Several months ago I wrote a post on how I was able to get out of debt and the recent downturn in the economy has put many folks in the same position I was in 5 years ago—struggling to afford even the basic necessities and sinking into massive amounts of debt. So I compiled 20 tips I’ve learned along the way to becoming debt free. Please add your own tips below.
20 Tips for Getting Out of Debt
1. Stop Spending. I know this sound simplistic, but it is the most effective thing you can do to get out of debt. Here’s more on how to stop spending.
2. Admit You Have a Problem. It’s hard to admit to your friends and family that you are broke. It’s down right embarrassing, I know cause I’ve been there. However there’s a certain freedom that comes with admitting your mistakes. You’re family may join you in tip #5.
3. Realize Money, Most Likely, IS NOT the Issue. Many times we spend money to avoid dealing with personal issues in our lives. Shopping is not therapy. Fun? Yes! Therapy? No.
4. Face the Facts. Gather all your financial records. ALL OF THEM (many people do not open their statements). Using the form found in “How to Be a Budget Fashionista”, record all your income and expenditures.
5. Get a Financial Buddy. This could be a friend, a family members, a co-worker, etc, but it needs to be someone who is as committed to getting out of debt as you.
6. Let Go of the Princess Myth. So many of us feel that we deserve expensive handbags and luxury cars. The Declaration Of Independence doesn’t guarantee you “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of a Prada Handbag”.
7. Create a Needs vs. Wants list. This will help you prioritize what is really important to you and your family. Don’t need cable, but you do need electricity or gas for your car.
8. Live Below Your Means. After completing, tip #4 you should now know what is coming in and what is going out. Always make sure that what goes out is no more than 80% than what you bring in.
9. Become Financially Literate. Read books like Suze Orman’s “Women and Money” and watch shows like Dave Ramsey’s on Fox and learn as much as you can about your financial well-being.
10. Understand That There Are No Quick Fixes. You probably didn’t get into debt overnight, so you will not be able to get out of it overnight. Start first by doing tip #1- Stop Spending, and you’ll notice that you will start to chip away at your debt, one step at a time.
11. Use Cash. Unless you’re traveling or making a big purchase (which you shouldn’t be doing if you’re trying to get out of debt), there’s no reason for you to use a credit card. Figure out how much you spend each week (again tip #4) and take that amount out in cash each week. When the money is gone, it’s gone. No more going back to the ATM
12. Stop Eating Out. This is a sure fire money zapper, especially if you have a family. Rather than eating out, invite friends over for a potluck or have family cooking nights. Not only will you save money, but you will also create excellent memories.
13. Recycle and Resuse. Being eco-friendly can save you a ton of money. Instead of buying new bowls, use the plastic containers from products like cool whip and butter. Save aluminum foil.
14. Cut Up Your Credit Cards. This one is pretty straight forward. Most places accept debit cards, so you don’t need to have a credit card.
15. Get a Side Gig. Getting a side gig is a good way to earn extra money and, yes, that may mean that you have to work evenings at your mall or grocery store. Use the money from this job to ONLY pay off your debt.
16. Learn the Basics of Credit Cards. Watch this PBS Frontline series on the History of the Credit Card and you’ll understand why I stress tip #14.
17. Limit Spendthrift Friends. This is the partner tip to tip #5. Spendthrift friends can, intentionally or unintentionally, sabotage your efforts to get debt free. I’m not saying to stop being friends with these folks, but make sure you never go shopping with these friends.
18. Cut Up Your Primary Checking Account Debt Card. I don’t have a debit card for my primary checking account because I don’t need one. I created a shopping savings account and I purchase everything (groceries, too) from this account.
19. Move. Moving to a smaller apartment or home, can save money in a multitude of ways- from rent/mortgage to heating and electricity bills.
20. Remember This Too Shall Pass. It will take time to get our of debt, but you are on the right path. Keep your head up.