Debt Lessons from a Romance Novel

I love Nora Roberts. I grab her books the first chance I get as she tends to write the type of romance I want to read – a strong heroine whose life is enhanced by love. I recently picked up The Liar.


This could be a story about how Shelby returned home and tried to rebuild her life, the debt could be treated like a bit of worrying thing but something we aren’t reminded of every chapter. Instead the debt is a secondary character.

At the start of the novel Shelby is living in a mansion and has discovered that everything she thought they owned (cars, house, furniture)  is actually owned by lenders with payments in arrears to the tune of $3M. The way Shelby works on getting herself out of debt reads like a how to guide and it’s pretty darn detailed.

To give you an idea of what we’re dealing with she’s got 12 credit cards, a mortgage, back taxes and now untold bills from accountants & lawyers. There’s mention of her setting up payment plans with the credit card companies and the IRS. As for the house, she’s made a deal with the mortgage company for a quick sale.

Lesson 1: Figure out the mess and approach the companies to arrange payment options

The mansion of course has had staff but we learn that she’s let them go. Instead she spends hours cleaning and sprucing for the open house. She also closes up rooms in the mansion and tries to not use the luxuries available.

Lesson 2: Give up extra services and utilities

It seems they were living quite a glamorous lifestyle and had the stuff to prove it. Shelby finds areas to sell clothing, accessories, jewelry, art, wine, etc. She checks out consignment shops, jewelers, pawn shops, online auction houses, and the list goes on. For items she needs, such as dishes, she buys cheap replacements and sells the extravagant sets. She finds a gift that still has the tags on it and returns it for a full refund.

Lesson 3: Sell your extras. 

At this point, she’s gotten quite a chunk of change from all her sales. While a lot of it will go toward her debt load she’s aware of her own needs. She needs a computer to track her financial situation, find work and do research. She needs a vehicle to return home, get to work and be mobile. She purchases a laptop and used vehicle.

Lesson 4: Spend wisely to achieve your goals

When purchasing the vehicle she pays cash and asks for a discount. She saves $1,000 off the sticker price.

Lesson 5: Know your bargaining power and don’t be afraid to ask for a deal

As she needs to move from the mansion she debates renting a U Haul or using a moving company. In spite of the price she opts for the moving company as she won’t be able to move all the furniture on her own.

Lesson 6: Sometimes you need to spend money.

This is a romance novel so money is spent on a few meals out and clothing. These expenses are treated as necessary for mental health but aren’t excessive. So far in my reading I think she’s made a total of 3 McDonald’s trips and purchased a dress. There’s also strong focus on home cooking.

Lesson 7: Treat yourself, wisely.

Of course, leaving an dazzling life behind to return home can set tongues wagging. Shelby tries to focus on all the positives in her life and the benefits of returning home.

Lesson 8: Know what matters to you

She’s fortunate to have a great network filled with people who are willing to help her. One of the things she struggles with is accepting help as she refuses to take handout e.g. someone paying her debt. She is determined to not abuse her relationships.

Lesson 9: Recognize the difference between a hand up and a hand out.

Shelby’s overwhelmed by the staggering amount of debt she finds herself in. She beats herself up every so often for her position but she doesn’t wallow. There are constant references to her updating her spreadsheet.

Lesson 10: Keep plugging away.

There are loads of others scattered throughout but the above stood out to me. It was a surprising place to find these and it was a bit wonderful to read a novel where the main character is struggling with debt.

Have you read anything lately that had surprising lessons?




3 thoughts on “Debt Lessons from a Romance Novel

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