Imagine What Being Debt-Free Will Feel Like…

October 19, 2015

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” – Jonathan Swift

Everyone says that you should be debt-free. Inside, you probably already know that. After all, there are so many benefits to being debt-free that it doesn’t take a financial expert to figure out that your life will be better without debt that it is with it. But that begs the question: why isn’t everyone debt-free.

I’m going to speculate that knowing what’s right isn’t sufficient to motivate most people to do anything, least of which to become debt-free. You can crunch the numbers all day and still not find any inspiration to get out of debt. The problem is that we become comfortable with our habits, even when they’re bad habits. If you’re in debt, particularly if you’re deep in debt, the only way to get out is to change your thinking.

But if you’ve ever been on a diet, or tried to quit smoking, you know that changing your thinking isn’t the easiest thing you’ve ever done. The only way to make that happen is to create a whole new vision for yourself. It’s an emotional exercise in which you have to create a whole new set of emotional reference points. You have to imagine what being debt-free will feel like, then remind yourself of it every day of your life until it becomes a reality. It’s about creating the destination before beginning the journey.

Motivational experts refer to that as creating affirmations, which is essentially about creating and embracing a new self-image, complete with daily reminders to keep you on track. You have to change how you see yourself, in order to change what’s going on your life. Change is not driven by reason, and that’s why imagining being debt-free is so important in accomplishing it.

So let’s start the process by framing out what being debt-free will feel like.

Less worry and anxiety

Start by imagining how it will feel to have less worry and anxiety in your life. It’s not possible to completely banish worry and anxiety, but in today’s world debt is a major source of both. How much of either will you have when you’re debt-free?

Worrying about how you pay your bills each month, or how you’re going to get out from under a mountain of debt, literally tangles your brain. When it reaches that point, you’ll have little mental capacity to make improvements in your life, including career advancements that could help in so many other fronts.

How much clearer will your mental state be when you’re debt-free? How good will you feel physically when your body isn’t weighted down by the stress of debt?

Getting truly restful sleep

How well you sleep is often controlled by your level of worry and anxiety. But even though they are connected, lack of sleep becomes an entirely different problem. It drains your energy level, and makes it more difficult to accomplish even routine tasks. It also causes physiological problems, such as an increase in blood pressure and a battery of phantom aches and pains.

Now imagine that you’re debt-free, and all those problems are gone…

Having complete control over your income

What makes debt particularly difficult from a financial standpoint is that it gradually comes to control your income. Once debts are established, they require fixed monthly payments that must be made even if your income is insufficient. You can cut your grocery bill, your energy consumption, your entertainment expenses, and everything else in your life, but your debt payments will still be there – no matter what.

Now imagine that you’re debt-free, and your entire paycheck is yours to do what you please with. You can spend it, save it, invest it, or give it away – the choice is all yours.

How good does that feel? Will that motivate you to become debt-free?

Ending your various involuntary “partnerships” with the banks

There’s a debt culture in our society that most of us have become intoxicated with. We’ve come to believe that being in debt is normal, and that it’s the way that you get the things that you want in your life.

But there’s something else you get when you’re in debt – you enter into involuntary partnerships with your lenders. If you doubt that your lender is a partner in your life, try not make your payments and see what happens. Whatever assets you have that are acting as collateral for the loans will be gone. If they are unsecured loans, the lender can establish liens against your general assets, such as your income and your bank accounts.

In business arrangements, lenders can even restrict how you operate your business or use certain assets.

Most of us don’t think about the control that lenders have over us. But think deeply about this for a minute, and embrace it as the reality of all debt arrangements.

Then imagine that all of those involuntary partnerships and other assorted entanglements are gone from your life…

Having control over your economic future

Debt has influence over how you think, what you’re concerned with, how well you sleep at night, a big chunk of your income, and even control over your assets. Put that all together, and you have a series of arrangements that are compromising your economic future.

You can’t do what you want, you can’t spend money the way you want, and you don’t have nearly as much money to save and invest as you want, because your cash flow is committed to keeping your lenders at bay. This is a big reason why some people have no savings, or never begin retirement plans. They’re too busy paying yesterday’s obligations to move forward into the future.

Now imagine that you’re debt-free… what kind of future will you design yourself?

Spend some time ruminating on what it will feel like to be debt-free. If you can embrace that on an emotional level, you’ll find the commitment that you need to actually become debt-free. And once you are, so much more will be possible in your life.


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Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and two teenage kids and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.

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8 Responses to Imagine What Being Debt-Free Will Feel Like…

  • Matt

    Debt free is a big goal of mine and I love the tips given.

  • kymberly

    I love the idea of having more control over my future. It’s far too easy to buy things on credit and think about paying it later. Unfortunately I was not as smart as you were at 12 and have had to fight these demons well into my adult life. We are now making a plan. Thanks for this article!

    • Kevin Mercadante

      Hi Kimberly – If you’ve initiated a plan to get out of debt, then you’re already halfway there. Being in debt is a treadmill, and it can become a lifelong trap. Finally resolving to do something about it is often the hardest point, because it involves committing to doing things differently than what you have in the past. Good luck!

  • Big-D

    I don’t understand the concept of debt free, or as what you are explaining. There is no way in America to be debt free. Ever. Now you can have means to pay your debt, and it is not an issue, but you can never escape debt. I have been “debt free” for years and I feel no different than I do when I recently got back into “debt”. My house is paid off, my car was paid off (no longer, I just bought a new one), no CC debt. So it makes no difference to me. I guess I don’t care who my debt is to (the government, insurance companies, banks). What I mean by never being debt free is you always have vehicles of debt which you have to pay by law.

    * Income Taxes
    * Health Insurance
    * Property Taxes
    * Car Insurance
    * Utilities

    You cannot escape it. You have to by law pay these debt vehicles no matter what. The only way to get out of debt is to break the law. Again the only way to break the debt cycle is to have enough money in savings to handle the costs of your debt without going further into debt, and that is a good feeling.

    • Kevin Mercadante

      Hi Big D – I see where you’re going with this, but I don’t agree. What you’re talking about are ongoing obligations – ie, expenses – we’ll always have those whether or not we have debt. But if we have debt on top of those, it will make matters worse. For that reason, becoming debt free is a goal worth pursuing. Does that make sense?

      • Big-D

        I guess we all have different perspectives. Even when I was in debt, or without debt, I never felt any different I guess. I never purchased anything I could not pay off immediately (or within a month of selling off investments, etc.) So I guess I don’t know the feeling of dread of being “in debt” as you state. I strategically take on debt. I have a couple mortgages for rentals, and could pay them off rather quickly if I had to. Again – it is strategic debt. So guess it might be something that is “mandatory” debt which you are talking about.

  • Sarah

    I love this tip! What a great motivator to actually think about the end goal in terms of the benefits to life, and how life could improve so much. A lot more motivating than just looking at the bank balance, or making another brown bag lunch. Thanks for the perspective 🙂

    • Kevin Mercadante

      Hi Sarah – It’s kind of like painting a picture of the place you’re hoping to go, then using it as motivation to help you get there. I’ve heard that described by motivational speakers as creating affirmations.