In this post, I share the embarrassing amount of time I have wasted contemplating becoming debt free. And I show you the steps I took to create a life beyond debt. I am sure we can all agree that when debt is not a priority, it can simply accumulate and eventually it becomes a problem that needs to be addressed. It is far better to attack your credit card debt or consumer debt now and soon you’ll be able to say, “We’re Debt Free.”
It just occurred to me that I’ve been putting off creating a budget and getting my finances organized for more than a decade. Yes, a decade. You can imagine if I was able to tackle these issues earlier, I would have saved thousands and thousands of dollars.
What was I thinking? Basically, I’ll deal with it later. And later never came. Read more of, How It All Began.
The steps you need to take to become debt free are pretty simple:
1. Get organized: Its nearly impossible to stay in debt if you’re organized. For most people this means opening the credit card statements that are unopened in a box or drawer somewhere. You can no longer hide in denial about the credit card debt or student debt that has accumulated. By getting organized, you will be able to Take Charge of your personal finances. You wont need a personal loan or any debt relief.
Right now, I’m reviewing my year end credit card statements from last year and i see so many charges that I have now cut out. And I feel great about all the money I am not wasting. But part of me is calculating how many thousands of dollars of money that just spilled out of my life simply by not paying attention. Read more about the dumb stuff I bought last year.
2. Create a Budget:
It doesn’t have to be fancy. On one side is all the income you have coming in. And on the other side is ALL the expenses you have going out. Every dime! Which means you must open the credit card statements and really understand where your money has been going. One of the advantages of this exercise is that it allows you to find your areas of wasteful spending.
3. Eliminate wasteful spending.
The most obvious wasteful spending for me was a storage locker I was paying nearly $100 a month for. It made me so angry that I eventually began this journey and started writing this personal finance blog. Use the old maxim, A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned.” and realize when you go through your bills that every wasteful thing that you have spent money on in the past that you don’t really enjoy, is earned money. Don’t dwell on the money that you have wasted in the past. Focus on your debt free future. I was paying for auto renew memberships that I didn’t even remember. Never again.
I began to explore our current consumer culture and why we buy what we buy. This helped me explore why I was spending so much money shopping. More on Consumer Culture here.
4. Negotiate Discounts:
For those services and memberships that you like but would like to pay less for, you need to contact the merchants and ask for a discount. Yes, you can do it. And yes they will give you discounts on your memberships: Cell phone carrier, cable company, Satellite radio etc… I have written a whole post about How to negotiate Discounts.
5. Create an Emergency Fund:
It’s easy to fall into debt when unplanned emergencies happen. Unfortunately, life is full of unplanned emergencies. That is why you need to set aside an emergency fund of at least $1,000 to start. I have written an article on why and emergency fund is so important, An Emergency fund is an umbrella for your life.
6. Increase your Income: Depending on how much leverage you want to achieve or how much credit card debt and student loans you have, it may be time to increase your income. When I got really motivated to pay down my debt, I wrote financial articles for a financial blog and created this blog. You may want to find a side hustle or side income. I have written a number of posts about the best ways to increase income. 45 Ways to Boost your Income is one example.
When did I realize things were bad? I created a rule- do not open a credit card bill on Fridays. Why? Because my credit card bills Always put me in a bad mood. Was that a warning sign? Yes. Should I have taken it more seriously? You bet.
But, I’m doing it now. I’m making progress. It feels really good to be debt free. I wish I did it sooner.
In this post, I have outlined the steps necessary to begin the journey towards becoming debt free. Get organized, create a budget, reduce frivolous spending, create an emergency fund, and increase your income. As with all things, getting out of debt will take some time. But, with these action steps, you will be on the way to one day being able to say, “We are Debt Free.”
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