Changing the Habits That Got You Into Debt

About half of the people surveyed in a recent study by Prudential called the African American Financial Experience cite getting out of debt as a top financial priority. This is not surprising when you consider the finding by Demos that more than 40% of black households are borrowing to make ends meet, and the fact that blacks carry higher levels of student loan debt than other groups.

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Socioeconomic challenges like higher unemployment levels, and discrimination in the job market, definitely play a role in our debt burdens. Many blacks have simply had to take on debt to level their own playing field when it comes to things like getting an education.

Still, our financial circumstances have as much to do with what we believe about ourselves, and the consequent choices we make. Changing financial patterns must be addressed in the same way as changing other patterns that don’t serve us.

“We don’t understand change,” says Dr. Sara Johnson, senior vice president of research and product development at Pro-Change Behavior Systems, Inc.

“Change is a process. The key to successfully changing behavior is knowing where you are in the change process and applying the right technique at the right time. We often get anxious and jump to action long before the environment is in place that will allow us to sustain the change,” she adds.

“Before you get there, you need to start to add up the benefits. What would happen if I put more money toward debt than buying those new shoes? When you’re ready, set a date, and come up with a specific plan.”

Jacquette Timmons, a financial behavior expert and CEO of Sterling Investment Management Inc., says the following 3 tips will help you get your debt under control.

1.  Don’t say, “No.” Instead say, “No, for right now.” If you’re in debt because you’re not good with delaying gratification, this will help.

2. Remember to save whilst you’re paying down your debt. It helps to see something growing.

3. Know if your debt is because of a spending problem or earnings problem. If you’re not solving the right problem, it will prolong your debt elimination efforts and leave you feeling defeated.

Timmons, Johnson, and other experts say that when it comes to changing patterns, it is also imperative that you enlist the help and support of someone you trust, and ask them to help you stick to your debt elimination plan.