Extreme mindset traps to avoid on your debt free journey

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Last Updated on January 25, 2022 by Melissa S.

When starting a debt free journey, a lot of people talk about their “lightbulb moment” which is basically the moment they decide to do something about their debt. I know all too well how it feels to dread actually adding up how much money is owed, and – even worse – the amount of interest it is costing. 

debt free journey mindset
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This was my “lightbulb moment’ – realising that my credit card interest was around £300 a month, which would have been more than enough for me to comfortably buy all the little bits and pieces I was struggling to afford each and every month. It just felt so frustrating and sickening. I know many of you reading this will be able to empathise, even if your debt was much greater or much smaller than this.

So, I did what many of us have done (especially if you’re reading this), and I began to search for ways online to help myself get out of debt. I stumbled upon the fantastic #debtfreecommunity on Instagram, learnt about American Money Guru Dave Ramsey, and perhaps most importantly of all, began to discover ways to make extra money I had previously written off, such as eBay selling and Matched Betting.

You only have to browse through this blog to see that it absolutely was one of the best decisions I have ever made, as not only was I able to become debt free in 2019, but I now have a blogging and side hustling business that actually pays for my car finance each month!

However, as much as I love the support from like-minded people and bloggers alike, not everything will work for everyone, and it can be easy to get swept away with extreme attitudes that may not work for your own situation. 

With that in mind, here are some extreme mindsets to avoid on your debt free journey.

Disclaimer: Please do not think that I am saying any of these things are “bad”. My point is they may just not be right for everyone. I have highlighted important points to consider. This post does not constitute professional financial advice.

DEBT FREE JOURNEY MINDSET #1: “Cut up all your credit cards”

As mentioned above, a lot of us feel sick when we finally face up to our debts, and this can lead to feelings of guilt, anger and a vow to swear off spending forever. Just like binge eating a box of donuts and then throwing out all of the sweet stuff in the house, there are good intentions in there, but in reality, it may not be the right thing to do.

debt free journey mindset
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I only ever had one credit card, (my husband does not have one), and when we were down to paying off the last few hundred pounds I told him I was going to cut it up. After all, we never intended to buy anything on finance again, we had an emergency fund saved up, so why leave the temptation there?

Luckily, he convinced me to keep it, and I’m really glad he did. Thanks to Section 75, I know my purchases are protected, so if we book a holiday or weekend break away, I always use my credit card and then pay the balance in full before any interest is charged.

Having small amounts go onto the card and then paying off the balance in full also drastically improved my credit rating, which in turn got me a better deal on my car finance, ultimately saving me thousands in interest.

DISCLAIMER: You have to be disciplined and organised for this to work. If you are the sort of person that just knows you will continue to buy unnecessary items on credit and then struggle to pay them off, go ahead and cut up that card.

DEBT FREE JOURNEY MINDSET #2: “Never buy anything on finance ever again”

This was my mantra for a while, and was definitely influenced by a lot of the debt free community posts I saw on social media. However, when I needed a new car I realised it just wasn’t practical for my circumstances. Had I had the money saved up, I absolutely would have used cash rather than finance, but unfortunately I just did not have the money available to me.

This post goes into detail about why I took out finance for a new car after becoming debt free – and I do not regret this decision.

What I will say is that mantra has made me really work hard to save up for the things that I absolutely do not need finance for, such as a new mobile phone or other gadget.

However, if you have no other debts and you can get a 0% Buy Now, Pay Later Deal, as long as you know you can pay this off before you are charged any interest, there is no reason why you can’t take advantage of getting a limited time discount on an item you need. 

Of course, the danger comes from ramping up a few of these 0%  BNPL payments and then struggling to pay them off in time. So it goes without saying that if you don’t think this would be manageable for you, then avoid them.

DEBT FREE JOURNEY MINDSET #3: “You shouldn’t buy treats or non essentials when paying off debt”

To be honest, I didn’t see this attitude in a great number of people, but it is definitely a misconception that is out there.  To use the doughnut analogy again, most people who start a crash diet and cut out everything soon find themselves about to crack. 

The spending equivalent would be to deprive yourself of everything for so long that one day you crack and have a credit card binge, undoing all the previous good work. The key is working out what you value spending your money on, and what you can live without.

no spend challenge

If a daily flat white from Costa is an absolute must, then don’t feel guilty about spending your money on it – include it in your budget, and enjoy. However, if you know that every time you go to Home Bargains, you buy £50 of unplanned items then consider avoiding it, or sticking to a list!

If you allow yourself a few treats that you truly value, you will find it is much easier to cut out some of the unnecessary spends.

No Spend Challenges are another favourite in the debt free community, although opinions are very divided upon them. Find out why I don’t do no spend challenges in this post.

DEBT FREE MINDSET #4: “Being frugal = buying the cheapest option every time”

Even though I am what you would describe as “frugal”, I really don’t like that word! You will notice that I don’t really use it in many of my blog posts.

Is it just me who thinks it conjures up an image of someone dressed in a hessian sack brewing tea out of vegetable peelings?! I think it reminds me of Barbara from The Good Life (which of course I am far too young to remember). 

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

However, being frugal in reality is not the same as being cheap. To quote this article from US News, Cheap people are driven by saving money regardless of the cost; frugal people are driven by maximizing total value, including the value of their time.”

This is so true. I love a sale or bargain, but my mindset has changed over my debt free journey to realise that an item is only good value if you have a use for it, otherwise it literally becomes unwanted clutter. 

I will always go the extra mile to save money on my household and grocery shopping, because who wants to spend extra on washing powder when you could put the savings towards something far more exciting?

Being frugal also means that you may buy an expensive, high quality item knowing that it will last for years, instead of several cheaper items that need replacing. 

An example of this for me would be my Apple Watch. It is a series 2 and I have had it for 4 years now and it still works in perfect condition. Although I know the features of the later models have improved, I have no reason to upgrade it yet and looks wise it is no different from the latest model. 

Contrast this with another cheaper fitness watch brand I bought prior to this that had broken within the year. This band today would also be seriously outdated in terms of features and looks.

Do you need help with your debt?

As I stated at the beginning of the article, everyone’s debt free journey is different, and what has worked for me may not work for you. My aim in this article was to help you consider that going “cold turkey” on your debt, much like a diet, may not be the most beneficial path to take.

If you are in debt and need help or advice, please visit StepChange, PayPlan, or The Money Advice Service (Now known as Money Helper) for free information and debt support.

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Hi! I'm Melissa

I help busy mums like me become financially fitter without resorting to extreme “crash diet” measures.

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