When it comes to living with debt you aren’t alone—far from alone. In 2019 it seems that having debt is the norm, with the average Canadian spending $1.70 for every dollar they earn after taxes. That ratio is a Canadian record, up about 100% from 20 years ago.
Experts at Psychology Today say that your mental health and financial health are irrefutably intertwined. People in debt are more likely to drink and abuse drugs, and there is a distinct correlation between high debt levels and increased risk of suicide, they note. Anxiety, sleeplessness, stress and depression are common by-products of financial hardship. Many studies acknowledge the strong link between financial health and mental health. In fact, one report claims that 41% of Canadians rank money as their greatest stress.
And what about how debt affects your dreams? Carrying too much debt can put your goals out of reach – or even out of mind. When you’re deep in debt, you may never take the vacation you’ve dreamed of, purchase the home you’ve always wanted, or have the cash to pursue the hobby you love. You may have to turn down exciting but low-paying opportunities while you toil in service of your debts. But there is positive news.
No matter how helpless your situation feels or how much debt you have, it’s possible to turn things around and make dropping debt a priority.
While the road out of debt won’t be easy, the benefits of debt repayment extend far and wide. Imagine the relief you’ll feel when you make the final payment on your credit cards, student loans, and personal loans; some of the benefits of becoming debt-free are so huge they can change your life forever.
If you’re working your way out of debt and wondering what’s in store in the future – and whether it’s worth the sacrifice – here are some things to keep you motivated on your debt repayment journey.
1. You have a lot more money to spend, save or invest
Paying down debt requires a huge commitment of money and time. Whether you choose to utilize the debt snowball or debt avalanche methods, or just pay whatever you can each month, most of your expendable income needs to go toward debt repayment if you want your actions to count.
But, something crazy happens the second you make the final payment toward your debts.
All of a sudden, all the income you’ve been throwing toward your debts each month becomes yours. With no more debts to pay off, you get to experience what your paycheck actually feels like without the burden of debt payments every month.
As a result, you’ll have a lot more money to save, spend, or invest going forward. At first, you may even feel rich!
2. Getting a good night’s sleep becomes easy
The burden of debt may take more of a mental toll than you think when you add up all the worry, stress, and sleepless nights your debt has caused. Especially at the beginning of your journey, it’s likely you struggled financially and emotionally before building up the courage to change your spending habits and your life.
When you pay down your debt, all of that changes. All of a sudden, you no longer have to worry about insurmountable balances, looming due dates, and relentless interest charges. Without any debts to worry about, your monthly expenses will drop, freeing up your personal cash flow and allowing you to focus on savings and daily living expenses.
Few people understand just how free you can feel when you’re no longer beholden to a slew of banks and lenders. But, when you get there, you will instantly feel the power the comes with that freedom.
3. Your credit score may improve
The amount you owe on your debts in relation to your credit limits, also known as your credit utilization, accounts for 30% of your FICO credit score. Because of this, your credit score has the potential to improve with each monthly payment you make.
And, since your payment history is the biggest determinant of your credit score, your regular monthly payments will also help boost your score over time.
4. You can dream up new financial goals
Getting out of debt takes time and commitment. But keeping a firm grasp on your goals and reminding yourself of all the things you want to accomplish once you’re debt-free are great ways to stay motivated.
Maybe you want to retire early, or perhaps you want to help your kids save for college. Maybe you’re finally ready take that family vacation you’ve been dreaming of for what seems like forever. Heck, maybe you just want to sit back and enjoy the peace that comes with being debt-free for a while.
Whatever you really want out of life, becoming debt-free will help you get there faster. Without a ton of bills to pay each month, you can finally save for what you want and maybe you can even pay for it in cash.
5. You can work less if you want
A lot of people make huge changes to finally pay off debt, and often those changes include picking up a second job or side hustle. Maybe you’ve been driving for Uber on the weekends to earn more money for debt repayment. Or, you might have picked up some seasonal work, babysitting, or lawn mowing jobs. No matter your hustle, paying off debt means that you may not have to work quite so hard anymore.
If you’re been putting in more hours than you really want to just to pay down debt, reaching your goal may mean it’s time to work less and enjoy life more.
Chances are, having the freedom to work less is one of the reasons you decided to get out of debt in the first place.
6. You have more options
In addition to having the option to work less, paying down debt makes it possible to change your life in myriad ways. Maybe you wished you could change careers but couldn’t afford to take a pay cut in the past, or perhaps you want to go back to school to finally finish your degree.
Maybe you want to cut down to part-time work to spend more time with your kids. Whatever it is you want, becoming debt-free means you now have fewer financial obligations, and more options than ever. Without all your old bills hanging over your head, you can build the life you want instead of the life you had.
7. Debt becomes something you strive to avoid
When you’re already in debt, it’s easy to think that adding to the pile won’t even matter. What difference will another credit card or a new car loan make when you’re already struggling as it is?
When you finally become entirely debt-free, you realize that it does matter how much you owe every month. Each bill may not seem like a lot on its own, but the sum of all your debts can make your life harder in too many ways to count.
Once you’ve spent years paying down debt, chances are good you will never want to go down that road again. As a result, you will likely do anything you can to avoid debt like the plague it is. And, if that means spending less and living more frugally, so be it.
8. You get to finance your own dreams interest-free
The final benefit of becoming debt-free is one that may not sound exciting until you actually get there – eventually, you will get to finance some of your dreams in cash.
That living room furniture set you’ve always wanted? Imagine walking into your local furniture store and writing a check to pay for whatever you wanted. Need a new car? Imagine having the savings to negotiate a cash price then driving off the lot with your new ride and no car payment to look forward to.
And, how about retirement? Imagine having enough extra money that you can boost your retirement savings without it hurting your bottom line, then retire earlier than you ever dreamed.
The Bottom Line
These are just some of the things you can do if you pay down debt, but there are endless scenarios to consider. When you’re finally debt-free, you get to design the life you want instead of enduring a life that was built to keep up with endless bills.
If you’re ready to become debt-free or in the throes of a debt repayment plan, it’s crucial to keep your eye on the prize and remember what your life will be like when you reach your goal. There’s so much more to life than debt and “stuff,” and it’s hard to enjoy the spoils of your hard work when all your money is going to somebody else.
You get to decide how you want to live your life. Become debt-free, and you get to call all the shots. Spend your life in debt, and your labour will always belong to someone else.
Whatever part of the journey you’re on– whether you’re wondering how to get started on your debt repayment journey or need advice along the way—we’re here to help.