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Getting Out of Debt Builds Character

There are a lot of good reasons to get out of debt. It frees up your spending power, it keeps you from paying more in interest, it opens up options for your career and personal goals. Another thing that getting out of debt does it build character.

I was thinking about that this week, because Micah and I often use the phrase “it builds character” to help us keep doing something that we should be doing but don’t currently feel like doing. This phrase means much more to me as an adult than it did as a child, because I see all the good that comes of developing aspects of my character.

Getting Out of Debt Builds Patience

For most of us, the debt didn’t appear overnight and it’s not going away overnight either. Getting out of debt requires focus and commitment, but it also requires patience. Frustration with your progress is only good if it helps you find more ways to pay off the debt, not if it causes you to give up before you’ve succeeded.

Staying-out-of-debt benefit: Patience will help you save up for items or put off buying until you can afford them. It’s very helpful to have when trying to avoid getting back into consumer debt.

Getting Out of Debt Builds Discipline

In order to get out of debt, you have to take control over your finances and your desire to spend. Habits have to be changed, things have to be cut out or turned down. It’s easy to get into debt simply by not watching how much you’re spending, or by not taking your financial situation into consideration.

Now you have to take control of things again. You may have to work out a budget (and stick to it), cut out some things that you like but really can’t afford, and make decisions you’d rather ignore.

Staying-out-of-debt benefit: If you know how to control your spending, if you develop the habit of budgeting, you’re again less likely to get into consumer debt.

Getting Out of Debt Builds Courage

It’s a lot easier to avoid facing up to your debt than it is to tackle it. It’s also easier not to admit to people that you don’t have the money to do x, y, or z (though the recession has made that a bit easier). Once you face up to your debt and choose to pay it off, you start building courage.

Staying-out-of-debt benefit: Building courage is good because a lack of self-confidence and a need for the approval of others can be reasons why a person gets into debt in the first place. You may have been buying things to fill a hole in how you perceive yourself or because you didn’t have the courage to say no.

Getting Out of Debt Builds Endurance

Getting out of debt can wear you down. It necessitates changes in your life, it can be depressing when you aren’t making much progress, it can feel like it’ll take forever. And sometimes it’s great, you see how far you’ve come and you’re able to make amazing progress. It take endurance to keep going when you’ve hit the lows between the emotional highs.

Staying-out-of-debt benefit: Endurance will help you stick with the plan(s) you make for your financial future once you’re out of debt. It’s not just getting out of debt that can feel slow, saving for retirement or saving for a down payment or saving for your kids’ college can all take you through lows as well.

Getting Out of Debt Builds Character

I’m sure there are even more aspects of your character that you can strengthen by getting out of debt. When the going gets tough, remember it’s not just your pocketbook or your balance sheet that’s improving, it’s you as well. This will pay off in other areas of your life as well—as a writer, trying to stick to an exercise schedule, working toward another goal, etc.


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April 15, 2009 at 12:55 pm

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Green Panda April 11, 2009 at 8:54 am

Great post. It took us years before the car loan was paid off. I learned and determination can dramatically help with paying it off. It;s such a boost of confidence when it’s done, since you’ve achieve something.

Green Panda’s last blog post: Credit Cards: Understanding the Fine Print

TeacHer April 11, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Great post! I’m about a month away from completely eliminating my consumer debt and the experience has really changed the way I feel about myself. I’ve always sort of viewed myself as a weak person; I never thought I’d be able to do something “hard,” that requires patience, endurance, and discipline. This is the first really, really hard thing I’ve done in my life, and it feels great to have accomplished something so big. I think I’m going to tackle weight-loss next, and now I know I can do it!

TeacHer’s last blog post: Total Damage:

TStrump April 11, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Debt feels like such a burden and really affects the way we live our lives.
Getting rid of it can be a huge accomplishment – if you’ve done, it can make us think we can do anything.

TStrump’s last blog post: 10 Tax Commandments

Madoline Hatter April 11, 2009 at 9:41 pm

Your points are very true. Luckily for Penelope and me, we watched our stepfather and father get seriously into debt and that was enough to keep us out of debt from the start. I guess other people’s errors can be character building, too.

Madoline Hatter’s last blog post: The Microwave Oven Working With Other Appliances to Save on Utilities

mrsmicah April 11, 2009 at 10:12 pm

@Green Panda I agree. Looking back on it makes you feel like you’ve got what it takes to tackle more.

@TeacHer congrats! I used to look at myself that way too, starting projects and being unable to finish them, I didn’t think I had endurance. This is one thing you can always point to as proof that you’ve developed all those strengths!

@TStrump amen.

@Madoline that’s good. I think that it takes a strength of character to learn from the mistakes of others. It’s very easy just to pass judgment and not think about what we should do differently.

Kristy @ Master Your Card April 14, 2009 at 11:05 pm

I really liked this post! I’ll be linking to it this week.

I had never thought of it in terms of building character, but you’re absolutely right. While I still don’t have much patience today – even I still get sucked into instant gratification – I have gotten better with it. While working to getting out of debt sucks, I think you’ve touched beautifully on the upside!

Kristy @ Master Your Card’s last blog post: Are You Stagnant In the Face of Change?

SJ April 15, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Debt is basically… bad tho somewhat necessary at times lol.

I don’t like the title, makes it almost seem like I should get into debt for some odd reason =P

But it’s true, builds up all those things (or avoid debt!)

SJ’s last blog post: Games — role and reach

mrsmicah April 15, 2009 at 3:17 pm

@Kristy It’s hard to avoid the lure of instant gratification sometimes. I find myself periodically battling a “want now” mentality.

@SJ lol. 🙂 The good news is that there are other ways to build character than getting out of debt. Developing any good habit will bring similar benefits, so you don’t have to get in debt to become a better person! 🙂

MoneyEnergy May 5, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Getting out of debt also builds momentum and motivation for getting ahead in general. I’m about to be paying off a set of cards in full again and I’m never going back to racking them up in the same way. As I eliminate these monoliths, it slowly starts to feel like I’m gaining some traction, and that builds momentum for getting other things done, too!

MoneyEnergy’s last blog post: How Will You Spend the Money From Your Parents’ Estates When They’re Gone?

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