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The Road to Debt Reduction is Filled With Stoplights

Every Saturday morning, I drive to the hospital instead of taking public transit. It’s the only way I can make it to both jobs on time. It’s a pretty straightforward drive now that I’m used to it.

The thing that still gets me is the inefficiency of the stop lights. I’ve learned the pattern…and it’s deliberately set up so that you can’t go more than 3 blocks at a time without stopping. The lights seem to work in blocks. So I’m at one set that I see all turn red at the same time. Just as they turn red, the next 3 turn green. When I get to next 3, they’ve already gone red.

stoplightdowning_amanda.pngIt’s such a waste of gas, but at least it gives me time to think. And this morning, I was comparing the frustrating slowness of my commute and its forced stops to paying off debt.

Once we figure out the path to paying off debt, it can be incredibly frustrating to get stuck along the way. Maybe it’s a car that suddenly needs repair and puts your repayments on hold for a month. Or perhaps you just need to put some of the extra money aside for some work on your house.

Sometimes you were a bit overzealous in your hopes or forgot to take certain factors into consideration.

We all get stuck at those stoplights. Sometimes we even run into construction and have to take a detour.

What matters is how we deal with those stoplights. Some days, when it’s still dark out and I’m cold and tired and waiting for the heat to start working, I sit at the stoplights and think about turning around and zipping back to my warm bed piled with blankets.

But I go to work for a reason, several reasons. I don’t know which is more primary—to earn money or to help people. It probably depends on the day (and in those early mornings it’s to earn money). I don’t want to give up on my goals.

Plus, if you give up entirely on your financial goals, you don’t get to the end. And if I give up on going to work when I’m tired and frustrated, I’ll lose my job.

Sometimes you may have to reconsider your route. Sometimes you get stuck behind a slow driver or at an interminable stoplight. Sometimes it seems like you’ll never get there. Sometimes it’s much less comfortable than the old way.

And then there are those glorious moments, where you go through green light after green light and it feels like you’ll never hit another red one. Enjoy those while you have them.

The road to debt repayment/reduction is like any road we drive on. Potholes, annoyances, accidents, detours, setbacks, and stoplights. But just like those other roads, it gets us somewhere we want to be. And keeping that in mind helps when you’re in a stuck place.

photo by downing.amanda

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Meg from All About Appearances February 23, 2008 at 3:32 pm

So true!

Normally, my husband and I spend a lot at Christmas. I would say that we have spent about $500 or more in the past, which certainly isn’t bad for some people, but it’s still a lot of money.

This year we were determined to spend less, even at the risk of looking like Scrooges. We had only spent about $50 on each other including stockings, less than $50 each of our moms, and very little on friends. We had agreements with a lot of friends and family that we were just not going to exchange gifts (a very mutual decision). We didn’t buy anything special for our cats. We didn’t buy any decorations or wrapping paper, either. We just used what we had.

We were also going to spend about $50 on his dad and step-mom, and $50 on his brother, but before we had bought the gift cards we were going to send them, our cat Felix got sick — the weekend before Christmas. Fortunately, my husband’s family understood.

But between Felix’s vet bill and Christmas, we spent over a grand — twice as much as usual.

It was so frustrating. But I have had to remind myself that if we hadn’t cut back on Christmas, we would have still spent even more money. And at least we didn’t have to decide between our cat and paying the bills.

Lisa February 23, 2008 at 3:48 pm

Nice article. Reminds me of that saying, “two steps forward, one step back.” Only it’s two green lights, one red.


CatherineL February 23, 2008 at 3:59 pm

Hi Mrs M – these are good points. It’s a lot like diet isn’t it. People often break the rules, then give up because they think they’ve been defeated – even though they wouldn’t be if they’d kept going.

Jay February 23, 2008 at 4:53 pm

Well said!!

Ron@TheWisdomJournal February 23, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Very nice analogy. I love how you were able to weave something as simple as a commute to work into your debt reduction journey. Nicely written!

RacerX February 23, 2008 at 6:20 pm

Yep. Perseverance is really the key. Mistakes will be made, jump back on the horse asap and ride!

fathersez February 23, 2008 at 10:29 pm

We just have to keep going. I like your reminder that so long the road is the right road, we just have to roll with the punches.

Until perhaps someone shows us a better and quicker route.


Pamela February 24, 2008 at 12:13 am

Good analogy. We seem to run in to that in our debt-reduction “road”. It seems we get a “break” or some extra sum of money, but then a car needs extra repairs or I get sick and have to miss two days of work (no sick pay) or the dog gets sick and needs to go to the vet. Frustrating as those times are, at least we end up with the “extra” to cover for it, instead of having to dip in to the emergency fund or adding more credit card debt (which we try and avoid if at all possible)l We’re making progress, though…we just have to remember to look at where we were and where we are now.

Money Blue Book February 24, 2008 at 12:26 am

I like the comparison you draw – you’re right, we must always anticipate the yield or stop light. Anticipate and know that it’s coming. But always keep your eyes on the prize – becoming debt free and saving for the future and retirement.

Debt FREE Revolution February 24, 2008 at 9:42 am

Regardless of how many stoplights, pot holes, or detours you encounter, the important thing is to KEEP AT IT because it is SOOOOO WORTH IT when you finally arrive!

Lynnae @ Being February 24, 2008 at 10:45 am

Excellent perspective! It’s tempting to give up when we hit the stoplights. When we realize that stoplights are a normal part of life, it’s easier to just take them in stride and keep going.

wealthy_1 February 24, 2008 at 4:27 pm

Great analogy and so true! Stop lights, road blocks, obstacles are are just journey diversions. We can’t let them stop us. We must deal with them and continue on our journey.

SavingDiva February 25, 2008 at 1:01 pm


Jamie February 28, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Thanks for writing this, Mrs. Micah! I just took my car into my mechanic yesterday; it might be as simple (simple? hah!) as a cracked head, but it could also be a cracked block, which would require replacing the whole engine. And just as I’m starting to really build some momentum in saving and paying down debt! So your post couldn’t come at a better time. Thank you!

debt-general March 7, 2008 at 4:17 am

The internet is one of the best places for you to find many interesting debt free programs like a debt calculator. With programs like this you can map the way your life is progressing with regards to financial matters.

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