Let's Talk About Debt
How Do You Get Out Of "The Hole"?
I won't bore you with a backstory of how I had gotten myself into debt. Let me just cut to the chase. It was two months before my wife and I were getting married. We lived on three incomes. She worked two jobs and I worked one. That always worked for us because I was in school so she carried more financial weight. I was about $25,000 in debt and she was about $28,000 in debt at the time. Her debt was only her car but I had a car loan, a Kay Jeweler's account, and one open credit card that I was paying off. That changed in a single day.
My wife was out of work for an entire month right before our wedding. She had been put on disability but we didn't see that money until after she went back to work. We went from living comfortably on three incomes to barely making it with one income. We both had our own bills to pay so we knew this wasn't going to work. My wife's credit isn't the greatest so it was up to me to get some "extra money". We still had a final payment to make on the wedding and we knew that with my paycheck alone, we wouldn't be able to. I was able to pull out two loans and secure an additional credit card. Hello to another $5,500 worth of debt.
Once we came back from our honeymoon, we got right back to work. Coming back, my wife had quit one job so we lost an income. Work for me was pretty slow so I had more than enough time to run our numbers and see how much we would now be paying monthly with all of our new bills. Our expenses jumped to $3,500 within a matter of a month. My income was fluctuating at the time but the most that I was bringing in per month was about $2,000. I don't monitor my wife's income but with her quitting one job, I knew we wouldn't make it.
I made a ten step plan that has worked for us, so I'm going to share it with the world in hopes that it will help others:
1) Cut Your Expenses!
Look through your bank statements over the past six months. See what you have spent money on. Ask yourself if you needed to spend that money or not. A lot of times we just spend money because we have it. This is an unhealthy habit that only hurts us in the long run.
2) Up Your Income!
I'm sure this sounds obvious but find new streams of income. Get another job or sell things around the house. Once you get a supplemental income, you'll be able to make higher payments on your debt. Honestly, every little bit helps.
3) Cut Up The Cards!
The faster you chop the cars, the faster they get paid off. It worked for me because I was angry. Once I cut them up I realized that they really were just plastic. Unfortunately, they killed my financial freedom but I am making my way back.
4) Make Smarter Spending Choices!
Obviously you can't stop spending money. You still need to feed yourself, clothe yourself, bathe yourself, etc. Spend more money at the grocery store so you don't have to eat out. Buy better quality clothing so they last longer. Ask yourself if you really need that $13.50 bottle of luxury body wash. I promise you, you don't. In fact, I found a $2.00 body wash that is even better and made with safer ingredients at Target. Just an f.y.i. for anyone reading this.
5) Shop Second Hand!
I know that this totally contradicts every other bit of advice that I have given thus far, but hear me out. We still need to live don't we? With all of this hard work and sacrifice it wouldn't make sense to hold off on treating yourself until it's all over. Thanks to technology, there are so many apps that we can download onto our phone to buy preloved clothing, shoes, purses, jewelry, you name it. You can find a nearly new designer purse for half of the price of a brand new one (if not less)! Take advantage of second hand deals when you can.
6) Coupons Are Your Friends!
When did it go out of style to pay less? I don't know why my generation ignores coupons so much. Why would you opt to pay full price on anything when companies are handing you money to buy their products? Now I am not saying to spend money just because you have a coupon for something. If you get coupons in your mail or email for something that you need, take advantage. You need the item anyways so get it cheaper! A bonus tip on this topic; get your family and friends in on clipping coupons and trade with them. If you get a coupon but don't need that item, give it to someone you know and vice versa. This way, everyone saves some money.
7) Fill That Tank Up!
Gas is such a huge expense that we often overlook. I can't speak for everyone but I know that before I started budgeting, I didn't think twice about how much money I was spending at the pump. I had the mindset that gas doesn't last forever so just put in $20. What was I thinking? That $20 would only last me two, maybe three days if I was lucky! I was at the gas station three times a week (that's up to $60/week). Now I pay closer attention to the money I am spending on gas. I fill up my tank twice a month and THAT IS ALL! If it is getting low, I carpool or walk. Thankfully my truck is a newer model and tells me how many miles I have before I am left stranded. My biggest tip is to fill your tank up. I know some of us (myself included) drive gas guzzlers so it sucks to drop $50 on gas. Make that full tank last as long as you can. Your bank account will thank you.
8) Do It Yourself!
This goes for almost any and everything! Recently, my wife needed her brakes changed. The dealership quoted her $350 including labor. That's an additional car note!!! Instead, her brother offered to change her brakes for free. He rented some equipment from an auto store for $15 and she bought the brakes for $30. That equalled out to only $45. In the end, my wife got to keep $305 in her pocket and her brakes are working just fine. So many home repairs can be done on your own. You can also make your own beauty products! Pinterest taught me so much.
9) Set A Budget And Stick With It!
This is THE BIGGEST and MOST IMPORTANT step of them all. You cannot save money if you don't realize just how much you are spending. For me, I wasn't planning to save anything since I knew that most of my income would be going towards my debt. It took me a couple of months to get it right but I set a budget and have stuck with it for the past six months. I managed to pay off a significant amount of debt AND save some money. A budget is crucial. I cannot stress this enough.
10) Pat Yourself On The Back!
You have worked so hard and made so many sacrifices. It doesn't matter if you've made a small dent or a huge dent in your journey. The only thing that matters is that you are making progress. Congratulate yourself! It is no easy process but you're doing it.
I hope that these ten steps are helpful. Of course you can tweak them for what works for you. It is not a one size fits all kind of plan but it works. If you have any questions or comments please find me on Instagram, follow me, and message me. I'd love to connect with you and hear about what has worked for you!
Thank you for reading,