In The Introduction of Exploration of a Debt Free Life, we went over what it would be like to live a debt-free life and how to get there. In Part One, Track Your Spending, we discussed tracking your spending so you are aware of where your money is going. Part two discusses the 7 Stages of Facing Your Debt. In my opinion, this is really the scariest part of starting the budget process. It is facing the concept that you may have no idea what is going on in your financial life, how much is going out, or even how much is coming in. Let’s face your debt.
Face Your Debt
At this point in the Exploration of a Debt Free Life Series, it is time to face your debt. This means we need to find the amounts (down to the penny) of everything you owe to everyone. Credit cards, student loans, borrowed money from family members, everything. Go online, make phone calls, dig through the trash and come up with some numbers.
Right about now, you may be experiencing the emotional side of debt. It really is not that much different than the stages of grief one might experience after losing a loved one. Although I have no professional psychological counseling experience, I did find this to be very interesting and worthy of sharing.
“The 7 Stages of Facing Your Debt”
SHOCK & DENIAL-
You will probably react seeing all your bills with disbelief. Do you really owe that much? You may deny the reality of them at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once.
As the shock wears off, you may feel guilt. How did I let it get this far? How could I do this to myself and my family? Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience this and not hide from it.
You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn’t do with your finances. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.
ANGER & BARGAINING-
Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the state of your finances. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion.
You may rail against fate, questioning “Why me?” You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair.
“DEPRESSION”, REFLECTION, LONELINESS-
Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be “talked out of it” by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.
During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your finances, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your money, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.
THE UPWARD TURN-As you start to adjust to life after facing your debt, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your “depression” begins to lift slightly.
RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH-As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without debt.
ACCEPTANCE & HOPE-
During this, the last of the seven stages in facing your debt, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward. You will find that being organized and having control over your finances leads to a less stressed way of life.
It is time to start to look forward and plan for the future. You will once again anticipate some good times to come, and yes, even find joy again in the experience of living.
These are the 7 stages of facing your debt.
Get started on this Is difficult but worth it in the long run. It is time to face your debt, become aware of the cost of it, and get ready to take back control.
The 7 Stages of facing Your Debt was adapted from 7 Stages of Grief