5 Rules to Fight ‘Apocalyptically’ Dangerous Debt

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A silhouetted person pushes the letters of the word debt off a cliff
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Last weekend, my wife and I were watching TV, and I saw a commercial highlighting the next installment of a zombie-inspired TV show.

Here's a window into how my mind works: The commercial reminded me of this story I wrote a few years ago using zombie apocalypse survival tips to overcome your personal debt challenges. That 30-second commercial and a quick survey of our current financial landscape had me dusting this story off.

Rising interest rates have quickly made debt a lot more dangerous. According to Bankrate, the average revolving debt interest rate was 25% in March. And rising costs have made it more challenging to pay off the debt. According to the government's G.19 report on consumer credit, revolving debt increased for the sixth month in a row.

Which brings me back to five rules to live by, whether you find yourself in an unlikely post-apocalyptic scenario or just trying to cope with debt in today's crazy environment:

Rule 1: Acknowledge It's a New World.

Whether you're facing hordes of roaming zombies or a growing stack of credit-card bills and other debts, the first step is acknowledging that a business-as-usual approach is doomed to fail. If zombies are on the loose, you'll want to learn your way around some sort of weapon, regardless of how you may have felt about violence. With debt, your new priorities should include making changes that allow you to craft and live by a budget. Those moves will free additional money to fight debt.

Rule 2: Stockpile Necessities.

In the zombie apocalypse, an overturned truck filled with Twinkies, canned goods or -- if you're really blessed -- malt beverages is a golden opportunity to build your provisions. When fighting debt, the first step is to set aside a small stash of cash so unexpected expenses won't wreck you further.

Rule 3: Travel Light.

If you've spent even a few minutes watching zombies on TV or at the movies, you've probably seen characters faced with "do I grab the prize or do I run?" moments. Not being weighed down can mean the difference between life and death.

In the fight against debt, lightening your lifestyle could take the form of canceling services, such as online subscriptions or gym memberships, or modifying cell phone and cable plans. (Don't worry, you can still catch plenty of zombies if you cut the cord!) You may want to consider selling stuff or generating additional income through a side hustle to apply toward your debts.

Rule 4: Know the Enemy.

Clearly, you've got to know what you're up against to survive the zombie apocalypse. I've seen fast, slow, seemingly intelligent and, well, zombie-like zombies. Smart survivors adapt their strategies to deal with each threat. It's the same with debt. Inventory all your debts so you can develop a plan to get rid of them.

Rule 5: Go for the Head Shot.

It's frustrating to watch a human flail away at the arms, legs or chest of an attacking zombie. Go for the head, silly. With finances, it can make a lot of sense to attack your highest-interest debts first, the proverbial head shot that will save you on interest as you knock down how much you owe.

While a zombie apocalypse doesn't leave much room for revelry, that's not the case when it comes to winning the attack on debt. Don't forget to celebrate your successes, even the small ones. Sometimes, the road to freedom or safety can be a long one, but it's one worth taking.

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