Unless you’ve been living under a rock your entire lives or you are one of the lucky few who happens to be born into wealth, you are no stranger to debt. It is mind-boggling to see how quickly and easily you can spend your hard-earned money. Yet, on the flipside, you know how painfully slow and difficult it can also be to earn it and to save it. There simply are way better things that you would all rather spend your hard earned money on anyway.
And then you quickly find yourselves continuously digging deeper into a grave of your own doing. Yep, debt happens to the best of us.
Yes, even me.
Growing up, I was always taught that a successful life equated to hard work and continuous pursuits in education. Well for me, that meant getting a higher education, which meant either getting scholarships or taking out school loans in order to go to college. I did both. We were pushed to try harder, to do more, so that we can make more money later on and buy a big house and live a lavish life because that was what success looks like. And like a house, higher education was treated as a “good debt” in our household, and so that was what we all believed because that was what we were taught. I’m sure that’s what you were probably taught too. So that’s what I did.
And because of that, I now have a huge mortgage and matching huge school loans to look forward to every month for the next decade or so of my life. All because I was duped into thinking that this is the norm for everyone who wasn’t blessed to be born into a rich family. This was what I believed, up until recently when I discovered tons and tons of stories from people who have gone against the grain to dig themselves out of debt.
Sometimes, it might truly be your fault. You just can’t help yourself from the allure of the latest and greatest new tech toy that just came out this season.
Other times, you just happen to get served by a circumstantial “act of God,” at no fault of yours whatsoever. Perhaps you might have bought your first house only to find out later that it was swept away because it happens to be in the direct path of a deadly hurricane.
Or, you made an appointment for your annual exam expecting your usual clean bill of health only to be told that you have incurable cancer that can possibly cost you and your family a future of uncertainty and an insurmountable amount hospital bills afterward. Whether it is due to health, an act of nature, or just exercising poor choice, debt happens and it happens to the best of us, believe me.
So what can you do to prevent it? It may surprise you to learn that there are many ways to soften the blow of debt and build yourself a soft cushion for when life strikes.
Check out these 10 Do’s & Don’t s On How To Beat Debt below:
1. Do Boss your money around: create a budget and tell your dollars and cents where to go. Be diligent with every penny and soon you’ll quickly find your peace of mind when you’re able to gain control of your money and not the other way around.
2. Do get an umbrella: and start saving for a rainy day. Create a savings account for emergencies only, meaning do not spend it unless your life depended on it. Start off small, $25 per week, and by the end of the month, you would have saved yourself $100. Do this for a whole year and you would save yourself $1200, for when it really does rain.
3. Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew: Pull back the reins on your spending spree and start asking yourself if this item is a “need,” or a “want”. Do this for every purchase and you’ll soon make a routine out of it. If it is truly a “need,” give yourself the green light to buy it. However, if it is a “want,” it can wait a while until you have the cash available to spend later.
4. Do Find Alternatives: Look for other ways to achieve the same effect, swap out an old item before replacing it with a new item, trade services with a friend who happens to be a hairstylist if you happen to moonlight as a good alterationist on the side; host a potluck night where everyone BYOB (bring your own beer) and/or side dish; think of free games or activities to do with the kids instead of going out to eat or spending money at the amusement park.
5. Don’t Try To Keep Up With The Kardashians: simply put, do not spend money and buy things just to impress people that you do not like. Instead, let it be known that you are living frugally and chances are your true friends will respect you enough to follow suit. Because as we all know, “birds of a feather stick together,” find like-minded frugal folks to hang out with so you don’t succumb to the spending craze.
6. Don’t Knock Meal Planning: do not underestimate the power of meal planning. A quick fast food run can be convenient, but it can easily rack up a $40+ for a family of 4. Take that number times 3 meals for 7 days a week and you’re easily spending upwards of $840 per week just on eating out for all your meals. (That’s a mortgage payment for some folks!) Do your family a favor by spending just $40 a week and plan out your meals. It will save your wallet, your waistline, not to mention your sanity for the cash you’ll be saving. Make this a priority on Sundays so that the rest of your week runs smoothly. Take advantage of grocery store loss leaders (the front page of sales ads) and buy items on sale. With the money that you can save on your weekly grocery bill, you and your family can rack up a nice fortune at the end of the month to pay down credit card bills or even start a fund for a nice family vacation!
7. Do Set Goals: Have a family meeting once per quarter and write down everything you plan to do this year, then next year. (Don’t worry if your goals change, it’ll happen.) Set up a savings account/fund for each goal and set aside a specific amount per pay period in order to reach that goal together as a family. Get your family to visualize the goal(s) and work hard towards achieving it together.
8. Do Celebrate The Small Things: Start off small, say, 3 days at a time, and keep a spending journal of all the things that bought and did not buy. Did you spend any money? If you did, can you return the item? If you did not, congratulations! You did it! You saved yourself some moolah in our hot pocket! You get a gold start for that. Now let’s have a homemade dessert and extend that 3-day goal into 7 days! There’s another homemade cookie waiting for you in the cookie jar with your name on it, in 1 week. You can do it! 😉
9. Do Believe in Yourself: This is no small feat. Otherwise, everyone in the entire world would be rich, right? But you have to be your own cheerleader and dig deep within to find the gumption to dig yourself out of debt and save not only for you but also for the future of your family. You can do it! I believe in you.
10. Do Move Forward: So you hit a stumbling block. You were working late yet again this week and you answered the bright yellow siren call of the double arches. It needs you and you need it, like right now. And even though you know it’s wrong, no burger in the history of all burgers has ever tasted better or half as juicy as the one you’re about to sink your pearly whites into right this second. You hate yourself but you just can’t stop. You just spent $25 on a subpar meal that will give you heartburn for the rest of the night because you were just too busy this week to meal plan and pack a meal from home. It’s ok, you heard me right, it’s ok. This too will happen and it too shall pass because tomorrow is another day for you to try it all over again. It’s kind of like falling off a bike. Once you get tired of the bruises, you’ll either quit or you’ll suck it up and do it again.
Having debt can weigh you down and make you feel as though whatever it is you do, you just can’t seem to stay afloat for very long. At first, you may start to feel as though you are nothing more than just another cog in a constant hamster wheel, destined to spend your life trapped in this never-ending soul-sucking cycle. It’s suffocating and can oftentimes feel like you’re being bound by shackles anytime you are faced with the temptation to spend money. But it doesn’t have to be that way forever.
If you are ready and willing to take these small steps and be willing to sacrifice a few creature comforts now, you will set yourself up for a much more comfortable future later on in life. Because let’s face it, wouldn’t you rather be relaxing, digging your toes inside the soft sugary sands of a tropical island somewhere rather than digging yourself out of the grave of debt you’ve dug yourself into because of all the financial mistakes you’ve made in your youth? The choice is entirely up to you. But for most of you, it’s a no-brainer, right?
As the saying goes, “there’s no time like the present.”
Now go out there and get it done!
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