The 5 Golden Rules of Getting Out of Debt

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Everyone has, at some point, been in debt. Being buried in debt isn’t fun.  I’ve been there. As they say, education shouldn’t be a debt sentence: it did turn out that way for me, as I’m sure it has for countless students out there.

As you read these finance blogs on the web, you’ll be sure to come across great advice on how to tackle your debts.  Some of the typical advice will be about budgeting, changing spending habits, and even contacting your creditors for help.  These are all great tips that are essentially the framework for anyone looking to pay down their debts.

Dave Ramsey believes that getting out of debt is 20% knowledge and 80% behavior.  I couldn’t agree more with his statement.  Your debts won’t magically disappear overnight, so it’s important to stay grounded and motivated to become debt free.  Here are some of the ways I managed to fight this uphill battle and finally became debt free:

Don’t Use it if You Can’t Afford to Lose it!

Cardinal rule number one: stop spending what you don’t have. It’s easy to fall into that game: sure, I’ll pay it off LATER after the next paycheck, allowance, etc. Trust me, I know that game all too well. That is one too many I played in my college years, but all the more wiser now.

Why else do you think these card companies used to hit up college campuses & provide free giveaways for signing up? People like to spend money that they don’t have! The idea of money that you can pay back later is actually pretty genius. You don’t see the cold cash in your hand- the credit card itself it actually an illusion of money. You don’t see yourself really spending it because you’re not.

Just put it on my tab, and I’ll somehow find a way to pay for it later.

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The first step is always to stop using it until you’re able to pay back or down what you’ve already spent. Put that card away- leave it at home or in safe keeping someplace, so you’re not tempted to use and abuse it.

Weekly Vs. Monthly Goals

Setting monthly goals are important, but you need to break it down into smaller goals first. If you set weekly goals for yourself, you’ll be able to see immediate results that will keep you motivated.  The main problem with monthly goals is that most people are overspending by the third week into it.  When the fourth week comes around, you’re already over your budget!

A Monthly Budget Just Isn’t Enough

Brian Tracey, self development guru says:

…knowing is not enough; we must apply. Wishing is not enough; we must do.

So you tell yourself that you’re going to spend only $350/month on food. That’s a great start, but how are you going to accomplish those goals?  Most people have an “idea” of what they’re going to spend each month, but they don’t have a clear road-map of how they’re going to get there.

Does this mean that you’re going to spend $50/week on groceries and spend only $150 on eating out?  Or does this strictly mean that you’re only eating out for lunch and cooking at home?  Map it out, then put your plan in motion. I don’t know about you, but I’m a highly visual learner. Write down and draw out a visual if you have to. This is something you will have up in your living arrangements somewhere, so you will see it on a daily basis and be constantly reminded of your spending. It’s like that workout regimen that your trainer spells out for you. In this situation, instead of 20 squats, you will see $20/week for snacks.

Reward Yourself..You Deserve It…

Setting goals are important in anything you want to accomplish in life. You don’t have to eat ramen and spam every night to save money on food, although I do know some people who have. Punishing yourself leads you to become demoralized and you’ll eventually lose focus.  Instead, you can reward yourself for good behavior every month by treating yourself out to a nice dinner or a night of entertainment (get your mind out of the gutter).

Swallow Your Pride and Ask For Help If Needed..

Last but definitely not least, most people need to swallow their pride and acknowledge their debt problems. Contact your creditors and see if they have any internal workout solutions to lower your interest rates.  You’d be surprised at what kind of help they can give you!  The best part about this is that some of the programs don’t require your accounts to be closed.  If you’re worried about your credit score being penalized, this can be a great option for you.

At the end of the day, you must put up barriers to stop yourself from self-destructive behaviors.  If you’re able to figure out how you got into debt in the first place, you can take preventative measures, so you don’t fall into the same traps as before. We are, after all, creatures of habit. Create new habits in place of the old- and stick to them! Put in an honest effort to getting away from your old ways, and experience being free from the debt game.

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