Reality Check: Paying Off Debt with a "Low" Income
It seems like every frugal living, money saving website tells you the same thing when it comes to paying down your debt: make a budget, track your spending, and spend less than you bring in. These are the steps for conquering the debt cycle, sure, but sometimes I worry that they’re too analytical. There’s a huge emotional piece to spending and saving money. Often we have to conquer the obstacles that we’ve constructed for ourselves first, like not believing in our ability to save or having a negative mindset about money itself. I recognize that living paycheck to paycheck and managing debt is a struggle. It’s one that I’ve lived through with no guarantee that I won’t live through it again. This is an unpredictable world, and I tend to stick to the old philosophy of hoping for the best but planning for the worst.
Still, I’ll admit, one thing that I hear all the time really frustrates me. When someone informs me that they have no choice but to live paycheck to paycheck, that there’s no way they can pay off their debt without getting a raise, or winning the lottery, or discovering a long lost but rich relative has suddenly gifted them with an inheritance. The reason it aggravates me so much isn’t political, though I know debt and money is a huge topic this election year. The reason it frustrates me is because it ignores human potential.
Here’s what I mean - you don’t have to suddenly start making more money at your job to start making more money. You can get a second job, which is a viable option, and it doesn’t have to be a long-term one. You can also do some freelance work from home. Not a designer, a writer, or an accountant? There’s always landscaping, housecleaning, babysitting, or dog walking. The great thing about those opportunities is that you can often get your children involved or at least not have to pay for childcare, which is a huge relief if you’re trying to save extra money.
There is dignity in a job well done. If these are the years that you need to hustle from one job to the next, or juggle multiple side projects in order to get ahead, then the question shouldn’t be “Why can’t I get out debt?” or “Why don’t I make more money?”. The real question you have to ask yourself is this: “What’s stopping me?”
When it comes to debt and savings, remember that you’re either paying more in interest the longer you hold onto debt, or missing out on compounding interest the longer you put off paying yourself first. So the extra money you make today to tackle those two challenges is actually worth more than its face value. It has the potential to be so much more...kind of like you, me, and all of our friends and neighbors. I’m Claire, the Afena blog mom. Thanks for reading.