Congratulations! If you’re reading this post, you’ve made a decision to start your journey toward a better life. Getting out of debt is a commendable endeavor but, it does have its difficult moments. Throughout your journey, there will be lots of victories as well as temptations to overcome and there will be times when you just don’t quite know where the extra money is going to come from.
With the following tips, we’d like to help. Here, you will find tips on finding a little extra wiggle room to pay down debt. And, we threw in a few tips on getting past those tempting moments when it will seem worth it to deviate from your goals. And, as you go through your journey, don’t’ forget to let us know how you’re doing or any other helpful tips you have to get out of debt and live a better life! We’d love to hear from you in our comment section. Now, let’s get started!
- An Ounce of Prevention…
As good ol’ Benjamin Franklin put so succinctly, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Just a little maintenance measures for your car and home can save you thousands a year. For example, a regular oil change, filter change, tire fill, and fluid-top off can save you big in yearly car repairs and gas expenses.
And, in your home, keeping those rain-gutters clean, running some Drano through your drains, insulating your home, hiring an exterminator for routine rounds, trimming branches on overgrown trees, and replacing HVAC filters every 1-3 months, among other preventative measures, can keep your home from experiencing some costly damage.
After one year of preventative measures, compare your repair bills with last year’s. If taking these preventative measures is a new family practice, you’ll likely be quite surprised at how much you saved. Then, put your savings toward paying down your debt.
- Sleep on it.
If you’re feeling a little impulsive and are about to make a big purchase on a whim, stop yourself. Instead of acting in the moment, take 24 hours to think about it. If it is a one-of-a-kind purchase, ask the retailer to hold the item for just 24 hours; many will be very willing to do so. And, make sure to get a good night’s sleep before making a decision. A good night’s sleep will ensure that you’re less likely to make a purchase based on emotion or on stress. In the meantime, shop around and compare prices.
Also, decide if the item is something you absolutely need, and even get some perspective by calculating how long it will take you in work hours to pay for the item. Then, decide if it’s worth it. Often times, you’ll find that, once the novelty of your dream item wears off and the financial consequences set in, it may not be as appealing and, therefore, not quite as worth it as it was the day before in the midst of the adrenaline rush of a large purchase decision.
- Don’t Pay for What you Can Grow Yourself
Fresh produce that’s high in nutrients can be expensive. However, compromising your health to get ahead financially is not a sustainable solution. In the long run, your health will end up costing you more financially. So, how is the frugal minded to keep nutritious and fresh foods in stock? Plant your own. If you’re blessed with a little land to plant a garden or some fruit trees, take advantage of it. If not, consider raised or potted gardens. Seeds cost pennies per pack but produce a plethora of valuable nutrients for your family. And, that food is likely better for you than expensive, even “organic” store-bought produce. And, don’t forget to keep track of your savings and put it toward your debt.
- Improvise your Phone Bill Away
Many people are surprised to find that, through apps like Skype and Whatsapp, you can enjoy free international calling and world-wide texting services. So, don’t break the bank to get all the extras added onto your phone service. Instead, ditch those extras and find substitutes. Many times, you’ll find that these “substitutes” are even better than the real thing!
But, if you absolutely must have a smartphone with all the perks, consider a prepaid plan like Republic Wireless. By tapping into available wireless internet services and relying on the Republic Wireless online community to answer most customer questions, it keeps your monthly bill as low as $25 a month for unlimited text, talk and data! With the hundreds you save on cellphone services throughout the year, you could be paying down debt.
- Claim your Reward
In order to enjoy the perks of coupons and sales on even basic items, many retailers require customers to be part of a customer reward program. They’re free to sign up but well worth the hassle. In doing so, you enjoy savings you would otherwise not receive on in-store products. But, a lot of the time, the savings don’t stop there. Many of these retailers also have external perks such as a point accrual system that lead to a lower gas bill or other perks. And, of course, keep track of your savings throughout the month and put it toward paying down your debt.
- That’s My List and I’m Sticking to It!
Creating a list before going to the store is perhaps the best way to stick to a budget. By creating a list, you ensure that you are well prepared to make purchases that will meet your needs, without blowing your budget on impulse buys. This is even more helpful if you’re shopping with children. Children—bless their hearts!—are prone to turn their heads at every sugary or novel product in the store. But, when you have a list, complete with just enough cash on you to purchase those things on the list, you’re less likely to give in and blow your family budget. Even better, try getting your children involved in creating the list. That way, you can be sure to meet all interests and needs, while making sure all involved are clear about the limits of your budget. Generally speaking, those who are involved in creating a plan are more likely to take pride in sticking to it. The extras that you purchase because of impulse buys could be going toward your debt. And, if you’re like many, that could equal hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year!
- (Free) Fun for the Whole Family
Have you been to the movie theatre lately? Or, even worse, have you taken the whole family there? Did you notice that it can cost roughly $100 to take a family of four? That’s a lot of money! And, it seems even more so when you consider that you can check out a movie from the library for free and create a memorable family night at home for just a few dollars. But, that’s not all. At the library, you can read the newspaper for free, check out books and audiobooks, receive free tutoring in subjects your children are struggling in, send faxes and even use the internet for free. If you make it a point to only use these services at the library, you could potentially save thousands of dollars a year that could be put toward paying down debt. And, you still get to enjoy all of these services.
- Match and Plan to Save
Yes, you can read the newspaper every day at the library for free. But, Sunday is a special one. So, in terms of saving money, it is well worth the investment to purchase a newspaper each Sunday. This is because the Sunday paper comes with coupons in them. But, you have to be a little picky regarding which ones you purchase. Sunday papers from small towns or cities are not likely to have the high value coupons. So, though they cost up to a dollar more, you should purchase the Sunday paper of a large city.
And, for maximum savings, it’s best not to subscribe to it but to purchase it each Sunday. This is because you are likely to want to purchase more than one each week. A good rule of thumb is to purchase one for each of your family members. That way, when an item goes on sale, you can match several coupons to several sale items to stock up when the price is good or free. Another reason not to subscribe is because there will be some weeks when coupons don’t come with the paper.
Namely, on national holiday weekends, the coupon inserts are omitted. You don’t want to waste money by purchasing a newspaper through a subscription on weeks when there’s no coupons to show for it. To ensure you get the best bang for your buck each Sunday, you can visit http://www.sundaycouponpreview.com/ to make sure each week that coupons will, indeed, be in the newspaper.
Now, be sure to match these coupons with sales in the store circulars also provided with the paper. There are many great couponing sites out there that will provide a list of these match-ups each week, saving you tons of time. Lastly, plan your weekly meals around these sales. If pie filling is on sale, make a pie for dessert throughout the week.
If spaghetti noodles are free with coupons, plan to have spaghetti or pasta with fettuccini-Alfredo sauce. This way, you can save thousands of dollars a year on the items your family uses most, allowing you to dedicate more of your income to paying down debt.
- How Low Can you Go?
Did you know you can negotiate how much you pay for some fixed monthly bills? It’s true. For example, you can negotiate a lower interest rate on your credit card, on your cable bill and even on your internet services. Simply call your service provider and explain that you are either going to have to cut out services or negotiate lower rates for them. Then, ask them if they can help you lower your rate so you can keep their service.
Under these circumstances, you’ll be surprised how much of the time your service provider will be happy to help lower your bill so you can keep their services. Some may apply a sales promotion to your bill or help you cut out portions of your service package that you won’t miss. And, for your cable and internet providers, it’s best to call periodically to find out what deals can be applied to your bill to save you money, even if it’s only for a few months.
Most service providers are not only happy to apply these deals when asked but will encourage you to call back when a new deal comes up. And, of course, keep track of the savings so you can use the extra cash to pay down your debt.
- Make it Hard to Cheat
Impulse buys are no longer relegated to grocery store trips. Now, with the advent of remarketing, retailers follow you through your internet escapades, from Amazon to Facebook and back. And, when they do, they tempt you every chance they get to return to your shopping and—go ahead, you deserve it!—buy that expensive item you put in your shopping cart and then wisely removed. Though the temptation becomes stronger and stronger each time that coveted item once again flashes across your screen, you can take one simple step to make it harder for you to give in in a weak moment: remove your credit card information from your online accounts.
Why? Well, if you have your credit card information permanently recorded w/ your Ebay, Amazon, Etsy or other online retailer, it will only take one click during your moment of weakness to destroy your entire budget. But, if you have to go through the motions of punching in all the numbers, your address, your full name, the security code…you are less likely to cheat. More likely than not, the extra time it takes you to go through the motions of purchasing your item will help you get past your moment of weakness, allowing you the chance to pull out of your bad decision to break your budget. So, don’t make it easy on yourself to cheat; remove your credit card information from all your online accounts. But, once your moment of weakness has passed, be sure to write down the savings and apply them to paying down your debt.
- Do What you Do Best
Freelance workers are more successful than they’ve ever been. As the cost of business rises and more and more households focus on frugality following the 2008 crash, freelancers offer a frugal alternative. And, the best part, anyone can partake of this pie.
Are you a great dancer? Or, perhaps you are a pro at couponing or cake designing or creating balloon animals? Whatever it is that you’re good at, there’s someone out there who wants to be able to do what you can do. And, with Skype and other virtual collaboration tools and freelance sites like fiverr.com, elance.com, etsy.com and upwork.com, you can do business with anyone in the world right from your living room. So, whatever it is you’re good at, do some research and find reputable platforms to market your wares or services. Then, get to business making a little extra on the side. Lastly, don’t forget to put that little extra toward your debt to truly make a difference in your family’s future.
- Head-off Financial Emergencies
The fastest way to get into serious debt, or make your current debt situation worse, is to face an emergency without having financially prepared for it. It is for this reason that the famed financial guru, Dave Ramsey, recommends you put together an emergency fund of at least $1000 even before you start to pay down debt. That way, if an emergency threatens to stop your progress or, worse, revert you back to the days of accruing more debt, you won’t be derailed. Instead, you can dip into your emergency fund to avoid getting into further debt. Then, once the emergency has passed, remember to take some time to build up your fund again for the next emergency. In doing so, you can resume your course of paying down debt without having taken several steps backwards.
- Don’t Keep Up With the Jones’
As a closing note, the fastest way to derail your good efforts to get out of debt is to continually try to ‘keep up with the Jones.’” Remember your goals at all times. And, more importantly, remember why you want to reach those goals, especially when you face the temptation of keeping up with the living standards of those around you. Did you decide to pay down your debt so you could go back to school? Or, perhaps you want to use your newfound freedom to send your children to their dream college? Or, maybe you want to purchase your first home without the stress of added debt? Whatever it is, from the beginning of your journey to a debt-free life, write down your goals and why they mean so much to you. And, as you write this debt-free vision statement, make it good! Get down to the details of the debt-free life you envision. Create a vision statement that helps you taste the freedom you seek. Then, when you feel tempted to deviate, go back to that ‘vision statement’ and remember why you’re working so hard.
We wish you the best of luck and all the self-discipline in the world as you work toward your goals! And, please, if you have any other tips from ‘someone who’s been there,’ or even your own inspirational ‘get-out-of-debt’ story, please share it with our community in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you!