Have you found yourself in debt up to your eyeballs (or maybe just to your waist)? Are you constantly wondering why you can’t get off the debt treadmill and live a more satisfying life without constant worries about money? Don’t feel guilty about it, many of us (myself included) have been there and I can tell you there is a way out. There are no magic solutions and you don’t necessarily need professional help either. Are you ready to learn why you can’t get out of debt and how to begin to get out of debt starting today?
You spend more than you earn
Yeah, you spend more than you earn, it really is that simple. To compound the problem you likely don’t save nearly enough (maybe not anything). So if you are ready to take back control of your financial life the solution is simple. Spend less than you earn and use the balance to start saving or in your case to pay down your debts as quickly as possible.
I know this may sound new and scary, but it really isn’t that hard. You just need to get started and once you do you will find that each month becomes easier for you until saving becomes almost second nature. You see, spending too much is simply a habit that needs to be broken and once you do you can replace it with a new habit…paying off your debts and saving for the future.
The good news it it is relatively quick to get a new habit ingrained, most sources claim 3-6 weeks. That means by next month you will have created a savings habit. The bad news is that once a habit is formed the pathways that support that habit never really go away.
They do however become less likely to be used as you get away from your bad habit. So while you might always be tempted to spend it becomes easier to resist as time goes on.
So how do you get started? Here are 10 ways that you can start to get out of debt beginning today!
- Start tracking your expenses. I mean every single penny you spend for at least 1 month. Most of us spend without thinking and by tracking your spending you can consciously begin to avoid places and events that cause you to spend. You will also begin to question your spending, which is a very good thing when you are trying to reduce spending.
- Sit down and create a budget. I know it isn’t fun, but it certainly won’t kill you either. And creating a simple income vs expenses budget needn’t take long either. What you want to do is get a quick picture of how much you make versus how much you spend. There’s no need to break things down to a granular level at this point. Just list your income sources and the amounts and then do the same for high level expenses. By high level I mean mortgage/rent, car payments, gas for the car, insurance, groceries, utilities (electric, cable, internet, cell phones), entertainment, clothing, memberships/subscriptions, credit card payments and cash. You can probably do this pretty easily by going through your checkbook or online bank statements.
- Stop carrying cash and credit cards. Cash makes it way too easy to make those small impulse buys that can add up to hundreds of dollars a month. Credit cards make it too easy to make larger purchases on impulse.
- Stop going out to eat. I know it is fun, easy and provides a sense of fulfillment for some, but eating out is way too expensive if you are trying to get out of debt. If you are a couple eating out once a week I’ll bet you spend several hundred dollars a month. And that doesn’t even begin to touch on all those $5-10 lunches. Stop eating out until you get your finances and your debts under control. See, it doesn’t have to be forever.
- To quote Youngbloodz “I got my mind on my money, my money on my mind”. You probably already do if you are in debt, but in a very negative and unempowering way. My recommendation is that you start to do this in a more empowering “I’m in control” way. Review your budget, if not daily at first at least a couple times a week. Question your expenses, “Is this something you really need”. Look for ways to avoid spending money and ways to improve your finances at every turn. You don’t have to become a monk or a hermit, but you do need to become very mindful about your income and your expenses.
- Start to brainstorm ways you can make extra money. Maybe it is something as simple as accepting overtime at your job or taking a second part time job. Maybe you’ve had ideas for starting a business in the past but have never taken action or even determined what exactly would be involved. Now is the time to get more involved in your earning power and find ways to increase your incoming cash flow. There are plenty of ways to make more money both online and offline, but it depends on you to find out which ones suit you and to get started.
- Get that budget out that you created in suggestion #2 (you did create the budget right?) and start to go through each line item asking yourself if you really need that particular item or service. If you think you can do without it then do that. Right now. Call and cancel, fill out the online forms or whatever it takes to cancel anything you really don’t need because those things are sucking the money out of you. Now take a look at the things you do need and ask yourself if you could somehow lower those bills. I’m going to give you a hint…for the majority of you the correct answer is yes. Yes you can lower your grocery bill and electric bill. Yes you lower those cash expenditures. Yes you can lower the amount you spend on eating out. Decide how much you can lower each bill and get to work doing that.
- Give yourself an allowance. I know it doesn’t sound like a way to get out of debt, but trust me it works. Well it works as long as you have the willpower not to head to the ATM once you run out of money for the month. I actually make a game out of it and try NOT to spend my entire allowance. By giving yourself an allowance you are setting boundaries for your spending, but you are also giving yourself some breathing room for fun or unnecessary purchases. Hey, we all need to have fun sometimes.
- List all your debts. Include the total amount, the monthly payment and the interest rate. Now order the list with the first debts to be paid off at the top. You can choose to pay off the highest interest rate loans first or you can choose to pay off the smallest loans first, both methods work equally well. As you pay off each loan you want to roll the payment you were making on that loan down to the next loan. So if your monthly minimum on the first loan to be paid off is $20 and the monthly minimum on the second loan to be paid off is $25 you are going to add that $20 to the second loan minimum once the first loan is paid in full. Keep doing this all the way down the list as you pay off each loan.
- Bonus Tip: This one is extreme, but if you can do it you can save a boatload of cash every month. Sell your car, cancel your insurance and either walk, bike or take public transport everywhere. I did this when I was my deepest in debt and it saved me somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 per month. Actually it probably saved me more than that because once I had to walk everywhere I was much less likely to go to the mall, restaurants or bars.
None of the above things are difficult (except maybe getting rid of your car), you just need to take the time to make them a part of your financial routine. After a few months pass all of these things will seem normal and you will be seeing your debts shrinking at a growing pace. The feeling of paying off each loan and watching your balance decrease is truly amazing and will start to give you a sense of increased control and freedom.