So yes, maybe I am overwhelming myself with goals for 2015… so far I have a minimalism goal, fast food free lent goal, and a weight loss goal. Plus Cody and I are starting a small business together. (Maybe I should make a page for each goal so it’ll be easier to follow the relating posts!) So why not add in a debt reduction goal as well? Go big or go home.
How often do you think about your debt? Are you keeping track of your expenses? Income? Do you know WHERE YOUR MONEY IS GOING?
I didn’t, not until I was already (eye)balls deep in debt.
Last year I started 2014 with $57,000 in debt (Student loans, medical bills, and credit cards). It was then that I realized I needed to start keeping track of my debt, expenses, and income. But, since I was a newly graduated young adult, who moved across the country and back, and got her first steady big-girl job – I lost track. Instead of saving money or paying down debts with my job last year, I spent. I went out to eat a lot, and obviously racking up a good bar tab. I bought new stuff, crap I didn’t need or use and now am in the process of getting rid of. We went on vacations – well that started WITH my student loans. I fell into the financial trap of getting offered more money than I needed and instead of paying it back, I invested in memories of Mexico, Bahamas, and Jamaica. This past year we spent $6,000 while on a trip to Austin Texas. INSANE!!!! And guys – I am a math whiz and studied accounting in school before switching to nursing. I KNEW better. Even through all this however, we were able to reduce debt a tad bit.
This year, after taking the financial toll of being fired, I decided to get smarter. We started 2015 being $38,407.43 in debt. Now, mid February, we are $34,264.42 in the red. We were able to put a little chunk on it last month from tax returns, so that was nice.
I’m in the process of creating habits and goals that will help us reach a debt-free life. I’ll share them with you now, and keep monthly updates on what is working as well as progress made.
1. Know what you owe
I loved not looking at how much I owed for years, living ignorantly and blissfully. But, that’s the worst thing you can do when confronting your debt. You HAVE to know, down to the penny, how much you owe. Make a simple and free excel spreadsheet and add up your debt. Hell, there’s even an Auto-sum button that will add it up for you. Not being computer savvy is not an excuse.
2. Know the interest rates!
Do you have way too many credit cards like we do? Student loans? Mortgage? Could you pick a random one and tell me the interest rate on it? Many don’t realize how fast that interest compounds and raises the balances. I used to have a credit card with a 24% interest rate. NO JOKE. That was the first one I paid off. Many may not agree with this strategy, but it’s working for us: we transferred our balance of a higher credit card to one with a lower one, and did it again with one that had a 17% rate to one with a negotiated ZERO percent interest for a year. It helps to keep the sneaky costs down while we are working to pay them totally off (again).
3. Set a goal
Set a date that you want to be debt free, or an amount that you want to be paid off by a certain time. I want to be totally debt free by this December, but I also want to be realistic. With me not working yet and us living on Cody’s low income, its incredibly hard to just get by. Therefore, I will be living frugally and minimally as if to pay off the entirety this year, but have a specific goal of at least cutting it in half!
4. KEEP TRACK of what you spend. Every. Single. Penny.
January was a complete failure for me on that front. I started, but then we purchased too much and I lost track and gave up. I’m doing better this month, but still have to look back at my bank statements to write down what we bought over the last week. This method is REALLY teaching me what we spend our money on and what can be cut out if we tried. It’s teaching me discipline, and that’s a good thing when it comes to cash.
5. Live on cash
That’s our goal for next month. Its a lot easier to keep track of what you spend and be a bit more of a tight-ass when it is in your hand versus a card that can be easily swiped and forgotten about.
6. Cut the bills!
We put our bills on auto-pay on Cody’s credit card, which came in handy for never missing a due date. However, it caused blindness to the actual AMOUNT of bills. Some were staggering. We were paying $160.00 a month for cable and internet, including HBO services of course. Unreal. $144 for car insurance, $150 for cell phones, around $120 for heating during this winter and around $80 for electric. Plus, I had signed up for monthly services that snuck their auto-deduct fees in. I was paying 17.99 for a monthly credit report update I was just too lazy to cancel, 39.95 a month for a just fab subscription, among others. Not acceptable. We cut Comcast down to 39.99 a month for internet. We signed up for Netflix, and realized we could watch just about anything online anyway. We are shopping around for cheaper insurance. We are locked into our cell phone plans, but I got rid of features I didn’t need on them to lower the bill about $30 bucks. I’m shutting off lights and trying to reduce the amount of laundry I do. I keep the heat at 60 instead of 70. Hopefully these changes will boost our debt-slashing potential.
I’ll keep ya’ll updated! Wish us luck! Feel free to share your story!