In February 2020, I accomplished something that I once believed was impossible. I paid off all my consumer debt. All of my credit accounts read a zero balance, except for one, which had a negative balance because I overpaid.
How did it do it? Well, it certainly wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t overnight, but it was so, so satisfying. I used self-care.
Why self-care? It’s all about happiness and gratitude. Here’s the thing. Money can be one of our biggest stressors. We worry about not having enough money and it affects us negatively in every other aspect of life. We approach those areas with fear and desperation, worrying that we’re not making enough money or that we’re spending too much. So, instead of going after the issue of money, I decided to go after the issue of happiness and self-care because when I feel better, I do better.
So, how did I, a recent college graduate who racked up too much debt for my liking, pay it all off with self-care? Let me tell you.
Please note that there are some points you may be tempted to skip or scroll past. Those, in my experience, are the most important points. Read everything carefully.
GIVING YOURSELF PERMISSION
The very first thing I had to do was give myself permission to live my dream life. I had to convince myself that I was allowed to be happy and carefree and understand that struggle did not have to be a part of my reality. To do this I used affirmations and journaling to reprogram my brain and my thoughts about money. To all of you who grew up with any sort of financial insecurity, this is crucial!
UNDERSTAND YOUR GOALS AND VALUES
The most important step in this process is getting clear on your goals and values. Do you actually want to be debt-free? Why? I ask this because many of us grow up with the idea that debt is bad, which isn’t necessarily true. If you don’t actually connect with or feel aligned to the goal of being debt-free, it will be a very painful journey.
For me, I had to realize that I don’t want to be debt-free. However, I want to have a thriving business, and I needed to increase my financial resources to get that. Clearing away my debt was the best way for me to do so. By connecting my debt-free mission to a larger, more aligned goal, I was able to achieve it much more easily.
DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT
I have expensive taste, and I always go after a certain lifestyle. When I was reading ways to save more money, most articles urged me to spend less money. I scoured by bank statements looking for ways to spend less, but after a certain point, I didn’t want to go any further.
Here’s the thing. I like streaming. I like my weekly food delivery order. I can’t live without Spotify Premium. These are things I don’t want to compromise on. I approach my spending with love and not judgement, so instead of saying, “I can’t have that,” I ask myself, “How can I have that?”
Decide what you want. What purchases make you feel like your truest self. They might not be material objects, and they might not even be for you. Just make a list of the things you want to be able to pay for and easily afford without any judgement.
DEMAND WHAT YOU WANT
Once you’ve decided what exactly you want (it’s okay if this list changes), it’s time to go after it. You have made a decision, and you deserve to have those things! Demand them. Tell life, God, the universe, yourself—whoever—that you are coming after your things. Decide that where there’s a will there is a way.
Sometimes this step feels impossible, but it just takes practice and creativity. For example, I was sure there was no way I could afford my daily cappuccino. The habit was costing me about $30 a week, which was not aligned with my current financial goals. So I thought to myself, “How can I make this work?” Soon, my mom called and asked what I would like for Christmas. Usually, I would ask for more clothes or just money, but a light bulb went off. I asked for a Nepresso coffee maker with a milk frother. I was able to get my daily cappuccino for about $30 a month versus $30 a week.
Demanding what you want can look like finding ways to save money or it can look like finding ways to earn more money. Either way, it is possible, and you’ve got this.
Money can feel restricting and scary, but when you approach it from a place of love and gratitude, it can be so freeing. It’s a process, but you’re ready for it.