Attitude, the way you respond to life and all of its circumstances, is more important than what’s actually happening. While you can’t control the situations in your life and marriage, each of you has the power to choose the way you respond to those situations.
Changing your financial situation starts with a set of deliberate choices to defeat the destructive attitudes that are keeping you in debt. The way you do that is by consciously replacing destructive thoughts with truthful and beneficial ones.
Here are five destructive attitudes that have to go:
More money will fix everything. This attitude goes like this: When you get a raise and I go back to work, we’ll have enough money to pay off everything really fast. Then we’ll start saving, then we’ll start tithing, then we’ll build an emergency fund, then we’ll start the kids’ college savings accounts — then everything will be awesome.
Defeat it: The truth is that more money will never be enough until you learn how to manage the money you have now. If more money were the answer to your financial woes, wouldn’t you be debt-free and sitting pretty right now? You already got a raise or a big tax return. You went back to work or you received an inheritance. The sad truth is that more money only made things worse in your marriage. Until you learn how to manage well the money you currently have, more money will never be enough. Substitute that false belief with this thought: It’s not how much money we make that matters. What matters is what we do with what we have and how much of it we keep.
If we don’t use credit we’ll never have nice things. This attitude is the adult version of schoolyard peer pressure. It’s attempting to keep up with others and translates into the thought that as long as you can pull it off, it’s OK to have it all now and pay for it later. It takes comfort in believing that everyone spends this way; it’s the only way to live these days.
Defeat it: This line of thinking is a lie that has been created by the consumer credit industry. That billion-dollar industry is playing you like a fiddle! Stop letting it determine your actions. The price you’re paying for this false sense of affluence is ginormous. Consumer debt is like a noose tightening around your neck. Substitute that false belief with this thought: Nothing we buy on credit will ever feel as good as the debt we accumulate makes us feel bad. Stop comparing yourself to others and learn to like what you have, buying only what you need.
We work hard, we deserve [fill in the blank]. There are lots of variations to this destructive attitude of entitlement, such as: The kids will only be young once — we need to get them to Disney World or into every sports activity we can find; they need to feel accepted by wearing the best clothing and by attending the best schools. Or maybe you think you have plenty of time to catch up financially once the kids are out of college and on their own. Or maybe you just need to get away and rest — a Caribbean cruise sounds great — you deserve it.
Defeat it: Ugly attitudes of entitlement can be deadly. The truth is that you don’t deserve anything. Hard work is a given, gratitude should be the response. Everything is a gift from God — your health, your ability to work, your talents and skills. Using credit to have all the things you feel entitled to is a fool’s game. It will eventually destroy your present life and set you up for poverty in the future. Substitute that false belief with thoughts like this: We don’t deserve it, but we are grateful for every way God chooses to bless us.
Buying things on sale is a great way to save money. I must admit that at times I still struggle with this myth because it is so easy to justify buying something just because it is such a great bargain. But buying things on sale has little to do with saving money. Unless you stop at the bank and deposit the difference between the sale price and the regular price, you’re not saving at all.
Defeat it. Rather than wandering through sale racks looking for bargains, find another form of entertainment. And always remember this: A true need is never realized while standing in front of a sale rack. If you needed glow-in-the-dark placemats, you knew that before you entered the store. That would not have come as a new revelation upon seeing them on sale.
We are losers and our family is a failure because we are in such terrible financial trouble. You may feel that your situation is completely hopeless, that it’s too late. When you continually choose this destructive attitude, you pull each other deeper and deeper into despair.
Defeat it. No situation is completely hopeless. My husband and I made it out of debt without bankruptcy, the same way we got into debt: one dollar at a time. I grabbed every opportunity I could find. I repaid a six-figure debt and survived to tell the story. There is a way out for you, too. You can accomplish extraordinary things on an ordinary income.
Grab onto God’s promise to supply all your needs (Philippians 4:19). Ask Him for wisdom (James 1:5). Debunk those destructive attitudes that keep you in debt, and then learn all you can about wise financial management.
Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living and an award-winning author of several books, including How to Debt-Proof Your Marriage.