When we started our journey to debt freedom several years ago, it first required figuring out exactly how much we owed and to who. That sounds so basic now, but we had gotten in the habit of making regular payments without knowing the details of each debt.
We were that couple that asked “how much do you need now and how much do you need each month?” We had an assortment of debt at the time, made up of two car loans, one credit card, a personal loan and my student loans.
Don’t make the same mistake we made… know your debt details.
1. Who You Owe
2. How Much You Owe- Original & Remaining Balance
3. Interest Rates (How much will this cost me in the end?)
5. Minimum Payment Amount
6. Payment Due Date
7. Payoff Amount
A lot of people might say…
“I’ve got a car loan. I’ve got a student loan. That’s just normal debt. That’s just normal life.”
That’s what we thought too until we took a hard look at our finances.
The frustration kept building about why we could not “get ahead” despite working hard and being a two income home.
Then we just got mad at debt. It’s okay to get mad at debt. I sure wish we’d done it a whole lot sooner.
Debt puts a chain around your life.
You’re chained to a job you hate because you are obligated to a lender.
You’re chained to a certain lifestyle because of out of control spending.
You’re chained to a credit card that you use as a personal bank to pay overdue bills.
It sucks the joy out of living! It causes so much stress!
If you haven’t seen this clip about stress and the glass of water, take 2 minutes to watch it and imagine your glass is holding debt instead of water.
That’s how debt works. You hold it and keep holding it and it just gets heavier and heavier. Pretty soon you feel incapable of getting ahead.
That new car with a $38,950 price tag (dealer special!) will actually cost you around $44,000. The minute you drive it off the lot it’s too late to get anywhere remotely close to the retail cost should something happen and you need to sell it quickly. We also all know what happens within months, if not days, when you get a new car… a rock cracks the windshield, a fender bender, a bad scratch, etc. Don’t sign on for that kind of stress!
GET MAD AT DEBT
We got mad at our debt!
We made an “attack” plan after having some serious discussions about our immediate goals and long term goals.
We chose to use the debt snowball method for the most part with our attack plan. Our original plan included listing what debts we were attacking and in what order. We also gave ourselves a timeline.
First, we decided to start with the debt with the highest interest rate, the credit card. We decreased our monthly payments to the minimums on everything we owed except the credit card. We put any additional income towards it as well. I remember the tax return that year went straight to a huge portion of credit card payoff. Instead of that being a discouraging moment, we used it as motivation… we were that much closer to ZERO.
Dave Ramsey’s quote during this time became a household mantra… “Debt is dumb, cash is king, and the paid-off home mortgage has taken the place of the BMW as the status symbol of choice.”
GET RID OF DEBT
Once that credit card was paid off, we just applied the same strategy to other debt.
The great thing is that things happen faster once you have one debt paid off and you add that monthly payment to the next one. In this process, we became much better at budgeting. Budgeting requires you to look at your spending habits and find ways to spend less and save more.
These were things we started (or stopped) doing:
* Comparison shopped for insurance.
* Paid off iPhones and no more upgrades. We’re surviving 😉
* Used budgeting apps and debt trackers.
* Cut cable and instead started using Sling + Netflix (still a savings from cable.)
* Used income increases with raises and bonus opportunities to save more.
* Stopped shopping at Walmart.
* Sold some clutter.
* Paid off our credit card each month.
* Saved whenever possible on groceries and eating out.
* Bought used whenever possible and saved the difference.
Since then, we continue to carefully budget and tell our money where to go. Over this time, we’ve made a lot of adjustments and changes to our spending habits.
The biggest thing is to stay out of debt, we don’t go into debt.
Disclaimer- We’re not 100% debt free. We have a mortgage and some home equity credit. But we’re soooooo much closer. We’re still attacking. We will get rid of it, sooner than later.
We have made some big purchases since starting our debt freedom journey. An RV and two (used) cars and a riding lawn mower… the difference is we paid cash for them.
Let me tell you… that is an awesome feeling. One payment. Our terms. No paperwork. No chains.
Without debt, we can ask ourselves freedom questions, like…
How do I want to spend my time today?
Where would I like to go today?
What would I like to do today?
Who could I help today?
Without debt, we can rest better, improve our marriages, improve our health and breathe easier.
Need more motivation? Create a vision board with your financial goals and count down until you have met your goals.
Need help getting started? My friends from dollarsprout have a great get out of debt guide.
Have you ever gotten mad at your debt? If so, what’s your plan to get rid of it? If you’re out of debt, how did you do it? We can all learn from each other.
No matter where you’re at in the process, remember that every action you take is one step closer to freedom from debt and a life lived on your terms!