As my journey to debt freedom draws to an end, I’d like to share the 10 things that had the biggest impact to reducing my debt. I haven’t included ‘making a budget’ as I think that is a given!
I’ve separated these points into 2 categories:
Action and Attitude
I believe the Actions you take and the Attitude you have while paying off debt are intrinsically linked. You can’t take action without the right attitude.
5 ACTIONS that helped me pay off debt
Learning to say no – to people, to purchases and to yourself plays a huge role in winning the war on debt. I found declining invites from friends for nights out, drinks, weekends away etc to be really tough. Tough, but an essential action to take if you want to set yourself free from debt.
While I didn’t tell friends and family how much debt I was in when I started the journey, I did make it clear that I was making a serious effort to tighten purse strings to pay back debt, and that meant I had to cut some fun things out for awhile. Quite awhile. I learnt to say – ‘I’m sorry, but I really can’t afford to do ABCXWZ this weekend, I’ve got a tough budget to stick to this week’
Most people understand, and if they don’t, well too bad. Certainly don’t sacrifice your budget for someone who doesn’t respect your goals. This doesn’t mean you can never go out and have fun while paying off debt – it just means prioritise the activities that mean something to you and choose those over spending cash on random nights out every Friday.
Record every single purchase you make for at least a month.
I actually recorded every purchase I made for a year. It became a habit and it was the key to becoming completely aware of everything I spent. I mean, if I spent 50cents on a packet of gum, I’d record it. Yep, that probably seems excessive – and sometimes it did get to me. But it helped by revealing patterns and behaviours in my spending and where I could ‘cut the junk’.
When I was fully aware of the things that burnt a whole in my pocket, I continued recording everything I spent as a habit to keep me on track. Debt and paying it off HAS to be at the front of your mind EVERY TIME you make a purchase (big or small) if you plan to win the war.
I just jotted down the purchase and the cost on the note section of my phone. Even the simple action of taking out my phone to add to my purchase list was an opportunity to check myself. I had a moment to think about what I was about to spend and scan the list of the items already purchased that day / week.
So give it a go – 1 month. Record everything. You will be surprised (and potentially alarmed! 😉 ) at where your money is going.
Implement spend free days
I don’t know who originally coined the term Spend Free days in the world of PF blogging, but it really is a genius concept. Many bloggers out there set themselves spend free days and weeks (and months!)
I soon jumped on board to employ this effective little tactic in my own Get Debt Free strategy. I would regularly set myself 2 spend free days per week. These are days where you spend nothing, except on essential items – ie, a train ticket. Ok, so what stops you buying something you really want on non spend day? Well I saw the whole point of spend free days to curb mindless consumerism on the junk items. You know, the stuff you buy without even thinking *hand goes to wallet, money comes out, I’m $10 poorer without even batting an eye*….. magazines, coffee, lunch takeout, a glass of wine after work, that kind of stuff. The point of my spend free days was to put a stop to spending without thinking. It worked.
Cut the junk STRAIGHT AWAY
We spend money on so much SHIT. Seriously. Cut the junk from your spending. Like, straight away. If you are in debt and looking to get debt free, frivolous expenses must go immediately. These purchases add nothing of real value to your life except a fleeting moment of satisfaction or more likely, distraction. Then it is all over red rover and you’ve spent 5 bucks on a magazine to read about the latest Kimye scandal.
Make your budget REALISTIC – it is ok to ease into it.
Yep, I know the enthusiasm…. you are all ready to pay off your debt and you want to go in, repayment guns a blazin’ and smash it out ASAP.
This type of excitement is exactly what you need to get the momentum going. But one of the side effects to this excited attitude is a rather optimistic approach to setting your budget. Which is turn can lead to disappointment, frustration and wanting to give it all up, a few months in when all the excitement has worn off.
I had a huge budget fail when I first set about paying off my debt in March 2013. I drew up a budget which showed I would be out of debt in October 2013. The budget was unrealistic. It didn’t account for EVERYTHING and it left me with very little spending money. I knew for awhile it wasn’t working but I kept at it, and kept beating myself up when I went over budget (surprise, surprise) each month. Then I hit Debt Fatigue in a big way – I was WAY off my (unrealistic) goal and it would be another 8 months of debt repayment past October. Frustrated, disappointed and sick of debt – I stopped blogging for awhile, although I continued to make smaller repayments. Then I regrouped – I got my shit together with a realistic budget that included everything and set about attacking debt again with my new debt free date.
Set yourself up for success with a realistic budget. A good budget is not rigid, it’s flexible and fluid and allows you to adapt when you need too. When you look at your expenses, cut the junk first – without even considering keeping those items. Then, slowly, you can whittle down your expenses. You will be surprised what you are happy to go without and places your budget can be cut further once you get into a momentum.
5 ATTITUDES that helped my pay off debt
Never EVER EVER give up
We all know the saying and it’s cliché for a reason.
If you don’t give up making repayments, you will be debt free. At some point. One Day. Maybe not when you thought – refer to my Budget Fail – but if you don’t stop making those payments, the numbers will continue to tick down. We all have shit days when paying off debt. The days we want to buy everything in sight, where we are angry, frustrated and generally just pissed off at the hold debt has on our lives. Don’t let any of those reasons make you give up. Giving up is not an option. Take another look at the budget, cut yourself some slack for a week or buy a nice little purchase for yourself. Then get back on the horse and keep going.
Own your OWN debt
You are in debt because of you. If you acknowledge you are in debt but refuse to blame yourself, well, you are going to get nowhere fast. The most important thing when making a financial life change is the long term change of bad financial habits or behaviours. If you are looking around at everyone else to blame for your situation, you will never change the habits that got you there in the first place.
Continue to give and pay your own way
Ok, so this is a dual tip – action and attitude. People with stingy attitudes towards giving will NEVER BE SATISFIED with what they have. Getting debt free isn’t about being stingy towards others. I have continued to donate to charities and causes I support. There will always be others worse off than you. Sure, debt sucks but I don’t struggle to put food on the table or pay my rent. Others aren’t so fortunate. Never think that your situation is the worst. Wherever there is a lack, there is an opportunity to give – so have a giving attitude. Also, don’t skip out on a round of drinks with your mates if you have chosen to go out for the night. If you can’t afford it, don’t go.
Don’t think you are alone
If your attitude is Woe Is Me, No One Else In The World Understands This Debt Thing, then take 2 seconds to type I’m In Debt into google and you will see no, you certainly are NOT alone. There are so many stories, so much inspiration, so much advice out there around getting out of debt, you should never feel alone. Ok, so maybe you are the only one in your family or circle of friends in debt, but investigate the resources available to you – and the support! The PF blogging world has been a huge inspiration to me.
And my last piece of advice?
A passionate attitude toward doing all you can to get out of debt, will see you realise that debt free date sooner than you thought possible. So get started today – and change your life! Debt free is set free.
So, there are my top 10 tips – I’d love to hear they number 1 thing that has helped you on your journey to debt freedom!