I LOVE that you are thinking about how to get out of debt. It means you have finally come to your senses, (or were forced to them… I’ll take both). YAY!! Let’s talk about the most successful way to get out of debt and a few tricks to speed things up.
Consumer debt and Cheese puffs
Some people acquire debt at no fault of their own and my heart is broken for them because debt is so, so heavy. Maybe it was medical bills, the death of a loved one, problems or bad habits from a spouse, some sort of tragedy or disaster… whatever it is, adding debt on top of those challenges is heartbreaking.
But there is another type of debt that is definitely due to our own fault and perhaps our own stupidity (that word is forbidden in our house, so this must be serious). Consumer debt.
Ew, the phrase itself is just gross. Consumer debt.
When I hear the word “consumer” this image pops into my head of a toddler double fisting cheese puffs as fast as he can. Cheese slime dripping down his face… orange EVERYWHERE and on everything he’s managed to even look at in the last five minutes. Although hilarious, it’s not a pretty sight.
You need to get out of consumer debt before you, yourself become totally consumed.. like a drooling cheese puff toddler monster. Scary.
Because you and your family deserve better than consumer debt and all its baggage.
We have a choice with consumer debt. We get to choose the size of our mortgage, the price of the car we purchase, and whether or not we “just put it on the card,”
But like with all choices, we don’t get to choose the consequences.
History tells us when we humans choose consumer debt and live way beyond our means, marriages experience turmoil and families often crumble from the weight of it.
After all, finances are the number two cause of divorce, only following infidelity.
Um, hello! This is pretty serious stuff! Let’s do something about it!
The Best way to get out of debt
Use the Debt Snowball people. This method has been proven over and over again by Dave Ramsey and his dedicated fan club (for a reason). It helps people get out of debt faster because of the momentum that builds from starting small and building your resources as you tackle larger and larger debt. It’s pure genius.
Another argument is for the Debt Avalanche and saving money in the long run by focusing on the highest interest rate.
But too many people give up on the debt avalanche because it is discouraging to start with a larger amount of debt that takes longer to pay off, taking the wind out of your sails before you even begin. If you’re serious about getting out of debt, the Debt Snowball is the way to go.
How to get out of debt using the debt snowball
Here’s how it works:
While making your minimum payments on all of your debt, put the minimum payment plus every extra cent you can manage on your smallest debt amount and pay that off first.
Once you’ve paid off the smallest debt, take the entire amount you were paying (minimum payment + every extra spare cent you found to add to it) and put it towards the next smallest debt. You ignore the interest rate completely. See? Your cash resources grow and enable you to tackle the bigger debts as you pay off the smaller ones. It’s so beautiful
How to organize the debt snowball to get out of debt fast
My favorite thing to use for organizing everything finances is Google Sheets. One, because it’s free, and two, because I can access it anywhere. I love that.
Here is how I set up the debt snowball.
1. List your debts from the smallest amount to the greatest amount.
2. List the minimum payment that corresponds with each debt so at a glance you know what to expect for the month.
3. In the “extra” column, list the extra amount of cash that you were able to scrounge up and pay down on the debt besides the minimum payment. This is the fun category. Tear apart the couches, get a second job, sell your furniture, whatever you have to do, but list the extra amount you find here.
4. The “amount paid” column is simple but very important. Add your minimum payment to the “extra” amount you are going to pay down and put the total here. As you move along with the debt snowball, this column helps keep you accountable as well as simply keeping track of what you are actually paying so you don’t have to sift through bill statements every time.
5. The “new total” column is simply for your excitement. I love watching debt shrink. I literally check our amortization schedule almost every time I pay a portion of our mortgage. I just wanted to share the joy with you. Put the remaining debt you owe in this section and do a little dance every time it gets smaller.
Mistakes people often make when trying to get out of debT
Let’s just kick these in the butt real quick before they kick you in the butt…
1. Continuing to use credit cards. How are you going to pay off debt if you keep adding to it? You need to organize your bills, make a budget and plan on paying for expenses with your debit card or cash. No more credit.
2. Forgetting to still pay the amount you paid on a previous debt on the next biggest debt. The point of the debt snowball is to gain momentum. When you pay off a debt, you aren’t off the hook. You need to use that entire amount and put it on the next debt, hitting it right off the bat with a huge amount of cash.
Example: If I was paying $50 dollars total on a credit card, once it was paid off, I would STILL pay that $50 plus the new minimum payment for the next debt and anything extra I could manage.
3. Not having an emergency fund. Life happens, so make sure you have saved up some cash for an emergency fund before you start your debt payoff journey. That way you won’t resort back to credit cards and other bad habits to make ends meet. $1,000 dollars if things are tight. $2-5K if you can swing it.
4. Not doing what you know. You are going to have to make some changes in your life. Some of them might be really big or scary changes too. If you have a feeling you should sell your car to help the process along and get a cheaper one, do it. If you have a feeling you should sell things from around the house, do it. If you have a feeling you should deliver pizza’s a few evenings a week, do it. Don’t chicken out. Do what you know.
5. Hanging with the wrong crowd. I’ll tell you right now that you are going to put a damper on ALL of your friend’s lives now. You won’t even be able to count the number of eye rolls you’ll get. People have a hard time with people who
don’t won’t spend money at the drop of a hat. “What do you mean you don’t want a drink?” Why can’t we just order a pizza?” “Why won’t you come out to dinner with us?” It bugs people. Makes people uncomfortable. Stay strong!
Spend your time with people who support your decision rather than question or mock it. One of the best things I ever learned from reading “Total Money Makeover” is that if people are making fun of you, you are doing something right. And BOY is it the truth. It’s probably the hardest part of straightening out your personal finances. And you’ll probably get the most grief from family. Just be prepared. You’ve got this!
6. Having zero support. Kind of along the same lines… but debt payoff is for the gritty folk. I believe everyone has some grit, but many people don’t know where it’s hidden yet. If you don’t create a support system around you, the chances of failure are much greater. God didn’t put you on this planet alone. Use your fellow humans. Tell them your plans and perhaps bribe them to support you and keep you accountable.
7. Giving up. This is NOT going to be easy. One more time… This is NOT going to be easy. But that does not mean it won’t be worth it! There are going to be bumps in the road. There are going to be setbacks. Take everything in stride and keep working. Your happiness is totally worth it. Don’t give up on yourself before you’ve even had a chance at success.