debt problems

Debt Is Not The Problem

by Tim on May 23, 2011

I revisited Dave Ramesy’s book Total Money Makeover recently, and came across a quote that really caught my attention.  Dave quoted Larry Burkett of Crown Financial Ministries saying “Debt is not the problem, it’s the symptom.”

It really is true!  Debt happens when we give in to buying more than our income can provide – it’s that simple.  Debt consolidation and extension programs mask the symptom; those things don’t solve the true reason why we get in debt the first place!

So What IS The Problem?

The debt calculation is simple: you’ve spent more than you’ve saved.  Knowing why is the start of how you can free yourself from debt.  The reasons we go into debt differ from person to person, but here are three problems I’ve noticed that can lead to debt.

- Lack of Contentment
– Impatience
– Your Surroundings

If we’re honest with ourselves, I think we can look back on a time where we’ve made a financial decision because of one of these three areas.  It’s difficult to fight the impulsive urge to upgrade to the better, faster, shinier item – especially when we’re constantly being reminded about it in our surroundings!

How To Solve The Problem

Instead of focusing too much on these problems, I’d rather look at solutions.  Here are four ways we can solve the problem that leads to debt.

  1. Change our habits –  If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll probably find items that could be cut back or monitored more closely.  That’s why moving to an all cash budget can really make a difference if you’re having trouble overspending money in a budget category.  That’s just one example of how you can change a habit in the way you spend.  You can also try putting it on paper.  If you’re serious about getting your spending under control, put your purchases down on paper.  It’ll force you to visually and physically acknowledge each dollar that is being spent.


  2. Practice Patience – Sometimes, convenience is the excuse we use to justify our spending.  Think about it: eating out, lawn service, cleaning services – all of this is a matter of convenience.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy any of these luxuries, but taking extra time to cook or clean may be the extra you need to get out of debt faster.  Like Dave Ramsey says – “If you live like no one else, you’ll life like no one else.”

  3. Encourage self-discipline – I’m a visual person, so if I want to keep up with a goal, I like to use a graph or chart that I can place a checkmark on to track my progress.  It’s encouraging to me and works in areas of money, physical exercise, and at work.  Find a way to keep yourself motivated.  You might implement a similar system like I did, or you might use others to spur yourself to action.  Tell your friends about the changes you’re trying to make with your spending and ask for support.  Whatever it is, you have to exercise self-discipline and focus on correcting the behavior that leads to debt.

  4. Create income opportunities – If you’ve done all that you can to lower your expenses and you still have problems with building debt at the end of the month, you need to address your income.  Working nights and weekends may not be ideal, but it might be necessary for a time.  If you’re creative, you can find ways to use your passion to make money.

I hope these suggestions help you in addressing the issue of debt in your life. If you have been motivated in other ways, share them in the comments!  You never know who might benefit from using a strategy that worked for you!

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