Well, I'm knee deep in holiday expenses: gifts, travel and entertaining. It is so easy to spend "just a little more." A nicer bottle of wine for a hostess gift, another present for the in-laws, stopping at Applebee's instead of packing a cooler when you are driving. What's another five (or fifty) dollars here or there?
For many people (myself included), these little things can wreck a budget. If you are not in debt, those extra expenses can push your budget out of whack. And if you are already in debt, it doesn't seem to make much difference. If, for example, you owe $2,000 in credit card debt, another $20 doesn't seem like much of a difference. It's only 1%! However, if you are making the minimum payments, that $20 will be haunting you for years to come - long after the hostess has consumed the wine, the in-laws have finished with their gift, and certainly long after you've digested that Applebee's. Do it a couple of times, and you may have tacked a few hundred dollars onto your debt.
So, how do you stop that kind of thinking? It isn't easy, that's for sure. Here are some strategies that may help you:
Define a pretty big financial goal: "I want to be free of credit card debt before our next PCS."
Make a visual: A big chart on the wall with your debt numbers should keep you honest.
Calculate: what you will be able to do with the money that you're currently spending on debt repayment. What would you like to do with an extra $200 a month? Maybe you could save for a new car, or start an Individual Retirement Account, or order pizzas on Friday night, or let your child take horseback riding lessons. Imagine what your financial life would feel like with that extra chunk of money available each month.
Think back: to how you got into debt in the first place. I don't imagine that many of us woke up one day and discovered that we had $10,000 in credit card debt. Your first card probably had a low limit, and you charged a little, then you paid a little. Over time, the charging was a bit more than the paying, and your balance crept up. I bet if you went back over your charges, most of them were small. Individually, not much money, but collectively, it sure is a lot. If you are in debt, and feeling the weight of the debt each day, then imagine how you would feel if you had twice as much debt. (Shivers!) That's a pretty good reason not to add to your debt.
It's good for your marriage! Statistics show that a huge chunk of maritial problems are based around money. Marriages are hard work under the best of situations, and military marriages have extra excitement: deployments, moves, injuries, and general worry. Keeping your finances under control will be one less stressor in your marriage.
I'm going to try to avoid those impulse purchases this month, and even see where I can make a few cuts. Won't you join me?