Lately I've been getting a lot of messages about how I became debt free. (Recap for those of you who missed the first quarter of the game: I paid off $50,000 in a year and half.) From our conversations, I'm noticing that many of you are sick and tired of being up to your eyeballs in debt, and you're ready to roll up your sleeves and get serious about paying off your loans.
So here it is--a crash course in becoming debt free. *Remember, I am not a financial advisor, I am an English teacher. If you want fo' rizzle advice, you should seek the help of a trained professional.*
1. Dave Ramsey- This man was instrumental in getting me out of the gate. I read his book, Total Money Makeover, and learned how to budget. There are seven steps, and even today, I am working those steps (I am currently saving for retirement). While you are more than welcome to go out and buy a copy of his book (it's really terrific), I found my copy at the library because I didn't have enough money to buy my own personal copy. The month I read Dave, I had literally counted out pennies to have enough money to buy groceries (personal low).
2. Mint.com- This little gem of a website is a great way to track where you spend your money. I used it for three months before starting Dave Ramsey to figure out where I was bleeding cash money. Answer? Barnes and Noble. Yes, I was a little bit ridiculous with my book and magazine purchases there for awhile. Mint allowed me an honest look at my finances because, after all, those cool little pie graphs don't lie.
3. Recognizing a "Need" from a "Want"- I want lots of things. I want new clothes, I want to go on vacation, I want to decorate the walls of my house, but I only need three things: food, shelter, and water (and I'm not talking bottled Dasani). I stopped eating out all together, and cooked dinner every night. My big secret? Meal planning. I stopped wastefully spending money on groceries and made each penny count. I clipped a few coupons, but honestly planning out my meals and buying only those ingredients was what kept my budget in check. Grocery shopping became a game for me. I wanted to see how well I could eat for under $50 a week.
4.Every last cent- I put every free dollar toward my debt. I did nothing that required money for a year and a half, and you know what? I became happier. I stopped focusing on what I didn't have and focused on what I did have. I cultivated a true heart of gratitude during this period, and I saw firsthand what God can do when we're willing to do a little work ourselves.
5. Take advantage of free things- We live in a country where we pay a butt load of taxes. Take advantage of the few good things they provide for us. My library became my new best friend. I borrowed books, magazines, and movies from the public library instead of buying them. I also spent a lot of time walking the trails at the park and even took up a little disc golf during this time period.
Paying off my debt was difficult. There were many times when I wanted to give up, but I kept pushing through. Like losing weight, if you want to see results you have to do something radically different. Being debt free has been such a blessing to me the past nine months. I will happily tell you about the benefits of being debt free in my next post, so stay tuned.