3 Tips for Getting Out of Debt

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As I've mentioned on the blog before, Christopher and I are working on getting completely out of debt.  And at this point, you guys, we're pretty darn close!  And while it feels like it's been a long road in a lot of ways, the reality is it's been less than two years of working on this together, and we've kinda been crushing it!  So I thought I'd hop on here and share just a few things that have helped to keep us on track and jumpstart our debt free goal!

(For context, we are working through "the baby steps" and are on step two of the Dave Ramsey Total Money Makeover program, which has been working amazingly well for us at this point!)

-Make a budget and stick to it!

Now I know, I know... this sounds like the most obvious, seriously lame piece of advice out there, but YOU GUYS MAKING AND HAVING AND USING A BUDGET HAS CHANGED EVERYTHING.  You've gotta understand, a "budget" is not an assessment of what you've spent once the month is over, it's a plan for your spending for the month before it evens begins.  We love the EveryDollar app which I've mentioned previously, but really whatever works best for you is perfect!  (Truthfully, I used to budget 100% with pencil and paper until Christopher came into the picture, and it worked well for me!  We've since transitioned into using the app, but whatever you can find that you'll actually STICK TO is perfect!)

The key to a good budget, in my eyes, is all in the user -- can YOU actually stick to what you say you're going to do?  Can you be intentional about not going above in the categories you've decided on?  Can you actually watch your spending and make sure you're on track with your budget?  Honestly, budgeting is all about you.

And the thing about budgets that I hear all the time is that they're restrictive and don't let you have fun.

Y'all, let me let you in on a little secret... our monthly budget literally allocates $100 for coffee.

Yup, you read that right. Two zeros on there.  One hundred dollars.


But guess what?  I LOVE coffee and I LOVE being able to go out and buy a coffee to start my day, and I get a lot of value from having that daily cup, so we put it in the budget!

Now obviously this means other categories (like entertainment, restaurants, etc.) have to have much lower dollar amounts allocated to them.  But that's okay because this is what works for us!

Maybe you think I'm a crazy person. Maybe you hate coffee.  But maybe you LOVE and get a lot of value from going to the movies - well then build that into the budget, my friend!  If you completely deprive yourself of anything and everything you love, you're so much more likely to deviate from the budget when things get hard!! 

Now obviously you can't make EVERYTHING you love into a giant spending category, but choose your one thing and make sure it's in there!  Budgeting doesn't mean you have to start hating your life, y'all. ;)

-Try a "No Spend" Month!

Okay, so I don't know about you, but we do, on occasion, tend to impulse buy things that we just frankly don't need.  Even for categories within our budget - say an obvious one, like groceries - we'll go to the store and buy way more than what we went there for!  Sometimes I just see something that I like and I just "need" to get it.  And if there's room in our budget, I will.

Now don't forget what I said before, let yourself live your life within a budget, absolutely, but that doesn't mean that just because you have some money in your "Supplies" budget, you should start buying every seasonal scent of Mrs. Meyers in existence. (No? Just me?... oops.)  

But sometimes I get into the habit of using up what's in our budget, just because I can.  And now that, my friends, is where a "No Spend" month comes into play!

You don't need to do this forever, obviously, (hence "month") but it can be a nice experiment to try for a short period of time.  Decide on a time frame, and then purchase only what you and your family deem "essentials" for that month.  You still get to decide the categories, but this might be a good time to nix the "Home Decor" category, just for a little while.

I actually did a similar thing this year for Lent - I stopped buying things that were not consumable (aka food and drink) or otherwise essential to our family (aka hand soap, medicine, etc.).  And to make it even more fun, I started a note on my phone where I'd write down something that I was having the urge to impulse buy, but didn't because of this challenge.

YOU GUYS!!  I knew I sometimes had a tendency to do this, but I HAD NO IDEA HOW MUCH.  I've always been a thoughtful spender for larger items, but DANG if this "impulse avoided" list wasn't a dozen lines long after the first week!  It surprised me so much how quickly this list was growing, and how much money I was likely saving just by writing it down and not purchasing it in the moment.  

It was such a short period of time, honestly, but we saved a fair amount of money during those months and, probably more importantly, it shined a light on the spending I sometimes do without thinking. (Hello, Amazon Prime!)

Oh, and for the record, after Lent was over I ended up purchasing one and only one of the things off this list (Say You Won't Let Go by James Arthur... it was just too dreamy to resist!) ...turns out, the rest weren't really necessary to me anymore.  Go figure.

-Don't wait until the end of the month to pay down your debt!

Now this tip probably sounds totally minor, especially compared to the other ones, but this has made SUCH a massive difference in our ability to pay down debt that I had to share it.

For awhile, when we first began paying down our debt, I was quite nervous that something would come up mid-month that we'd "need" the money for, so we'd wait until the end of the month to put whatever extra we could onto our debt payments.

But here's the thing you guys: we have an emergency fund.  Like, we literally have a fund for this exact purpose.  So I was basically waiting on paying off debt because of a ridiculous fear.  But you know what would somehow happen by the end of the month?  A lot of our money would've randomly disappeared (Hello, Amazon Prime again!).  We were actually putting less towards debt than we would've been able to if we'd paid it off when we had extra income from our paychecks in the first place!

Changing this one tiny thing has lead to literally hundreds of additional dollars being thrown at debt, and I can't even imagine doing it the other way now. 

These are just a few things Christopher and I have been using to pay off our debt, but they have truly made a huge difference in the speed and efficiency with which we've been able to make this happen!

Are you working on getting out of debt, too?  Do you have any tips or tricks to share?  Let me know!!
Hi, I'm Grady! Welcome to my blog :) A little about me? I'm a smitten newlywed and brand-new stepmom living in New Hampshire. My day job is boring on paper but great in real life (just like Dunder Mifflin!), and when I'm not working I love to spend time with my family, perform in or manage productions at the theatre, and eat ice cream while listening to yet another financial management podcast.  I write about my marriage, step-parenthood, and whatever else is going on.  Be sure to follow me on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest, and subscribe to my blog!

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