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Getting out of debt isn’t easy. I mean, who doesn’t want to learn how to get out of debt.
It’s a pretty crazy goal that a lot of people don’t accomplish in their lives. It’s a goal that will push you beyond your limits, stretch you, and help you grow into a better version of yourself.
If your goal is to get out of debt, you’re going to be pushed out of your comfort zone and grow like crazy. I guarantee that you’ll be a changed person because of all the work you put in to become debt free.
As a teacher, I set goals for myself all the time. It helps me become a better teacher, develop useful skills, and enhance the learning of my students.
The biggest goal I have as a teacher has nothing to do with me. It’s to help my students become self-reliant and independent human beings.
Of course I want them to learn about US History and world events and all that jazz, I still think that’s important. But the truth is, in 10, 20, 30 years, they probably won’t remember too much of what I taught them, but if they learn the skills to be independent and self-reliant, it can change their lives forever.
What I’ve learned over my eight years of teaching is that more and more students want to be spoon fed answers. They don’t want to think or do anything that’s too inconvenient for them. In fact, I have a few students in every class that won’t even get up and walk 20 feet across the room to get a pencil. Are you kidding me!?
The real problem is they don’t have enough grit.
When faced with a challenge, my students choose to avoid the work, give up, and lose out on a great opportunity to grow their character.
My students tell me all the time that the work I give them is hard. My response is usually, “You’re darn right it is. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I gave you easy work all the time. You’d never grow or learn anything.”
What I’m really trying to do is teach them to have grit. It’s one of the most important skills they can learn to help them be successful and accomplish all their goals and dreams.
My students need to have the strength of character to face a problem head on, buckle down, grit their teeth, and keep trucking right on through until they overcome it, even if that challenge is just getting up to grab a pencil.
If you feel stuck in debt or financial woes, it’s a lot harder to overcome than getting a pencil. But the same principle of grit applies. If you can develop grit and mental toughness, you can accomplish anything and get out of debt for good.
How Does Grit Relate to Personal Finance?
How often do you dream about how nice it would be to be debt free, but not actually change any of your habits to make it happen? I know I tried to wish away my student loans. I couldn’t afford to pay them with my lifestyle choices so I lowered the payments.
It didn’t really solve my problem or move me toward my goal to get out of debt. It was like a band aid for my lifestyle when I really needed reconstructive surgery.
We can choose to be the kid in class that doesn’t get his assignment done because he doesn’t have a pencil, or we can learn how to be problem solvers and change our circumstances.
That’s where grit comes in. Grit can be the difference between staying stuck in debt for years and digging yourself out of the hole and experiencing debt freedom.
Developing grit and determination is what led Jenna and me to become debt free. It sure as heck wasn’t easy paying off $73,000 of student loan debt, but we made a plan, buckled in and got it done in less than four years.
When we started our debt free journey, we were both paraprofessionals, each bringing in about $19,000 a year. There wasn’t a lot of extra wiggle room to pay down debt. We knew things needed to change if we wanted to get out of debt.
The pivotal moment in our story is when Jenna felt God promising her she would be debt free in five years. This was in the summer of 2013, shortly after we started dating. We both laughed and thought God was crazy. At least that was our initial reaction. Turns out he was right on the money.
After we thought and prayed about it, we decided to trust him and start digging ourselves out of debt. If we wanted to get out of debt, we knew we had to make changes. The first thing we did was create a budget. Then we both got second and at times third jobs to rake in extra money.
Learning how to budget didn’t come naturally, and it took time to figure out how to spend within our means. But we learned how to do it and stuck with it. Even to this day, we’re still learning how to improve our budget.
Working extra hours at extra jobs wasn’t glamorous either, nor was it easy. At times it downright sucked.
After an exhausting day working with middle schoolers, the last thing I wanted to do was work for another 5 hours in customer service smiling at hotel guests and restaurant diners. All I wanted to do was be at home relaxing with my wife or hanging out with friends. But we dug our heals in and went to work anyway.
That was grit for us. Sticking to our budget every day even if it made us cry, which it definitely did at times. Working a ton of hours and sacrificing other parts of life to reach our goals. But all the tears, frustration, and hard work paid off.
Now we are debt free and can say yes to a lot more things in life. Our grit paid off big time.
How Do You Learn Grit?
I’m definitely not a psychologist or an expert in developing mental toughness, but one way or another, I learned how to be mentally tough. The good news is grit is a learned skill that anyone can acquire. You just need the right circumstances and goals for your grit to shine through.
I grew up as an athlete, playing as many sports as I could. In the fall I played football. My winters were spent sweating in a gym playing basketball. And I played baseball and golf during the spring and summer.
I wasn’t ever the greatest, but I played a lot of minutes for my small town team. One of the reasons is because I worked my butt off.
Playing sports taught me so many great lessons and shaped my character. I think it’s where I started learning grit and mental toughness. No matter what sport I played, I had to find a way to outperform my opponent. I spent hours and hours growing my skills, working with my teammates, and practicing until I was confident I could get the job done.
I put in a lot of sweat equity, and it paid off. My preparation created a mental toughness and grit that helped me rise to the challenge in the heat of competition and win.
Fixing your finances require the same level of determination. You need to put in the work to get results. The good news is you don’t have to sweat to get out of debt. 🙂
The spark that ignited our fire was an outlandish goal that felt impossible. We wanted to be debt free in five years. It sounded crazy given the fact that we had $90,000 of student loan debt. But once we made that goal, we got to work. We knew our habits and budget needed to change, so we stopped going out to eat completely and got extra jobs to increase our income.
I think we already had a good level of grit built up in us, but that single goal increased it 10X. We didn’t want to set a goal and never reach it. We dug our heals in and made a bunch of changes that helped us achieve it.
And for the record, there were times it really sucked. I’m talking crying on car rides wishing we could just buy baking supplies or go see our family more. I mean, baking supplies is just a few dollars here and there, how much could it affect our goals? But it wasn’t in the budget, so we said no.
Every time we said no to something we desperately wanted, our grit got stronger. It became easier to say no to our wants and yes to becoming debt free. If you want to really develop some grit, set a crazy important goal and only say yes to things that move you closer to it.
Do you want to be debt free? Go do it. Set a date you want to accomplish it and get to work. There’s no reason you can’t. We did it, and so can you and I believe that 100%.
Why Grit is Crucial to Get Out of Debt
First off, nothing will change if you don’t. The best change you can make is to your mindset and attitude. A strong will and mental toughness goes a long way to creating change in your life and getting out of debt.
Grit is most important when you come up against resistance. At first, your lifestyle changes may feel fun and exciting. In this stage, it’s pretty easy to stick with your budget and your new financial goals.
But, sooner or later you’re going to feel the grind and frustration of living outside your comfort zone. It’s a natural progression when you create new habits. When life starts to feel uncomfortable, it’s tempting to ditch your new habits of saving money and being frugal and revert back to your old spending habits.
This is the crucial moment where you can choose to dig your heels in and keep moving forward, or let go of everything you’ve been working so hard to achieve. The more grit you have, the more likely you are to stick to your goals.
And if you mess up and don’t budget perfectly, that’s OK. Don’t beat yourself up over occasional setbacks because it’s probably going to happen. The best thing you can do is keep moving forward one day at a time.
You need grit to maintain your mental toughness and do what you know is best instead of what feels easy and comfortable.
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As an Educator and Personal Finance Blogger, Jamie has helped hundreds of families learn how to budget, save money, and pay off debt (go here to subscribe and start your debt free journey). Read our debt free story, “How We Paid Off $73,000 of Debt in Less Than Four Years”.