If you’re alive, you know the struggle that can ensue when your finances are out of order. Not only are money problems a leading cause of divorce among married couples, but the added stress can also cause health problems. Ask anyone who is behind on their house payment and they will tell you that it is hard to sleep at night trying to figure out how to pay the bills and get out of debt.
But, it does not have to be that way. Money and finances should be a tool used to navigate through a decently comfortable life, not something to worry over in misery.
As a newly married couple, my husband and I had stable jobs and were financially comfortable. We had bills and debt, but no stupid purchases or extreme shopping obsessions. After an argument about $700 motorcycle lights, my husband brought home the book “Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey.
Before he could finish the book, I had
stolen borrowed it from him and finished it within 2 days. We immediately implemented Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Steps and fast tracked our debt pay off of $26,000 in 5 months.
With a little common sense and a whole lot of discipline, we changed our lives in a way I never knew existed.
Here’s how we did it:
Every month we sat down and revised our budget (we still budget, but it’s more of a habit now). If there were birthday gifts to buy that month, we planned for them. From car maintenance to groceries and everything in between, we budgeted for it. We had a $200 cushion in our checking account for any mistakes (like an overlooked online bill) so we could avoid overdraft fees, but other than that, we did not keep any “fluff” money in our account. We accounted for every.single.penny.
Trim the Fat.
Still paying that monthly fee for the gym you never go to? Cancel it. What about the online membership for audio books you have yet to use? Cancel that too. Go through your bank account with a fine tooth comb and find the recurring fees that you do not use. Even at $9.99 per month, these unused accounts can add up quickly. Over the course of one year, that is $120 that you could use for paying debt! On a larger scale, if you have a mass amount of a debt and a lot of equity in your home or a car that can be downsized, consider selling them to pay off debt. Those are extreme things, but look at every opportunity available to you.
Use Excess Cash to Pay Off Debt.
This was probably the hardest thing to do. You scrimp and save and see your savings increasing and the last thing you want to do is drain your account to pay off debt. But, in most cases the interest you are paying on your debt is not covered by the interest you are gaining on your savings. It is a false sense of security to have debt and have a lump sum of cash. And really, you cannot put a price on the peace of mind that comes when you have no debt. So, we left our skin and bones emergency fund in place and used the rest of our money to pay off our debt. It was not a ton of money, but it still helped pay off debt faster and put us in a position to win. Tough? Yes! Necessary? Absolutely!
This is a difficult, but necessary word when you are trying to stay on budget and pay off debt. We missed a lot of restaurant dining, vacations and parties while we were paying off debt. People looked at us funny and laughed at us, but we had the end in mind and were not fazed. Saying “no” can even open up meaningful conversations that inspire others to get their finances on track as well. You never know.
Needs vs Wants.
It is amazing what you can live without when you have this burning fire of motivation to get rid of a bunch of debt. The things you THINK you NEED are laughable when you are trying to cut your budget down to a minimal amount. Though we were not shopaholics, we definitely spent some money on things like dining out, tools and the occasional Coach purse. When we examined our NEEDS a little closer, we realized that all we needed was a roof over our heads, food and water, utilities, clothing and transportation. Sure, it was nice to eat at a restaurant (yum!) but we could plan delicious dinners and eat at home for a fraction of the price. Yes, we NEEDED to eat, but where and what we ate were completely up to us.
Things are things and nothing more. I am not advocating for you to sell off your great-grandmother’s antique sewing machine. Unless you are about to lose your house, or cannot pay for basic things (utilites/food/clothing), keep the sentimental heirlooms, if they are important to you. I am talking about selling things that have sat around the house that you “might use sometime”. The size 6 shorts you fit it before kids, the motorcycle in the garage that never gets ridden, the designer diaper bag for “if we have another baby”. SELL IT ALL. Pay off your debt! If you decide you really want something back that you sold (this has yet to happen to me), you can buy it again when you are debt free and building wealth. Be careful, selling things can be addictive and that is a good thing!
Be creative. Be weird. Have fun.
Paying off debt is not for the faint of heart. It is difficult and can feel restrictive. Have fun with it. Be creative. Sometimes you have to think outside of the box to meet your goals faster. My side of the family made a lot of innocent fun when we told them that my husband recycled beer cans and used the money for his “beer budget”. We still laugh about it to this day. And when I brought my packed lunch to a restaurant with my coworkers, I thought everyone was going to lose their minds. It was something that we came up with to make the most of our money. We were hell-bent on paying off debt, and did not care if we seemed weird to other people.
If you have the will, you will find the way. Whether you are living paycheck to paycheck, or have some money in the bank, paying off debt is a possibility. Not only is it a possibility, but it is a life changing experience that will change your outlook. I promise. Give it a try.
What’s your biggest struggle or biggest victory when it comes to paying off debt? Comment below!