Debt is A Serious Problem
Debt is that word that no one wants to talk about. Debt can destroy relationships and even marriages. Debt can lead to bankruptcy. Debt can be a scary thing. You wonder if you will ever see the light at the end of the tunnel. What many people don’t understand about reducing their personal debt is that it is possible. There is always somewhere you can cut back and some way you can save a little extra each month.
According to a recent Gallup survey the average American has 3.7 credit cards with a whopping 71% of us having at least one card. Furthermore, according to a survey by Bankrate.com a shocking 32% of us say we live paycheck to paycheck, and that staying current or getting caught up on bills is our main financial concern. In uncertain economic times like these, we need a plan and we need it fast.
Here are a couple quick reasons why you pay your debt off as quickly as possible. Don’t like mine? Get a paper out right now and make your own. Write out your personal why.
Increase Your Credit Score
Reducing your balance-to-limit ratio on your credit cards can increase your credit score. Your credit utilization should be no more than 30% but the lower the better! Paying off your cards each month is ideal.
Gain Financial Security
Having no debt leads to greater financial security. Monthly payments tie up a good portion of your expendable income. You could be spending the extra money on things you want instead of just things you need. You could be saving for college, retirement, or a down payment for a house or car. You could begin building wealth by making smart investments. No amount is too small.
Now that you’ve got ample motivation to get started eliminating your debt how are you going to do it? Get out the paper you wrote you’re the reasons you want to get out of debt and now add the part about how you’re going to get that accomplished. It’s been proven that if you write down your financial plans and goals you are more likely to reach them. Let’s get started!
Plan out (on a calendar) how long it will take you to pay off each debt. Build in little incentives in your budget for each debt paid off, (or if you have a lot of debt, or will take a long time, celebrate ¼ milestones, or ½ milestones on debts). It will help you to see progress. Don’t go crazy though.
Only use $10, or $50 (whatever is reasonable) of your snowball debt money to treat your family (maybe dinner, maybe more grocery money, a movie, etc.) when you have hit a goal. Your family will be sacrificing for a period of time so it’s good to reward them for short-term goals to keep the long goal in view.
Your debt will not magically disappear but I do have good news for you! With some commitment and hard work, you will be debt free before you know it. Personally, my family and I cut out $15,000 in debt in just a year on one income just by following 10 of these proven ways to reduce personal debt.
Here are 10 Proven Ways to Reduce Personal Debt and Regain Future Financial Security for your family:
How to reduce debt
1. Cut back on Eating Out
Even the two nights a week you buy pizza can save you up to $200 a month. When you sit back and think about how $30 is spent each day you buy pizza and you add that up over the month, you’re spending a lot on eating out. Instead, buy pizza from the store and cook it yourself.
2. Make a Budget
Find ANY area you can cut back. I would strip back that budget to what Finance Guru, Dave Ramsey, calls “beans and rice”. You get the idea?
Strip back your budget to the items you have to pay, and get the expendables to as little as you can. Cut out and turn off ALL non-essential-to-life items. These would be the “wants” like cable, manicures, dinners out, vacations, etc.
You may think you have a budget, but does your budget include a savings, food, gas for your vehicles, clothing, or entertainment? It should! Giving yourself a visual budget for each thing you spend money on is a great way to keep track of where your money is going and where.
3 List Your Debts
All of them! It doesn’t matter if it’s a $3 library fee, or a $10 loan from Mom or even a $20,000 car loan write them down from lowest to highest. Note: for the purpose of this exercise we are only dealing with consumer debt in this article- do not include your mortgage at this point.
Take all of the money that you have from stripping back your budget to essentials and start putting it towards your lowest (dollar amount) debt paying the minimum only on the rest.
Paying off your littlest debt first will give you a sense of immediate freedom. Once that debt is paid off take the increased money you now have and apply to your next biggest debt. It’s called “Snowballing” and it works well. The snowball gets bigger as it rolls. In the same way, the more funds that become freed up, the more you will be able to add to the next debt and so on.
4. Get Rid of Credit Cards
I have been without a credit card for nearly a year now, and I can’t tell you how great it feels to walk into a store and pay for something with my actual money. Credit cards get you in a rut of impulse buying and high-interest rates. Have one for emergencies, but get rid of the rest.
Related article: Your Guide To Paying Off Credit Card Debt by Clark Howard
5. Supplement your Income
Find ways to add more money to help your snowball grow so you can pay off your debt sooner. Have a yard sale, get a paper route, or deliver pizza, or start an Etsy shop (don’t spend a lot of money on supplies, etc.) to sell your hobby, or start with a direct sales business for a season (one that doesn’t require a huge investment- do your homework!) or _________. Figure it out! You can do this! If you have made all the cutbacks you can and you still don’t have anything left over, find a way to supplement your income that works for you such as:
- Freelance Writing
- Donating Plasma
- Selling Items you don’t need
- Working from home
Make sure that whatever you do works for you and your family. Save the extra money you make or pay off extra debt.
Related article: 8 Awesome Business Ideas for Work at Home Moms
6. Cancel Unnecessary Subscriptions
Trust me; there are things you can live without. If you have a cell phone, get rid of your house phone. Instead of paying for Netflix, Hulu, cable, and Video, choose one and get rid of the rest.
You probably don’t need that subscription to that magazine anymore or the newspaper. There is no need to have satellite radio in your car. Do you pay for weekly newspaper delivery but it sits in your yard? If you can get rid of any extra costs when it comes to subscriptions, call and cancel them.
7. Call your Debtors
If you owe a debt to credit card companies or loans, you can call and negotiate your terms. Ask for a lower interest rate, interest-free payback, or reduced monthly payment. Many credit card companies will allow you to cancel your credit line with them and pay back debt due without building more interest.
8. Buy in Bulk
Even if you don’t have a large family, buying in bulk can save you hundreds of dollars each year. Meat, toilet paper, dish soap, laundry soap, and toothpaste are all items that are less expensive when you buy in bulk. I have a Costco membership and visit once a month to stock up on items that we use a lot of.
9. Only Buy Essentials
Entering a department store for one item, in past I would get distracted by all the pretty things surrounding me and end up coming out with ten items. Can you relate? When you head into the store for a new phone charger, only buy a phone charger, not a new phone. If you don’t need a new phone and you just want to upgrade, don’t buy it. Buy only the essentials like a new, working charger, food, or grocery items.
10. Use the Library
Life can get pretty boring when you don’t have the money to do anything. Instead of renting books and movies, go to the library for your entertainment; it’s free! We have been visiting the library more for our books and movies. Libraries also offer various free activities for kids and families and puts up flyers for free things to do in the area.
With dedication, hard work, and sacrifice, you can get out of debt- quick! And then work a plan to stay that way. Whether you in over your head in debt or just don’t have anything left over, these 10 proven ways to reduce debt are sure to get you back on your feet.
I need to work in those first two tips, STAT. Eating out takes up a huge chunk of our dollars, and if we budgeted better, we may realize just how much.
Paula Schuck says
Stop dining out and stop buying the expensive coffees every day. You can save a lot there. Clip coupons and don’t forget to negotiate. I negotiate a lot. For instance if the bank says your mortgage rate is 3 % – I say No sorry taking it somewhere else because M bank is offering me 2.5 % or 2%. I also once negotiated no bank fees for an entire year when I was young and a new customer at the bank near my house. That saved me hundreds.
Winona (Simple Southern Family) says
I agree with the dining out and expensive coffees. We are a family of 5 and dining out every week would cost us nearly $0 – $75 ! Those expensive lattes can cost upwards of $5 . I love your tips on negotiating with the banks. Sometimes home buyers think they are locked in to a mortgage lender they begin working with, without researching all the options.
Debt is something that can choke the life out of you and feel so terrible. We are working to get out of debt and have done all of these and are feeling more free every single day. It is amazing how you really don’t know as much as we think we do and how much better life can be without those things. Great tips, thank you!
Great ideas. Eating out definitely costs more than we might think. That is a good place to start for sure.