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Massage Today
August, 2004, Vol. 04, Issue 08

How to Get Out of Debt: A 14-Step Plan

By Cary Bayer

You feel stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.

- Internet joke

Okay, so you're in debt up to your ears from massage school or a trip to Hawaii to learn Lomi Lomi.

Don't fret - there's some good news on the horizon. But first, some more bad news: The odds of winning the lottery or being rescued by Prince Charming or the cavalry are overwhelmingly against you. Now the great news: You are Prince Charming and the cavalry. And here's equally good news - a step-by-step program to get out of debt once and for all.

  1. Forgive yourself for being in debt. Beating yourself up leads to shopping binges and more debt, and you don't need any more vicious cycles when what you want to create are delicious cycles. Clients come to you for peace. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed they will be from your calming aura.
  2. You're not a failure. You temporarily owe more than you have. Your debt can be handled; it's not life or death. This disproves Shakespeare's idea that what's done cannot be undone. You can't undo your spending from the past, but you can undo the effects of that spending - namely, your debt. When you bring in more money than you spend, your debt can be erased.
  3. Be grateful you don't owe money to Tony Soprano. Owing money to loan sharks can be a matter of life and death. Arthroscopic knee surgery cures many ills, but not the handiwork of "wise guys." Credit card companies are more understanding and willing to negotiate.
  4. Compute your total debt. Pour over paperwork. The total might seem scary, but the shock is short-lived. The price you pay for not knowing is worse; knowledge is liberating. When you know how much money you need to create, you have a specific goal to shoot for. I've coached many massage therapists that dislike paperwork and avoid it like the plague, so I know that this step might not feel like a day at the beach. So, before tackling your papers, why not treat yourself to a day at the beach? Or create an uplifting environment for yourself while doing this work: play relaxing music, light some candles or burn incense. In short, do whatever it takes to feel inspired.
  5. Stop creating new debt. Don't pay for anything unless you have money to pay for it now. It's not necessary to cut up your credit cards - just don't use them until you get out of debt. This takes a little discipline, but so did massage school. You have that discipline within you.
  6. Rewire your unconscious. Overhaul your mind by rooting out unconscious seeds of debt. Affirmations like, "My income now and always greatly exceeds my expenses" and "I pay all my bills on time and in full," are empowering.
  7. Make a list of 25 pleasures that cost nothing. These activities help you feel better without adding debt. Do some of them when you have a strong urge to go shopping. If you're not getting massaged regularly, make sure that it's on your list (Find someone to trade massages with, so it won't cost you a penny.) The more you treat yourself to things that are free, the less likely you are to spend money that you don't really have.
  8. Record all expenses for 30 days. Get a notebook and don't leave home without it. Stay vigilant and write down (but don't judge) your purchases. You are on a fact-finding mission, not a wrong-making mission. Again, this won't be fun, and it's easy to go to sleep on this. Resist that urge. This information is critical to getting out of debt, and you are eminently capable of such vigilance.
  9. Review a year's credit and checking statements for unusual or seasonal expenses that won't show up in your monthly record keeping. Look for vacations, insurance premiums, holiday gifts, birthday presents, taxes, massage therapy conferences, etc. If they occur once, divide by 12 for their monthly allotment; if twice, divide by 6.
  10. Lift your spirits before sitting down with the numbers. Before going over your expenses, do something to lift your spirits (see point 4.) Meditate, take a walk, do whatever it takes to prepare for this step, which is a kind of "money yoga."
  11. Create a spending plan (not a budget) to reflect your current situation. Budgets are short-term fixes, like diets, but they are often restrictive and fail in the long run. A spending plan reflects your desired lifestyle. By creating one, you'll discover how much you have to reduce your expenses in order to begin paying off your debt. If you spend more than you make, you'll have three choices: earn more, spend less or both. It's liberating to know how much you need to make or how much less you need to spend. Your unconscious mind loves specific assignments and can manifest the appropriate number of extra massage sessions, once it knows what its mission is.
  12. Increase your income. You can raise your massage fees, ask for a raise, or raise income by using your creativity and imagination. One way to stimulate this is to do a daily discovery writing drill: "20 things I can do to increase my income." Keep your pen moving for two minutes without any editing or pausing. If all you can think of is ice cream, write it down. You probably need more sweetness in your life, and I don't mean sugar, per se. You've opened a channel to your creative unconscious. Look over the list after the two minutes are up; you are likely to find some very useful ideas.
  13. Communicate your debt repayment plan to creditors. Figure out how much of your monthly debt repayment will go to creditors. Then tell each one. This is an empowering step. Do it even if it frightens you. Your creditors are eager to hear from you, even if it means that the repayment schedule you envision is slower than the one they envision. They just want to get paid; in most cases, they will be patient about it.
  14. Begin implementing your debt repayment plan. As the German poet Goethe wrote, "The moment we definitely commit ourselves, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred." Let nature help you clean up your financial life, and enjoy the breakthroughs and miracles that often come soon after.

Click here for previous articles by Cary Bayer.


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