My New Year’s Resolution: Help Me Stay Motivated

So this will be interesting. Today I’m going to do something that not many people do in public.

I’ll explain what I’m talking about in a second, but first let me back up: have you heard the phrase “eating your own dog food”? In the business world, it means that a company uses its own products, and a lot of people think it’s a key sign of how good the products are. After all, if you’re trying to sell me something that you aren’t using yourself, then you’ll have a hard time convincing me that I can’t live without it.

Here at ReadyForZero, just about everyone in the office uses the product – and I’m not talking about testing the product, I’m talking about using the product to help manage and pay off our own credit cards and loans. We happily munch on our dog food everyday, and believe me, it tastes great.

Which brings me to the new thing I’m going to do. I’m going to talk about my debt publicly. And not only that, but I’m going to make a commitment to get out of debt – publicly.

See, in the last two weeks we launched our New Year’s Challenge, and our Zero Debt Action Plan. We strongly believe that these two things can help you get out of debt and improve your financial situation in the long term.

In fact, we believe it so strongly that we want to eat our own dog food and actually do the plan along with you. I volunteered myself for this mission and cautiously bravely accepted.

So… I’ve agreed to take the Challenge and use the Action Plan to try to turn around my own finances and track my progress (or lack thereof) publicly. In case you don’t know yet, here are the two rules of the Challenge:

    • Pay 10% more toward your debt for 3 months
    • Don’t use credit cards for 3 months

The first thing I need your help with is deciding whether to pay 10% more per month – or aim for something higher like 15% or 20%? Leave a comment below and tell me what you think.

You’re probably wondering exactly how much debt I have. That’s a fair question. One of the things we believe at ReadyForZero is that debt is not embarrassing. If you allow your debt to control your emotions, you might get paralyzed by fear and never take the necessary steps to conquer it. So let me talk openly about my debt: I wracked up some credit card debt recently when I made a career change and spent a few months looking for a new job. I couldn’t be happier with how things have worked out, but I’ve got one remaining piece of unfinished business: paying off that credit card debt.

So, you want to see what my debt looks like? Here’s my ReadyForZero snapshot showing my total debt:

Ben’s soon-to-be-disappeared debt

There it is. My total debt = $3,200 (I’m lucky to have no remaining student loans, not to mention a modest savings account with enough $$$ for major emergencies). That little graph above shows my credit card balance creeping up during the months I was looking for a new job – and then dropping once I got hired at a pretty awesome startup company.

My current ReadyForZero plan calls for me to pay about $400 per month (way more than my minimum payments, which are around $60). In order to achieve the goal of paying 10% more, I’d need to add $40 – which will be about $440 per month. To reach the goal of 20%, I’d need to pay an extra $80 per month, for a total of $480.

Which number should I choose?

To meet my goal, I’ll be using the Action Plan on a weekly basis. It’s a 9-week program that gives you concrete steps to take to better your financial situation. Each week focuses on a different topic, including: how to improve your credit score, how to reduce your spending, and how to generate more income.

I’ll be updating my progress every week here at the ReadyForZero blog, for all the world to see. Am I scared about how it will go? Hmm, maybe – let’s see if I can find a photo on Flickr that accurately reflects my feelings…

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But I will need your support. I can already tell you I’ll be WAY more likely to stay motivated if a lot of people know about this and hold me accountable.

Which means that you can help me by doing one (or all) of these things:

  1. Leave a comment below and tell me if you think I can do this (or not)
  2. Click one of those little buttons on the left to share this on FB/Twitter
  3. Sign up to do the Zero Debt Action Plan with me

You can sign up for the Action Plan yourself by entering your e-mail below:

Then, for 9 weeks, you’ll get the same action e-mails that I’ll be using – and we can compare our progress! Check back here next week for my first update. I’ll describe how I’m using the tips from the first week of the Action Plan to start getting out of debt.

What do you think – can I do it?

More importantly, will you join me?

Image 1 by Sh4rp_i
Image 2 by danorth1

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  • Mark Siron

    Great resolution and it’s awesome that you’re sharing the journey publicly. 

  • Sean Scollin

    Very cool.  Definitely agree “debt is not embarrassing”.  More people should speak publicly about theirs and help each other get out of debt.

    • http://www.readyforzero.com ReadyForZero

      Thanks, Sean! Much appreciated! We definitely agree.

  • Jeff Tincher

    I wish that RFZ had an option to make your account public so that you could show others that you’re on your way. Why be ashamed of the debt you have? If you’re paying it back and working on getting out of it, then have no shame!

    • http://www.readyforzero.com ReadyForZero

      Hey Jeff, thanks for the feedback. Have you tried the snapshot feature: http://www.readyforzero.com/snapshot  It’s intended to do exactly what you mentioned. Let us know if you have any problems!

  • http://carefulcents.com Carrie Smith

    Paying back debt always scares me like that too! But I’m behind you 100% :) I too have started paying my car loan off at a very rapid pace. If you can manage it okay, I would pay debt down an extra 20%. Can’t wait to see your progress.

  • http://twitter.com/MoneySmart Ben Edwards

    I’d say ask your boss at your cool new startup to give you a raise so you can pay $500 a month : )

    Seriously though I say pay $480, pay as much as you can.  I signed up for the action plan!

    • http://www.readyforzero.com ReadyForZero

      Thanks Ben! I’m excited that you signed up for the action plan! Please let us know what you think. And thanks for the ‘extra income’ tip. ;)

  • Anonymous

    Debt is definitely not embarrassing.  Can you manage to make those payments for 9 weeks and not fall behind on anything else?  If so, I would go for it!

    • http://www.readyforzero.com ReadyForZero

      Agreed! Thanks for your encouragement. I think I can do it – and I’ll post all updates here.

  • Jenn Ung

    Being a former banker, I would make a duel challenge/recommendation. Take whatever you can afford to pay down your debt, but take say 25% of it and put it into your savings. My reasoning is that your debt isn’t detrimental, but not having a savings backup is worst.
    Cheers!

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