& there we were at the age of 19 & 21… “young, engaged, broke, working minimum wage jobs and in about $80,000 in debt between the both of us. We were literally catching our food for the day in the lake behind our house.”
That was us just 4 short years ago! Fast forward to today… We got married on the beach & had our baby boy Bo two years later, We’re no longer broke, We travel often, Have a brand new truck, Bought a house that we’re remodeling, Started a business together & got rid of that $80,000 in debt, plus some!
We get asked often how we’ve paid off over $100,000 in debt in that amount of time… So here’s some of our best tips that we have learned along the way! If you find yourself surrounded by mountains of debt this is a good place to start…
1. First things first How much do you Owe? Figure out the amount of your debt whether big or small… Write it all down and put it in a place you can see it daily. Once you start paying on debt update it monthly and watch the overall amount go down slowly. Seeing this in action can keep you motivated to keep paying off debt!
2. SPEND LESS THAN YOU EARN!
3. Don’t dig yourself further into debt. Use cash for all your purchases.
4. Emergency Fund First. We personally like to keep $1000 up in our emergency fund. Build this up first before you even start paying off debt. That way if you come into an unexpected expense it doesn’t set you back even further, Flat tire anyone? Furbaby needs to be rushed to the vet? Use this money to keep you on track opposed to getting you further in debt. Having an emergency fund can save you from using a credit card, getting a loan, or borrowing money from someone.
5. Stop using credit cards to make it to the next paycheck. If you’re doing this stop now! You’re only digging your hole deeper…
6. Cut out the luxuries in your life for a while. Eliminate. Take a hard look at what’s truly necessary, and be willing to make some compromises to get where you want to be… Not only did doing this help us financially but it also improved our relationship. Cable TV, satellite radio, and eating out are not necessities. If you have a hard time letting go of things like this, run the numbers of your budget twice, once with your current budget, and once with the additional money(from luxuries) & with you paying for only necessities. You’ll be amazed at how much of a difference some extra money can truly make. Say Hello to Debt Free a lot Faster!!! Avoid eating out. Cook your own meals at home, you will be pleasantly surprised how much money you save. Get creative if you think you don’t have enough time, invest in a crock pot! For entertainment, Hang out with friends and think of ways to entertain yourself and your family without spending a dime, play board games, get outside, go to a park, get out & live! Search for free things to do in your area to gather some ideas. Cutting out the luxuries in our life was our biggest contributing factor of becoming debt free faster… We haven’t had cable TV for the last 6 years!
7. Don’t pay off your debt from the emergency account. Don’t touch the emergency account at all… it doesn’t exist!
8. Look for expenses coming up in the future and plan for them, so you don’t have to go into debt when they come up. Birthdays, holidays, license plate & tag renewal on your vehicle are all perfect examples of what to plan for that way you’re not rushing around at the last minute spending money you don’t have.
9. Make a budget. Every Dollar should be going somewhere, bills, paying off debt, savings… If you know where the money needs to go you’re a lot less likely to spend it on stuff you don’t need.
10. Snowball the debt. Pay minimums on all of your bills and debt first, then start attacking the smallest debt on your list with all the extra cash you have after paying your minimums on everything, once that debt is paid off then move on to the next one.
11. Be on the same page as your partner. Competing interests can tear a relationship apart, make the plan together & hold each other accountable.
12. Change yourself. If you have a spouse or partner that is contributing to the debt, it can be a big challenge to get them to change. Focus first on changing your own behavior and attitude.
13. Recognize your spending tendencies & your family’s. Place limits on the things you’re spending your money on, Develop good spending habits now & your family will thank you later.
14. Keep trying as many times as you have to and don’t give up! Make a commitment, and if you aren’t getting out of debt slowly but surely, revisit that commitment often. Change is difficult and it takes drastic change in your mindset and behaviors to become debt free. Anyone can do it, as long as you really want to do it… We revisit our goals & budget AT LEAST once a month!
15. Stop spending! You have to really want to do this, like really WANT to do this! Otherwise, you’ll put yourself on a financial diet so to speak and then crash, finding yourself justifying why you deserve to spend so much money on that new “something” when you still have thousands of dollars in debt that you need to pay off.. Pay off the debt now and reward yourself after with all the extra money you will have on a monthly basis thanks to being debt free!!
16. Change the way you think of Money. Figure out how much money you make per hour (net). Do this regardless of whether you are a business owner, salaried or hourly employee of a company. Now apply the “time factor” to any purchase you make from here on out. For example, is that new flat screen television you’re thinking of purchasing worth 10, 20 or 30 hours of your time? Once the dollar amount is removed from the equation & the time factor is applied, impulsive spending habits can change overnight.
17. Be realistic. If you started accumulating debt three or four years ago or even longer, realize that it will probably take you more then three or four years to get out of debt and then to stay out of debt.
18. Create a realistic budget. Put as much money as you can towards paying off debt and having an emergency fund, but allow for a little bit of extra money from time to time. Only the truly dedicated can live with no social activities occasionally for the amount of time it takes to become debt free.
19. Be patient. The Debt Free Journey is a long & slow process. Depending on the method you use, you may see no significant progress at first, but keep patient it will happen as long as you continue to work at it!
20. Stop borrowing money! This means no more credit cards, no more cash advances, no more home equity lines, etc. If you can’t afford to buy something with CASH then YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO BUY IT.
21. Save up money. Buy what you want with cash. By the time you’ve saved up the money, it’s likely you will realize that you don’t even need what you were thinking about buying in the first place. It happens all the time…
22. Track your expenses. Categorize your expenses and figure out how much you spend in each category so you can easily recognize your problem areas (shopping, gas, eating out), then continue to work on those areas to reduce spending. Always know exactly how much money you have whether it’s cash or in your accounts.
23. Make a plan … ANY plan. You are better off with a So-So plan than no plan at all.
24. Have Goals! Keep your eyes focused on where you will be one or five or ten years from now, because getting out of debt takes time…
25. Find your “WHY”. Finding motivation beyond the money aspect of it drives us even when we are tempted to get off track. This motivation will lead us to figure out the ‘right’ things to do like stop borrowing, creating a budget, etc. Take a look at the things you value deeply & use that to judge your actions to buy. Head on over to Setting Goals & Actually Achieving Them! to help discover your “why”.
Have questions? Or a have Tip that has helped you on your Debt Free Journey? Leave us a comment below…
& As Always, Be Free…
~Your Friend, Hailee