Telling family you’re getting out of debt can be a blessing or a curse depending on your family’s instilled perceptions of debt. Hearing news of this proportion is sometimes shocking, especially in this day and age when carrying debt long-term is considered normal. On the other hand, your family can provide all kinds of support that you might need.
Let’s look at, first, the negatives of breaking this news to loved ones and then the positives. I want to leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling when you are done. =)
Think about how many of your family members are truly debt-free. Do you even know if they are or not? When you tell your family your plan to not owe money anymore, they may tell you for all intents and purposes that your plan is not normal. You might hear all kinds of excuses as to why it’s okay to have debt such as: Everyone has debt. It’s a way of life. You couldn’t survive without a little debt. Really? I beg to differ.
After I told my sisters that I was on a mission to get out of debt by budgeting like crazy, they were for the most part very supportive. I was lucky there. One co-worker did push-back after I told her that I couldn’t eat out at restaurants for a while. I was laughed at and told I had no social life, etc. Guess what? I’m debt-free (except our rental house) and she still has thousands and thousands of dollars in credit card bills, school loans, car payments, etc; not to mention arguments with her spouse over money all the time. Enough said.
As long as you believe in what you are striving for, nothing is going to deter you from reaching your debt-free goal. Not even family’s well-meaning, but horrible money advice.
Misery Loves Company
How many people do you know who are completely debt-free or even debt-free except their mortgage? Not too many I’d wager. Whether the debt be credit card, school loan, car loan, medical, or other (and there are a lot of ‘other’), a large percent of people carry the burden of having debt.
In the United States alone 80% of Americans owe money. Don’t be fooled though because Americans are not alone in the debt arena. Did you know that British folks have £33,000 on average, Irish have €10,000 (which has increased 4x since 2008), Australians $250,000 (this includes housing), and Canadians have $21,348 in consumer debt? Obviously, this is just a sample of countries, but there is an obvious trend, right? Are you thinking, “At least I’m not alone!”? If so, you can see how this fits in with the expression misery loves company.
The question is, what are you going to do to keep more upbeat, debt-free company?
Pressure is another way of saying ‘Keeping up with the Jones”. Your Jones’ might even be your parents or siblings! They have a nice house, car, clothes, electronics, furniture, etc., so you feel that you need to match that same high standard even though you cannot afford it. Playing this out is a sure-fire way to remain in debt for the rest of your life.
Better to remember the golden rule of thumb: Do not spend more money than you make. Even better still: Spend considerably less money than you make to save for your future!
Honestly, anyone who gives you a hard time for living within your means or below your means for future financial independence, is not respectful of you and your life decisions and may even be threatened because they know deep down inside they should be behaving in the same manner as you.
Make sure to keep away from 0ther people who put you down or ridicule your money choices. They may not be good friends after all.
Now, here is where family may pleasantly surprise you. They may have already noticed that you are struggling with money and feel relieved that you are doing something about. Here’s a list of ways your family can support you.
- Just listen to you when you need to vent or talk about money
- Offer to help you sell some of your stuff to build up your emergency fund
- Exercise outside with you instead of paying for gym membership
- Having get-together meals at each other’s homes instead of meeting up at a restaurant
- Car pooling
You can probably think of so many other ways in which your family can lend a hand that are more personalized and meaningful to you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! The worst answer you can get is no.
Another great way your family may help you is through words. Encouraging words boost our positivity towards challenging endeavors. Maybe one friend or family member can call you once a week to check-in on you and see how you’re doing. They may encourage you by telling other nay-sayers that what you are doing is monumental and how proud they are of you taking control of your personal finances. Whatever way your family or friends encourage you, embrace it. They will get you through the roughest times.
Strength in Numbers
A final possibility that you may encounter after informing your family or friends that you are on a path to being debt-free and eventually financially independent is an offer to join you on this quest. What better support than someone close to you going through the same ups and downs with money?
My sisters, in a way, decided to become debt-free after I told them our plans of financial independence. It was great having other people to check in with for encouraging words. We were truly excited for each other when we announced we had paid off yet another bill or loan. Strength in numbers really does work in this kind of situation. So, if someone offers to join you, please accept!
How can you tell your family and stay upbeat from any possible negative or deterring remarks they may throw your way? Let’s role play, shall we?
You: I have decided that I’m going to become debt-free, which means I have to follow a very strict budget for the next (insert time frame).
Family: That’s great! But having a little debt is okay. Everyone has debt. Don’t worry about it.
You: Actually, not everyone has debt. I read about people who are debt-free and they claim it is the best feeling in the world not owing money. They say you finally feel a sense of freedom after you pay off your last bill. That’s what I’m striving for. Financial freedom.
Family: But how will you survive without credit cards? How can you live without a mortgage or car loan?
You: Since I am just beginning my debt-free journey, I will not have any credit cards. I will use a cash envelope system. I don’t need a house, so I will rent. Besides renting is better for so many reasons. I will pay off my current car loan or sell my car and buy a junker to drive while I work my way out of debt. I’ve got a plan, baby, and I’m sticking to it.
Family: It seems almost impossible. I don’t know how you’re going to do it.
You: I will use X, Y and Z to help me stay on track. Having your support during this time would mean a great deal to me. You can help me stay on track by motivating me to keep going. We can even sit down and do the workbook together if you’re interested in becoming debt-free, too!
Family: Wow! I think that you are starting to make me understand. I would love to support you!
For better or worse, let friends and family in on your financial independence goals. If they think you are crazy for wanting to better your money situation, you will know where they stand. If they offer support, you will feel warm and fuzzy inside. Either way, they will know that your lifestyle is going to adjust, as well as, your attitudes towards frivolous spending on activities, restaurants, etc. You will have forewarned them. In another sense, you will have also make yourself accountable. Now that everyone knows what you plan to do, best keep your word and do it!
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