Are there things you want to do but can’t afford because you have debt? If you’ve been in debt for several years, it may start to seem like your debt is controlling your life.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and you don’t have to live in debt forever. Even if you see yourself on a long-term debt repayment journey, you can still learn how to regain control over your money and your life.

Here are 4 ways to stop debt from controlling your life.

1. Become More Aware

If you want to stop letting debt control your life, you need to start controlling it instead. The best way to regain control is by becoming aware and implementing a strategic plan.

Take a step back and look at your complete debt situation. Find out how much you owe, who you owe, what your interest rate is, and how much is going toward debt each month.

You may be able to save yourself some money and peace of mind if you start implementing a strategy. For example, when I first started paying off debt, I used something called the avalanche method where I focused on paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first.

This saved me thousands of dollars in interest when I chose to pay my high-interest car loan off quickly. In just under 3 years, I’d paid off $30,000 of debt.

Now, I still have a little more debt to get rid of but my new strategy is to use the snowball method. This means I’m focusing on paying off the debt with the smallest balance first then working my way up.

I’m doing this because we have a few smaller debts that I’d like to knock out by the end of the year. Once they’re gone, this will free up several hundred dollars in my budget to put toward the larger debt which is my husband’s student loans.

Even paying off a bill that was $50/month can provide you with some financial relief and make you feel more in control of your finances.

2. Use an All-Cash Budget

Debt can’t control you if you don’t feed into spending more than you earn. If you’re in debt but keep overspending or using credit cards because you feel you have to, you’ll never get ahead.

Using an all-cash budget means you won’t rely on getting into debt or accumulate more just to meet your regular living expenses. It’s a great way to practice living within your means.

I’d recommend committing to an all-cash budget for at least 30 days to create better spending habits. When people use cash, it’s been proven that they spend less than they would with a debit or credit card.

My husband and I are actually doing an all-cash budget this month. It’s a bit challenging since we are doing lots of work on our house, but we refuse to get into debt or view it as an option.

So far, we’ve been able to make it work with the cash that we have and make a lot of updates to the house. Plus, thanks to proper budgeting, there’s still something left over for summer fun and entertainment.

3. Enjoy Your Life Inexpensively

To aid your all-cash budget, focus on developing ways to enjoy your life inexpensively. One of the best ways to stop letting debt control your life is to keep living well despite your debt.

Popular finance guru Dave Ramsey is big on telling people not to have a life during extreme debt payoff. He encourages people to eat at home for every meal, forego vacationing, and throw every extra dollar toward debt.

While this is sound advice, it’s not sustainable advice. There are plenty of ways to enjoy your life without relying on debt. Plus, if you do things inexpensively, you can still pay off your debt quickly in the process.

Some of my favorite ways to maintain an inexpensive lifestyle is to buy used when I can, use coupons to save on products I like, join loyalty and cash back reward programs, and to simply ask for discounts when it’s reasonable.

Most of the items I used to furnish my home were used and in good condition so I paid a fraction of the purchase price. I also made use of the coupons I received in the mail for home stores and products I knew I needed.

I don’t mind shopping around for deals so long as I can do so efficiently. Over time, I learn where I can get certain things at the best price, and it saves me a great deal of money. At the end of the day, free is always great too.

Be open to free entertainment and spend time with family. If you don’t spend any money in the first place, you won’t feel guilty while being in debt and you’ll still have a good time.

4. Review Your Progress But Don’t Get Obsessed

It’s a good thing to get super focused on debt payoff as your start making progress. However, it’s pretty unhealthy to obsess over your debt day and night.

Even if you really want to become debt free, thinking about it 24/7 isn’t going to help much. Control your expenses, make more money, and track your progress. Also be willing to let go and shift your focus when appropriate.

Set a day and time to track your progress weekly or monthly. Then, let your goals sit in the back of your mind once you get everything on autopilot.

Stop thinking about all the things you can do because of your debt and start considering what you can do despite having debt. Don’t waste time comparing your progress against others because everyone’s situation is different.

In most areas of my life, I chose not to compete with others and I only compete with myself. This makes me feel better and stay focused. It’s also better for my mental health.

Remember, the only debt that matters is your own and it doesn’t define you nor control your life. It takes time to get out of debt and rebuild financial confidence. Use these tips to help guide you get there.

How do you handle your debt? Have you needed to stop letting debt control you?

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