ideas. You need inspiration.
While we were paying off debt, I listened to the Dave Ramsey show daily. After four solid years of tuning in over and over again, I could answer most of the questions callers tossed out. Heck, even my kids could because they had heard the consistent replies so many times. Listening to the broadcast wasn’t about learning new information for me. It was about finding hope in the stories of other people who had traveled and similar path and were now standing where I wanted to be.
Whether they are people you see day to day or individuals you may only encounter through the radio, books, or the Internet, you need inspiration to help you achieve your financial goals this year. I’d love to share more of our story through Slaying the Debt Dragon (you can also catch my husband Brian and I January 5-6 on the Focus on the Family broadcast). And of course I’d recommend Ruth’s book Living Well Spending Less and pre-ordering Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind, and Soul. From YouTube channels to podcasts to taking a class like Financial Peace University, countless opportunities to connect abound.
Chase down those influences that remind you your goals are attainable, voices who have lived through the same process and survived, or find people on the same journey who can cheer you along.
This is your year. No more pretending you’re standing still when you’re actually moving in the wrong direction. No more running from your problems, making excuses, or being vague on what you want to accomplish. You can own your dreams. You take that first step.
And we’ll be right here cheering you along.
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.