Living with debt? Many people are these days, but it certainly does not have to be that way. No matter what your financial situation is, you can definitely get out of debt and start enjoying financial freedom.
As a divorced, single mom of two and a teacher, I know a thing or two about living on a tight budget and trying to stretch every dollar to its fullest. And if I can pay off my debt early and avoid it at all costs in the future, you certainly can too.
There are many great bloggers, podcasters, and media personalities out there who can show you how to get out of debt on a 100k per year income. They are incredibly smart people and their strategies work well to pay off debt.
But what about those of us who do not earn anywhere close to that income? Can we get out of debt too or is it a lost cause?
I am here to tell you that can get out debt on any income. It is possible and you can start getting out of debt today by following these 10 steps below.
Figure out where your money is going.
This step is the most important in getting started. You need to know precisely where every dollar is going in order to make your debt payoff plan. You can start out simply by making a list after checking your bank account and credit card statements, you can make a spreadsheet to track every purchase, or you can use any of the apps available. I personally recommend Personal Capital, Mint, or YNAB. It does not matter which of these options you choose. What matters is that you choose the option that works best for you and the one that you know you can stick with.
Cut out all unnecessary expenses.
This one is going to hurt a little, but everyone has unnecessary expenses that they can cut out of their budgets immediately. You will survive without new clothes this season. You do not need magazine or satellite radio subscriptions. And you can easily do things for yourself that you are currently outsourcing to others, like getting your nails done, having your lawn cut, or having your groceries delivered. The point is that you can minimize your spending quickly when cut out all of the extras and this will supercharge your debt payoff plan. Take all of that extra cash and immediately start making extra principal payments towards your debt.
Look at your top three expenses.
Now that you have cut out the unnecessary expenses and started funneling this extra money towards your debt, you should look very closely at your top three necessary expenses: housing, transportation, and food. These three can be budget killers. Depending on how much debt you carry, you may need to make drastic changes to the top three in order to get out of debt.
No one wants to be forced to move, but downsizing to a smaller apartment or house can eliminate a lot of stress out of your life, while also helping you eliminate your debt. Remember, cleaning and maintaining a large house takes a lot of time, effort, and money away from you and downsizing will give you your freedom back.
Transportation is a huge expense for most families. Cars depreciate and need regular maintenance. When you finance a car, you are adding years worth of interest payments on top of that, so you are guaranteed to be spending significant amounts of money on your car alone. Do your research and seriously consider trading in or selling your car for a less expensive, dependable vehicle. And whenever possible, walk, ride your bike, or ride share with other people.
Lastly, food takes a huge chunk out of your budget each month. You need to cut this expense quickly. You can certainly spend time looking for coupons, but I find that these are almost always for pre-packaged goods that are not healthy for you anyways. I recommend buying whole foods to make large batches of healthy meals that you can then freeze into small portions. If you make changes to the top three, you can make significant gains to your debt payoff plan.
Negotiate your current bills.
This is something I personally do once a year. Call up each of the companies you do business with, such as internet, trash, and the gas company, and simply ask them how you can save money on your bill. Do not threaten to leave their company, yell at them, or talk down to them in any way. I am incredibly nice to the people I speak with, and they are more than happy to help me. Throwing in that I am a single mom on a teacher’s salary has helped the process every time, so you should not be afraid to tell them that you are trying to get out of debt. Customer service people are used to dealing with upset people unfortunately, so being polite and patient goes a long way. I have never made one of these phone calls and not been able to lower my bill through a promotional price or some type of credit. It works like a charm.
- Declutter and sell your junk.
You never need an excuse to declutter your home, but being in debt is a great motivator to purging yourself of junk you no longer need. Break the project up into small chunks, such as a closet or a room a day, and then sell these items. Take the money you make and put it straight towards your debt. For more specific information on how decluttering not only saves you money and time, but also lowers your stress level, check out my article 3 Ways A Simple Home Project Will Increase Your Happiness.
Borrow instead of buying.
This is as simple as it sounds. Just think about all of the houses in your neighborhood and how each one of them is filled to the brim with stuff. Do all of you really need those tools and kitchen gadgets you use at most once a year? Start borrowing items instead of running out to buy them, especially if you will use these items only once. Whether you start borrowing from neighbors, family, friends, or the library, you can enjoy all kinds of great things without spending a penny on them.
Make more money.
I am not suggesting that everyone go out and get a second or third job to pay off your debt. Quality of life matters too. What I am suggesting is that you take advantage of any certifications or training that will help you negotiate higher pay. Also, consider picking up any extra jobs you can like dog walking, mowing lawns, or painting. Even if you only ask people you know, you can easily provide a service for them and put that bonus money towards your debt. As a single mom, I cannot easily get a second job since paying a sitter would cost more than I would make, but I can help a friend paint their living room or mow their lawn on a night or weekend my kids are with their dad. The options for bonus money are endless.
Start funneling money to your debt.
Whether you choose to pay off your lowest debt first (debt snowball) or pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first (debt avalanche), just pick what works best for you and go for it. Knock out each of your debts one by one and enjoy how amazing it feels to cross them off your list until you are completely debt free.
Ask for advice.
Everyone around you has expertise in some level of personal finance. Don’t be afraid to ask people for advice. When I was going through my divorce, I posted on social media asking friends to give me their best money hacks for living on a tight budget. The answers poured in and I was thrilled to learn many new ideas I had never even thought of.
If you are trying to pay off debt on a lower income, you will not be able to pay it off as quickly as someone with a six figure income. Make sure to be patient with yourself. It will take time, but you can do this and you will be so proud of yourself when you are done. Just remember to celebrate all of your debt payoff successes no matter how small.
With time and effort, even people earning lower incomes can pay off all of their debt and enjoy the freedom that a higher net worth can bring. You can do this!
About the Author
Brooke is the blogger behind BluetoBliss.com. She writes about finding true happiness and freedom in your life by focusing on self-care, family, home, finances, and adventures. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.