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Home / Ready, Set, Go! Your Path to Debt-Free Living / Part 1: Understanding Your Beliefs About Debt

Part 1: Understanding Your Beliefs About Debt

Perhaps you’ve attempted to stick to a budget in the past. Or maybe you’ve never tried to manage your money but know you’d be better off if you did. In either case, before you make another vow to rein in your money habits, you’ll want to understand the beliefs underpinning your actions. 

Your beliefs aren’t just the funny things your parents used to say. They are the sum total of your life experience. Do you have fear or anxiety around money? Are you constantly sabotaging your efforts to get out of debt? Your belief system could be holding you back.

Limiting Beliefs About Money

Here are some of the most dogmatic and limiting beliefs that people have about money:

  • Money is evil – Even if you’ve never set foot inside a church, you’ve probably heard this familiar Biblical misquote: Money is the root of all evil. The actual King James verse refers to the love of money. But, the message is quite clear: You cannot live a virtuous life in pursuit of the almighty dollar. 
  • Money is scarce – Do you believe that money is a finite resource? In other words, that only some people can have it? If money is, indeed, scarce, then perhaps rich people are rich at the expense of the poor. Conversely, if you happen to become rich, it’s because you took something away from the poor.  
  • Money is unimportant – Money can’t be important because [fill in the blank] is more important. Or money shouldn’t be important because the pursuit of it will take over your life. When you believe that money is not important, you may shun your responsibility for it and lose the ability to control it.  

Letting Go of Limiting Beliefs

Beliefs affect us in a variety of ways. It’s your money beliefs that lead you, for example, to spend, to save, or to be fearful about having enough.  There are many more. 

  • “I just need enough to pay my bills.”
  • “If I could only make it to payday.”
  • “What’s the use in trying to save? Something always comes up.”
  • “I’m not good with money.”
  • “Money is for other people.”
  • “I can’t get ahead.”

When money beliefs are limiting, we have little control over our financial circumstances. But, in reality, we have all the control… that is, unless we are drowning in debt.

What if you let go of your money beliefs? How would your life be different if you believed that money is good, abundant, and important? There is more to life than simply making ends meet. Your past does not have to define your future. Just being aware of your beliefs can afford you the opportunity to change. But how do you let go of those long-standing money beliefs?

For starters, replace old beliefs with new ones. Maybe you can’t go overnight from “money is scarce” to “money is abundant.” That may be a bridge too far. Instead, moderate:

 “Even though money is tight right now, I know that when I manage my money to meet my goals, I have plenty.”

It may help to work through your feelings by journaling. Or read a good book about letting go of your limiting beliefs about money, such as Money: A Love Story by Kate Northrup. Do whatever it takes to break down negative thoughts so that you can reach a new level of financial wellness.

Take a few minutes to do the action item and worksheets and note your insights. There are several for Part 1. In order to get the most from the class, you’ll want to stay on top of your “homework.” 

Tomorrow, we’ll explore the topic of borrowing. I’ll see you then.

Homework

1 action item; 4 worksheets

Action Item 1: What’s My Bottom Line?

Before you can work on your financial plan, you need to know exactly how much you owe. On the attached worksheet, list each of your debts, completing all of the columns except the last one. Is the total amount more than your thought? If so, don’t panic. As you work through this e-course, we’ll devise a strategy to help you along the path to debt freedom. 

Worksheet 1A: How Much Do I Owe?

Note: Keep this worksheet. We’ll complete it in Part 2.

Worksheet 1B: More on Beliefs

Do you believe that money is evil, scarce or unimportant? How do you feel about the following statements? Are they mostly true or mostly false? You may want to record your responses in a notebook or journal.

  • I don’t deserve (or shouldn’t want) to have money.
  • Wealth is out of my reach.
  • Everyone is in debt. So what?
  • There are more important things to care about.
  • I’m too far “gone” to change things now.

Do you recognize a pattern? Is it positive or negative? If your beliefs are negative, ask yourself the following question: 

How would my life change if the opposite were true?

Change the way you think about money and you’ll have greater control of your finances. Of course, there will always be circumstances that you can’t control. But, even when you feel that the deck is stacked against you, you can still change the way you play the game. This means the ability to reframe your current situation and forge ahead with a new plan.

And that’s why we’re here.

Worksheet 1C: Making Money Important

Consider two scenarios: Money is unimportant vs. money is important. 

What type of actions would you need to take to accomplish the following? If you like, record your thoughts in a notebook or journal. 

  • Set intentions around my finances
  • Save for a family vacation
  • Attain a higher level degree or special certification
  • Follow a budget
  • Fund my retirement account
  • Pay off debt faster
  • Look at my credit card balances each month
  • Know how much I pay in interest each month

Making your finances a priority doesn’t mean that you put money before everything else. But without money, how would you ever go on vacations, retire when you’re ready, buy that bigger house for your growing family, take care of your parents as they age?

Change your mind and you can change your financial circumstances. No matter your bank balance or your paycheck, you have more options than you think. 

Worksheet 1D: Set Your Financial Intentions

Make a list: What can money provide for me?

Of these things, what’s most important?

In order to do the things that are most important to you, what intentions will you set around your finances? Here are some examples. Feel free to create your own:

  • Pay off debt
  • Build an emergency fund
  • Pay my bills on time
  • Save for retirement
  • Save for a home
  • Save for a dream vacation
  • Move to another country
  • Start my own business

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