The Zen of Getting Out of Debt




Is debt weighing down your wings?

Are your finances making you sick? Jay Winner, MD, tells WebMD that it's possible. If you experience headaches, heartburn, upset stomach, and are generally stressed about money most of the time, money is affecting your health. You need a plan of action; a good budget can boost your financial and physical well being.

It's harder than it sounds, of course. But one thing is sure: Face it now and you could find your Zen, that elusive, peaceful lifestyle that others seem to have. Put it off, and it's going to get worse.

Fight or Flight Isn't Just for Cavemen

Dr. Winner says "fight or flight" hasn't evaporated just because we live in a civilized society. It's part of the human condition. The perceived danger is what's changed.

Fight or flight is a normal reaction. Fight means you'll face danger head on, and flight means you'll run away to safety. In modern civilization, poor finances are perceived as real danger. That's reasonable, since a bank calling about a missed payment can take away possessions such as your home.

Choosing fight over flight seems risky. This is why many people suffering through financial hardship can't muster the courage to answer the phone when a creditor calls. The longer you put it off, the worse the situation grows; the worse the situation, the more stress you'll experience. It's a cyclical scenario that gains momentum, and it carries you further away from your personal Zen.

What's so Zen about a Budget?

Most people have experienced the peace that comes from having enough money to meet a responsibility, however small. It's easy enough to remember the 20-pound sack of potatoes being lifted from your shoulders, even if it only lasted for a few days. Now imagine that sensation happening because of learning and practice, not by happy accident. Imagine working toward a debt-free life.

Casey Slide of Money Crashers says, "If you check your bank account every day, you're probably thinking about money too much." She also advises that everyone needs to pay off debt, spend relaxing time with family and friends, and have an emergency savings account. Seem utterly ridiculous? Maybe, but only from where your feet are planted right now.

The key to this ideal state of affairs, this "Zen," is learning how to take charge, and then doing it. That begins with a monthly budget.

Budgeting is more than designating which money goes where, and how often. It starts with the "fight" mindset where everything is laid out in plain language. Avoidance is counterproductive. Be honest about how much money is earned. Don't underestimate how high certain bills can sometimes be or how much you spend on iced coffee every month.

Don't forget that what's in front of you on day one can change for the better.

If your income isn't high enough to meet certain responsibilities, you have a few choices. You can ignore it (bad idea), cut some expenses, find additional sources of income, work with creditors on repayment plans or reduced interest, or try a combination. If you don't know where to start, consider talking with a free financial counseling organization. They might see avenues that you can't. Your plan is entirely different from anyone else's, and it's up to you to identify it.


Start focusing on your "drishti."

Show Your Zen Some Love with Budget Software

Anything that makes life easier is good, and budget software is one of those things. It can't create the best plan for you all on its own, but it does make budgeting easier and less stressful. Less stress is good for your health.

The best software gives you options that help, not hinder, the process. Features such as automatic account imports and updates are a great help, and real-time access mean less mundane, manual entries with a better overall picture. Intuitive software offers alerts and financial suggestions that help you make informed choices instead of muddling your way through and hoping for the best.

Budget software helps you find financial enlightenment, your Zen, and empowers you to stick with it.

Mint.com has many financial solutions that fit most situations. You don't need a fortune in the bank to create a budget that works and constantly improve it.

Sign up for your free Mint.com account today.


Carole Oldroyd is a freelance writer who makes personal finance management approachable for anyone.