There are so many promises out there for how to get out of debt quickly. The truth of the matter is that debt reduction is a slow process; a process that takes a firm strategy, a strict plan of frugalness, and plenty of encouragement from friends and family.
The plan can be the hardest part to put together. It can be difficult to come up with additional ways to make an income, ways to cut spending, and how to check your credit score for possible errors or lingering items. This blog celebrates National Simplify Your Life Week with these simple tips to serve as a way to help you create that plan structure.
How to Allocate Your Income
There are quite a few strategies for this element of the debt reduction plan. The most common mistake made here is not knowing all monthly expenses that will either be due or will automatically come out of your bank account each month. The easiest way to anticipate all monthly expenses, avoid surprises, and make sure you don’t overdraft, is to use a debt calculator. Additionally, if most of your creditors and utilities send you monthly bill reminders, this can help you account for every penny expected to come out of your account each month. Simply put all of these into the debt calculator, then start using some simple math to put a plan in motion.
The next piece of the strategy is known as the 50/30/20 method, where 50 percent of your after-taxes income is allocated for necessities: Rent, car payment, car insurance, utilities, cable/TV subscription services, etc, 30 percent is allocated for wants: Dining out, movies, toys for you or the kids, etc, and 20 percent of after-taxes income goes directly toward paying down debt.
Nerdwallet has an excellent guide of this strategy here. At Golden Financial Services we also have two new tools to help you calculate your monthly debt payments, the 20 percent in this equation. First, we have a budget calculator that will help you determine that after-taxes number to start your splits. The budget calculator will then lead directly into the debt snowball payment calculator.
For more info on how the snowball payment method is the best way to tackle debt and generate cash flow, we have guides to help you here and here. These calculators are designed to help you Simplify Your Life by providing structure to your debt reduction attack plan.
How to Recognize Your Weaknesses
Weaknesses are not necessarily sweets and wine, although a trend in the millennial generation is to overspend on wine and travel (cheesecake and wine with a beautiful ocean viewing will always be tempting, we get it). Weaknesses can also be things like we mentioned above: Not anticipating monthly bills, allocating too much income to debt payments, or getting over-extended on the cost of rent and/or car payments.
Debt.com presents some thought-provoking questions on this topic, and also lists some other informative blogs for all walks of life: “Where in your life are you most likely to overspend? Can you limit your exposure to the temptation? If you habitually overspend online, remove your credit card number from your account so it’s tougher to click and buy on a whim. If eating out is draining your budget, make sure you have an appetizing array of food stocked in your pantry so you’re not tempted to stop by a restaurant on the way home from work. Simply recognizing your pain points can serve as a reminder to close your wallet when temptations beckon.”
How to Cut Expenses and Increase Income
While this particular category is the main focus for just about anyone attempting to cut debt, you can’t really get here until you have covered the previous steps we detailed above. Simply cutting cable or meal prepping your dinners will not get the job done. That said, you don’t fully realize how many things you do not need, yet still pay for, until you are faced with mounting debt. Start early, start now. Begin thinking like someone who is homeless, and genuinely trying to survive each day. A really informative and honest blog, Two Cup House, details how a couple got out of a quarter-million dollars worth of debt, and the creative ways they cut expenses. Here are some examples:
- We hadn’t purchased clothes for two years while we were getting out of debt.
- We cut cable TV, Amazon Prime, and Netflix.
- We clipped coupons using the grocery coupon app Ibotta to clip coupons.
These strategies address major spending categories that are not essential to survival and only represent comfort that can be exchanged for other activities: 1) Fashion – fashion moves more slowly in some areas, and more quickly in others. If you don’t live in New York or Los Angeles, you can probably wear clothes from two years ago and no one will notice. Even if your friends notice, are they very likely to give you *that* much of a hard time about it? 2) Television – this one is hard, because your co-workers and friends will be talking about the newest shows they are binging, and what is on Netflix or HBO. But cutting this luxury has very strong implications on a monthly basis, often saving you $150-$250 per month. Using phrases like, “No I haven’t seen that yet so don’t spoil it for me!” and “I don’t watch TV, but I’ve been reading a lot of books lately” should help. 3) Over-priced groceries – Be savvy on those aisles, and put more effort into meals by doing the dishes rather than buying pre-prepped meals from the grocery store that will have mark-ups for the grocery employee’s labor.
Increasing income doesn’t have to be about taking on another employer. Have a hobby? Solid skills at a specific trade? You might be able to do small projects on the side to make ends meet. Sites like Upwork.com and Fiverr.com offer talented freelancers the ability to work with companies on a contract basis.
How to Maintain Your Pace
This final step is all about being countercultural – that is, don’t simply accept social norms as the only way to live your life. Having an expensive car, a big house, and working super long hours isn’t the only way to happiness. There are literally hundreds of blogs out there attempting to reach you, to change your brain chemistry, so that you can be free of the rat race.
DaveRamsey.com does an excellent job of illustrating this point: “Society tells us “you have to have a credit card to survive,” “you can’t go to college without student loans,” and “you’ll always have a car payment.” But those who are experiencing debt-free living don’t buy into these norms. Credit cards aren’t necessary for their everyday lives. Car payments don’t take a chunk of money from their budgets. They treat debt like leftovers they find at the back of their fridge. Whether it’s debt or week-old meatloaf, they get rid of it! Debt is normal. So be weird!”
So Happy National Simplify Your Life Week! We hope these tips help you put a plan of debt reduction in motion.