The poor are always ruled over by the rich, so don’t borrow and put yourself under their power. –Proverbs 22:7 (The Message)

If you’re currently in debt (or ever have been), there’s a good chance you’ve daydreamed about the day you can declare yourself debt free. I know I have. In fact, dreaming about your financial future can be a good thing.

What comes to mind when you think about they day you’ll finally kiss your last debt goodbye? Maybe it’s a long-awaited family vacation, a celebratory dinner or a big contribution to your savings account.

Been There, Done That

Whatever your plans for life after debt, there’s probably one thing that isn’t on your radar: racking up more debt.

Been there, done that, not going back…right?

I sure hope that’s the case for you. Unfortunately, too many families triumphantly conquer their consumer debt only to go right back in the red as soon as their eyes are bigger than their paychecks.

Just this Once

I’ve seen it happen. One minute, you’re celebrating someone’s debt-free accomplishment. A few months (or years) later, they fall into temptation and purchase something—just this one time, they say—with credit.

Sometimes, the bigger the original debt payoff, the easier it is to fall for the lie that a little bit of debt won’t hurt. A family that obliterates $40,000 of consumer debt, for example, may be accustomed to forking over close to $1,000 a month in debt payments. Compared to that, a $300 car payment seems like nothing!

It’s still debt, regardless of whether it comes in a small package or a big one. And it’s scary how slippery the slope really is—how quickly one debt payment can turn into two or three. Before they know it, the same family that spent so much time, money and energy to eliminate their consumer debt can find themselves $40,000 in the hole all over again.

I can think of at least three ways to prevent that kind of demoralizing debt relapse.

Anticipate Potential Pitfalls

You know who’s most likely to fall back into debt? The person who thinks it can never happen to her. It can happen. So let go of the pride and recognize future problems before they catch you off guard. Then, talk them over with your spouse or your financial accountability partner in order to stop temptation in its tracks.

Pray for Help

God doesn’t want you to be a slave to debt; otherwise, He wouldn’t have been so careful to make sure financial wisdom was mentioned so frequently throughout the Bible. Ask Him to help you defeat temptation. He promises to always provide a way out.

Stay Disciplined

This step trips up countless people who have conquered bad habits in the past. Whether we’re talking about dropping debt, losing weight or kicking a smoking habit, it’s so easy to fall for the lie that just one credit card purchase, one bowl of ice cream, or one cigarette won’t be a big deal. It is a big deal. So keep up the same attitude and discipline you had when you were still in debt. Otherwise, you can end up right back where you started.

It’s fun to talk about those awesome David and Goliath stories where families defeat huge piles of debt against all odds. It’s not as much fun to talk about the idea of a debt relapse, but it does happen. The good news is, that doesn’t have to be your story. By anticipating issues, praying for help and staying disciplined, you can experience lasting financial freedom long after that last debt is paid off.

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About Kristy Etheridge

Kristy Etheridge is a regular contributor to the FaithWorks Financial blog. Having racked up a large amount of debt before using a biblical approach to attack it, Kristy is passionate about financial freedom. She and her husband live in Charlotte, N.C., where Kristy works as a writer for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.