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Consumer debt has increased in recent years and many of us have been offered lines of credit that we simply can’t afford. We should never have accepted the credit and have now plunged ourselves into debt that we’re unable to pay and are now feeling the pinch (or punch!) – being in debt can cause huge stress in turn contributing to illness and affecting relationships of all types. How many times have you heard of couples getting divorced because of money problems? Struggling to cope with debts can really take its toll. It usually also means that saving for the future, emergencies, retirement, goals, etc., is put on the back burner and we’re just pedaling continuously and getting absolutely nowhere…
Are you doing everything the latest articles say to get out of debt? Following all the tips from the budget and saving gurus? Paying the monthly minimum repayment and cutting back everywhere you can but still not seeing any changes to your financial situation?
You’re not alone, but it’s just not so simple. It’s why I went on a mission to learn what I could to better my financial situation for a much brighter future, all without the anxiety and stress that was affecting my life terribly from being in over my head with debt. The process of getting out of debt became like a self-challenge; journeying to achieve a zero debt balance and seeing how much I could save from all the budgeting hacks I was following, plus stop living paycheck to paycheck! Some of it was actually fun!
So, below are some of the best pieces of advice from everything I learned. If you can do even just half of these, you should start to see your debt decreasing in a seriously measurable way!
1. Spend less than your income
As obvious as this may be, a lot of us rely on credit cards to get through the month and to live a lifestyle that we can’t fully afford because our income is not enough to meet our expectations. Put together a realistic budget and make the commitment to stick to it.
2. Create a realistic budget
For more information on creating a realistic budget – one that you can actually stick to – read this post. Having a budget that is realistic not only provides you with more chance of being able to stick to it, but actually following it consistently month after month also gives you a sense of achievement and motivation to keep going when you see your debts decreasing. You’ll feel so much more organized about your finances than ever before – and an organized financial house is an open invitation for more income (as per Dr John Demartini in his book, How to Make One Hell of a Profit and Still Get to Heaven).
3. Track your expenses
Even though you will have a realistic budget, noting down everything you spend whether using a budget tracking app, Excel spreadsheet or notebook and pen, can help you to decrease your spending because you’re always conscious of what has been spent and on what. For the time being, also stop any monthly subscriptions such as Netflix, Spotify or Audible. All these smaller debits do add up over time.
4. Cut up all your credit cards (except for one)
Just decide you are not going to use them and cut them up, except for one. Put this one aside in a safe place for emergencies and try to forget it exists! Stick to your monthly budget and commit to not using the credit card.
5. Pay down debts from smallest to largest
This is like the snowball method that Dave Ramsey advocates. Start by concentrating on paying off the smallest debt, then move on to the next largest and so on until all debts have been cleared. Paying off a debt, even starting with the smallest, offers a sense of achievement that is extremely valuable when you feel like you’re drowning in debt.
6. Implement a weekly meal plan
Deciding what you and your family will eat each day for the coming week will mean that you know exactly what to buy when grocery shopping. Not only is it a great feeling to be so organized, but knowing just what you’ll be making for packed lunches, dinners, weekend lunches, snacks, etc., can save you a lot of time and hassle! If you don’t know where to start with meal planning, this helpful guide by Christina at The Mostly Simple Life is the perfect place to start.
How great is it to know that you can set a budget for food but still have decent-sized and healthy meals? Give it a try and I’m almost certain you will be happy you did.
7. Take your lunch to work
Following on from implementing a meal plan, taking your lunch to work can save a considerable amount of money. This is one of those pieces of advice that we know we should follow but rarely take the time to be so organized.
8. Buy a reusable coffee cup (and use it daily)
Just like not buying your lunch out every day, forget about buying coffee out for a while too. Instead, buy a cute reusable coffee cup (preferably one that’s insulated), and take it with you on your way to work every morning. I didn’t realise how those small payments for coffee added up until I analysed my spending for the realistic budget. It could be a cliché piece of advice but it’s cliché for a reason. Here is a link I found to some reusable coffee cup ideas: http://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/food-drink/best-reusable-coffee-cup-mug-glass-with-lid-travel-a7510606.html (it’s NOT an affiliate link, just an information link).
9. Downgrade your mobile phone and TV package
This is just one of those things we have to do temporarily while in debt. There are numerous free apps to watch catch-up TV or watch the free TV channels that can actually be pretty decent (a shame about not being able to forward through the ads though!) And when it comes to the phone, we really don’t need all those unlimited minutes or that massive data bundle for a while until the debt is flattened.
10. Take a break from buying new clothes
You probably have a ton of clothes. I totally understand you’re probably bored of them or maybe a lot don’t fit. Have you tried a swap meeting with a friend who’s a similar size to you? Free and fun!
11. Shop around for the best insurance quotes
Some insurances are mandatory but, in general, insurance companies depend on the fact that most of their customers will not cancel automatic renewals each year. Very often we, as consumers, don’t shop around for better quotes every year because it’s a lot easier to just accept the small(ish) price hike. Using a price comparison website can provide some astounding results.
12. Put any additional money towards your debt
Are you freelancing or do you have a side-hustle? Do you work overtime or have a second job? Put any additional income into a debt. If you’re not freelancing and think you could provide a sought-after service online, for example virtual assistance, go for it. If you’re organized and have a set of skills to offer bloggers or business owners, consider working part-time as a VA. Here is a list of 150 VA services you could offer – see any that you’re good at? This course is affordable for those on a budget and can give you the confidence to start your VA side hustle. Read my post here for more information.
What about writing? Are you any good at writing? There are numerous business owners who are trying to increase their web presence and buy writing services for articles, newsletters, website page content, etc. – all of which I have offered to clients and still do. If you’re not sure and want to read more or take a course to hone your skills and start offering your services as a writer, Gina Horkey’s course, 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success will put you firmly on the right path to build your business and get your first clients. Here is a list of 200 writing niches to give you some ideas of what you could write about.
13. Put anything you would have spent towards your debt
Have you ever gone for lunch with a friend and when the bill comes, they insist on paying for the whole thing? Well, that’s the type of thing I mean when I say put anything you would have spent into one of your debts. You had fully expected to go to lunch with your friend and pay for what you ate and drank, but then since you don’t actually land up spending anything, that money should be transferred immediately to a debt. Do it as soon as you can!
14. Stay at home more often
For those that love to go out and spend time with friends, I appreciate this is not the most appealing prospect. But it’s only temporary and will go a long way to decrease your debts. Catch up on all those books you want to read 🙂
15. Pay more than the minimum repayment
When it comes to paying a credit card or other debt, even if it you only pay an extra $10, always pay more than the minimum requested payment. Doing this also exponentially decreases the interest you pay over the course of the debt.
If the thought of implementing all of these feels daunting, just start with one per week and within a few months you will have begun to build good habits towards reducing your debt. You can do it 🙂
If you’d like some more tips and motivation to realistically remove debt from your life, go ahead and download the completely free guide below…