Christian Financial Advice and Biblical Stewardship

You can defeat debt

  • 2003 2 Jun
You can defeat debt
Consumer debt stands at \$1.4 trillion. Households have incurred more debt than at any time in history. Sadly, financial institutions continue to encourage easy credit. It's time to take responsibility for your debt and take action to get out of debt.

  • Commit to a budget. Know where and how you are spending money. Start by recording all expenses and retaining all receipts for three months.

  • Avoid future debt. Say no to new purchases. Avoid impulse buying. Don't even go to stores, especially malls. Throw away catalogs. Don't buy now and pay later. Eighty-six percent of those Americans who have voluntarily cut back their consumption say they are happier as a result.

  • Pay off debt systematically. Make a plan and stick to it. First, list all debts in order, from the smallest to the largest. Second, pay at least the minimum payment on each debt each month. Third, double payments on the debt at the top of the list whenever possible. Fourth, as each debt is paid off, apply that payment plus the minimum payment toward the next debt.

  • Dispose of credit cards. Cut them up. Have a ceremony and burn them in the fireplace. Don't try to modify credit card habits -- quit cold turkey.

  • Develop an accountability network. Find another person or group and discuss expenditures at least once a week.

  • Make spending need-based. Most purchases are desire-based, interest-based, pleasure-based, or cash-flow based. Just because you get a raise or a hefty tax refund is no reason to increase spending. To determine if it is a need, don't buy on first pass. Wait. Think about it for a day or week. Pray about it. If it is a clear need, there will be no ambiguity.

  • Develop self-sufficiency. Learn to change your own oil. Grow some of your own food. Sew some of your own clothes. Learn to cut hair.

  • Integrate lifestyle simplicity and contentment. If you are content with the things God freely gives you, expecting little and rejoicing in whatever comes your way, debt loses its fangs.

  • Move down. Consider moving to a smaller home, or a cheaper car, and live a simpler life.

  • Let appliances die in your arms. Wait until it's dead before you replace it.

  • Stop venerating automobiles. Learn to see cars as transportation, not status symbols.

  • Simplify your meals; eat out less. Discipline your taste buds to accept simplicity and healthful foods. Your wallet and your body will thank you. Eat at home.

  • Shop for good deals. Decide not to pay full price unless necessary. Shop thrift stores and garage sales.

  • Simplify Christmas and birthdays. Begin now to notify extended family of your decision to cut back on gifts. Make gifts or choose more modest or fewer gifts.

  • Enjoy free activities. Use your library for books, magazines, and videos. Read instead of going to the movies or shopping. Work on a hobby. Take a walk.

  • Use debt as an opportunity for growth. If debt has beaten you down, why not learn from the experience?

  • Change your measuring stick. Money is not the measure of all things. Remember, you live in a society, not an economy.

From The Overload Syndrome by Richard A. Swenson, M.D., copyright (c) 1998. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing. All Rights reserved. For copies of this book, visit

Richard A. Swenson, M.D., is director of the Future Health Study Center and fellow at the Paul Tournier Institute. He received his B.S. in physics from Denison University and his M.D. from the University of Illinois School of Medicine. He is the author of Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives. He and his wife, Linda, live in Menomonie, Wis., with their two sons.