In this era of abundant access to credit, it is too easy to be engulfed in debt. Whether it is through credit card companies, department stores, or various financial companies, we are susceptible to purchasing items that we really cannot afford. It is deceiving because a swipe of a plastic card can provide us with the luxuries of life. However, the unintended consequences are accumulation of debt that has serious consequences for not only your life, but future generations.
This predicament reminds me of the lifestyle shared by many of the freed slaves of the South, who became sharecroppers as a means of survival. After the end of the Civil War, they received their freedom, but were hampered by the legacy of slavery where access to education and job opportunities were shunned to them. Faced with dire circumstances and little means to acquire private property, they were forced to accept undesirable credit terms as a means of survival.
For most sharecroppers, the terms were prohibitive and designed to consign them to perpetual poverty. With no means to independently acquiring the raw materials and land to farm successfully, they entered into arrangements where their crop income was never enough to service their debts. Therefore, they would find themselves incurring heavier debt levels each year and eroding any potential for generating wealth.
Thankfully, sharecropping slowly died off as industrialization presented individuals with expanded job opportunities. However, it has been replaced with another insidious curse that is hampering many households. Rather than be beholden to landowners, too many Americans are now beholden to creditors.
Fortunately, this latter predicament can be rectified through better discipline and a changed mindset. We must rid ourselves from the costly chain of interest costs and ballooning balances. This can be done through developing a budget and adjusting our lifestyle to adhere to monetary constraints.
If your total debt is significantly higher than your income, realize that it will not disappear overnight. Instead of fretting over it, be proactive in consistently lowering your debt load. Rather than thinking paycheck to paycheck, picture where you will be year after year. If you have $20,000 in debt, focus on how to get down to $19,000, then $15,000 until you get to $0. This means not only establishing a monthly plan, but a five-year plan to debt reduction or wealth accumulation.
Fight the urge to give up on drowning finances and think about the big picture. Your children will soon grow up and will need help in financing the high cost of college. Eventually, you will want to retire and not be stressed on how to make ends meet when your income-earning potential evaporates. Then there is an obligation to pass down wealth upon your death to your family members and show them the path to prosperity.
In order to accomplish the goal of eliminating debt, start with carefully tracking your expenses over a month’s time before setting a budget. By visually accounting for various household and personal transactions, you will gain a greater understanding of what is a necessity and a luxury. This will assist your preparations of devising reasonable financial goals.
Maintain a humble nature and stop trying to impress others with your personal possessions. Is it necessary to always buy name brand items or would a cheaper alternative suffice? Do you really need the latest electronic gadget? It may be necessary to curtail your cable, internet and phone subscriptions. If you greatly value entertainment after a hard day’s work, then investigate options where you maintain your internet services, but cut out cable TV. Many of your favorite TV shows can be viewed online for free.
Discipline yourself through better decision-making. First, find ways to prepare more meals at home. It is very expensive eating out and finding ways to prepare more meals at home, along with leftover lunches for work, can relieve a great burden on your finances. Rather than shop at pricey department stores, consider shopping at discount outlets.
It is time to break free from that sharecropper mentality and embrace a wealth-generating mentality.