3 Debt Lessons from Game of Thrones

“A Lannister always pays his debts.”

Growing up, Tyrion Lannister learned that lesson from his father.

Whether the debt was in promised payment for a deed done, or whether it was revenge for a debt of honor, that theme is something associated heavily with Tyrion Lannister in the A Song of Ice and Fire books (made famous by the HBO show Game of Thrones).

Warning: There may be spoilers, since this piece is based on the books, and not the TV show.

Even though it might take time to engineer your plan to get out of debt, it’s important to do what you can to reduce your obligations, and Tyrion Lannister is a perfect example of this.

Debt Lessons from Game of Thrones

Make a Plan to Pay Off Your Debt

Tyrion is clever and determined.  He is a schemer.  When he is wronged, he doesn’t usually just rush in and attempt to change matters.

Instead, he pays his “debts” in an orderly manner.  When faced with false accusations, he carefully goads his jailer into accepting trial by combat.  Then, since the jailer is a woman and has her own champion, he is careful to insist that he deserves a champion as well, in terms of “fairness.”  He knows that, due to his physical limitations, he can’t defeat someone else in one-on-one combat.  His chosen champion, however, is wily and strong and wins the day.

Tyrion has put plenty of other plans into motion in order to get his revenge.  Additionally, when he gets help and promises payment, he knows how to make plans to meet his obligations, whether it’s getting his father to foot the bill through a scheme, or by some other means.

When you want to pay off your debt, you need to be a planner.

You need to make a plan to tackle your debt in a realistic manner.  Look at the situation, consider your resources, and figure out a way to make it happen.  Be methodical about it.  Tyrion is nearly always methodical about the way he pays his debts, and you should be too.  If you create a plan for paying off your debt, you will be much more likely to be successful and achieve the outcome you want.

Make Use of Windfalls

On rare occasions, Tyrion does react to circumstances quickly – particularly when he is in possession of what might be considered a windfall.

He unexpectedly ends up in possession of a crossbow while discovering his cruel father (who has gone out of his way to repeatedly humiliate Tyrion) in a position of weakness.  He takes advantage of this “windfall” to pay off a “debt” of honor that he feels he owes his father.

You can make use of windfalls as well.

Rather than spending a financial windfall on something else, take advantage of the moment to pay down your debt.  It can be tempting to “stick with the plan” and use the windfall money for another purpose.  However, when such a situation presents itself, you are usually better off adapting quickly, and paying down the debt while you can.

Tyrion freed himself from the tyranny of his father, and you can use a windfall to free yourself from the tyranny of debt.

Persevere and Move Forward

Finally, you need to keep at it.

Even though the situation can become discouraging, you need to keep plugging away and paying down your debt.

Tyrion Lannister doesn’t give up hope that he will be able to pay his “debt” against his sister, and he continues to keep at it, even with the fact that he was made a slave and sold at auction – which certainly challenged his plans.  Yes, the unexpected can set you back a bit, but if you are determined, you can keep working toward the goal of becoming free from debt!

For 21 real life profiles of people who paid off a lot of debt check out the book Debt Heroes.  Put together as part of the Debt Movement this book gives you success stories for example and motivation on your journey to pay off debt.

Ben Edwards is a co-author of the Debt Heroes book and writes about money over at Money Smart Life
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Published or updated March 28, 2013.


  1. I love to GOT referance! It’s a good lesson. Too many people today are living beyond their means and it has huge consequences. I’ve always believed that money management is a subject that should be taught in high school.

    • Glen Craig says:

      I agree. The hard thing though is how well will high school students retain what they are taught? Still, some basic concepts, like balancing an account and what interest rates do, could be very useful.

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