To Get Out Of Debt

How to get out of debt? Bring attention to your spending!

I'm really enjoying the Eightfold Path (8FP) podcast and it relates very much to a lovely quote from the very end of TAN14:
So people sometimes think they have to exert great efforts to change. No. Most of the time you just have to change one little bit there, and an awful lot of other things will just follow from that. The difficulty may be in finding that one little bit to change, but we'll talk about as we go forward.
So continuing in this vein, in the first session of 8FP Ken talks about the confusion that results when people try to practice the 8FP as it is usually presented, with the large number of injunctions related to each of the eight branches. The very complex elaboration of this actually makes it impossible to practice. He suggests that a more fruitful approach to practicing the 8FP might be to bring attention to how we are viewing things, our intentions, how we speak, how we behave, earn our living and so on. And he points out that what people often do is take what is actually a description of the results of practice as the method of practice (see pg 58-60 of Wake Up To Your Life for more about this).

Ken then goes on to give a number of examples about bringing attention to how one views things and to one's intentions. One of these examples is about the experience of couple of people who came to him for advice about how to apply mindfulness as an approach to getting out of debt. Here's the clip and transcript of that example.

To Get Out Of Debt (from 8FP01: Eightfold Path (class) 00:25:50.00 - 00:28:46.00)

(download into iTunes)

Now when we start bringing our attention to our intention in each moment that we live, very interesting things are going to happen. Several years ago I had two people who came to me because they had built up sizeable debt and they wanted to get out of debt using mindfulness. Okay. Well, I'm not a debt counsellor but it's not rocket science either. The first thing you do is you start tracking expenses, tracking everything that you buy. That's the very first thing you do if you want to get out of debt. And one person just started to do that right away. The other person, it took them hmmm, four months of constant encouragement and reinforcement and me threatening to quit until they started tracking. They just started bringing attention to the action of shopping. And as soon as they did, their shopping patterns changed because they started to get in touch with the intention that was operating. And they would go, "Oh, I don't really need this right now." And just tracking what they were expending stuff on reduced the amount that they were spending to the point that they were pretty well breaking even. That wasn't getting them out of debt but it was stopping them getting further into debt, which is good. We'll get to those efforts later.

Now the next thing, the next effort was to push that intention even further, or that attention further, so they started to look at what were their priorities in their life as evidenced by what they were buying. And when they started to look at that again, their patterns changed. And they found whole areas that they didn't need to spend money on anymore and that moved them to the point of being able to generate a surplus and hence moving out of debt. And both of them successfully moved out of debt, completely out of debt, in about a year and a half, two years.

Then they had a real problem. They suddenly had much more money and they didn't know what to do with it. But that's another story.