If you’re reading this right now, you probably know a thing or two about paying off debt. Maybe you’re even smack in the middle of Baby Step 2 of Financial Peace University. And that means you deserve a high five—and a hug. You’ve pushed through Baby Step 1 and saved up your $1,000 starter emergency fund as fast as possible. And for that, we salute you!
But now, you’re on Baby Step 2—paying off all that pesky non-mortgage debt. And it’s tough. There’s no easy way around it. But Hebrews 12:11 (NIV) reminds us that as painful as discipline can be, it’s fertile ground for wisdom and “produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
So what wisdom can you glean from paying off your debt? Read on to find out.
1. You learn patience.
Oh, do you ever.
For a lot of people, Baby Step 2 takes longer than any other step. And the more debt you have—or the smaller your income—the longer it takes. That means it requires a lot of patience.
Now here’s the thing about patience during Baby Step 2: At first, things go fast.That’s because you start by paying off your smallest debts first. You’re on fire, closing accounts left and right. Bam! Who needs patience?
But then, you come face-to-face with your $15,000 car debt or $30,000 student loan. And you won’t be closing those accounts for a while. That’s where your patience really comes into play. The longer you’re paying off debt, the more important it will be for you to dig in your heels, lean into your accountability partner, and ask God to give you patience—which, as we see in Galatians 5:22–23, is a part of the fruit of the Spirit.
2. You learn to say no.
As soon as you commit to paying off your consumer debt, you’ll probably be tempted to do all kinds of things that cost money: Your friend will want you to be a bridesmaid in her Jamaican wedding. The dinner and lunch and brunch invitations will pour in. Your brother and his family will want you to join them for a week at Disney World.
And, let’s be honest. You’ll really, really want to do these things! But this is a great opportunity to develop a really important life skill: Saying no. You’ll have to remind yourself that being debt-free is more important right now and that you’re sacrificing certain things in the moment so you can reap bigger rewards later. You’ll have a chance to do a lot of those things someday—when you’re out of debt and can pay for them in cash.
We understand. You don’t want to disappoint anyone, yourself included. But your friends and family will hopefully understand that it’s not personal. And you have to remember that delaying gratification is a sign of maturity. And you, friend, are a mature, money-managing rock star.
3. You learn hard work.
No one likes to be stuck throwing all their money at debt, so most people try to get it over with as fast as possible. That means they get really intense about finding ways to earn extra money. Think second and third jobs. Overtime hours. Freelance projects.
It can be exhausting, but the good news is, it’s temporary. And it does teach you the power of hard work. Even if you don’t keep all the side jobs forever, this short-term period of insanity will probably give you a stronger work ethic than you’ve ever had in your life. And that’s a good character trait to have during any Baby Step.
So, do you feel a little better about tackling Baby Step 2? Once it’s in the past, you’ve paid off your debt, and you’ve learned a few life lessons along the way, get ready. Because that’s when things start to get way more fun.