Getting into debt is easy. It’s the getting out of debt part that is complicated.
Which is why it’s so important to avoid accumulating debt (unless of course we’re speaking of a modest mortgage). Though, if you are deep in debt, there is still hope. By “hope” I mean steps to take. One of which involves learning the difference between “needs” and “wants”.
Let’s admit it the items on our “want” list only grow with each new day. We are bombarded by advertisements constantly throughout our daily life. Not to mention we are continuously exposed to” the better life” when we see others in possession of material things that are well beyond a modest lifestyle.
I’ve got news for you. It’s probably not what you want to hear, but it’s what you need to hear. You don’t need it!
Your argument or complaint might go something like, “Why can’t I have those things? Why can’t I enjoy life? How come everyone else gets to have fun but me? I work hard I deserve the same as the Joneses (or whoever)?
So to get those thoughts out of your head remember that if you cannot pay cash for those things then that is the reason why you can’t have those things. A lack of material items should not prevent you from enjoying your life.
Realize they can have fun because they can either afford it or are in debt because of it. Don’t get stuck comparing yourself to others, otherwise you’ll never have fun.
You may work hard, maybe even more than the Joneses, but you do not deserve something just because someone else has it. You have to earn it, so save your money if it’s really what you think you deserve and go buy it in the future.
Know that looks can be deceiving; many people who look to be living the life really aren’t. These individuals have the big house, expensive vehicles, pool, etc, but are living paycheck to paycheck. Some of these surface level success stories are dual income households, but struggling to get their debt paid off.
Ultimately an expensive car may be chump change for one individual, but a burden to you. “Owning” that expensive car would cause you to struggle with loan payments, maybe even prevent you from taking that staycation with the family or annual trip to where ever. Buying that want might become exactly what you didn’t want in the first place, a stressor.
Why is it that we always want more? Why do we continue to believe that things will “make” us happy? We “know” that money can’t buy happiness, but we do not fully understand it since we need continual reminding.
When will we grasp that there are people less fortunate than most, in third world countries, that still experience happiness and have fun. These people are lacking in the material goods that we possess and envy, but somehow still find enjoyment and fulfillment in their individual lives. Figure that one out. Then apply it to your current situation.
1. Determine the difference between a need and a want. Justifying a “need” won’t help you.
2. Get out of debt as fast as possible.
- Pay off any and all debt, including your mortgage. Prioritize your debt(s), to avoid racking up more debt in the form of interest payments. Highest interest rates first; so credit cards before student loans, etc.
- Stop “shopping”. Make a list of what you NEED and stick to it.
3. Figure out how much you actually take home each month after taxes.
4. Create a monthly expense sheet where you include all you monthly bill amounts and total it.
5. Now subtract your monthly expenses from your take home portion of your monthly check(s).
6. Whatever your remaining or negative balance read up on the 50/20/30 guideline from LearnVest. It basically states that you should be spending up to 50% of your money on fixed costs: your mortgage, car payment, subscriptions, internet bill, etc.; saving or spending 20% on financial goals: retirement account, credit card debt, emergency fund, etc.; spending up to 30% on flexible spending: groceries, entertainment, gas, etc.
7a. If you have a positive balance, then you’re in the clear. Well almost, maybe? Still you should see where your numbers match up and where you can improve based on the 50/20/30 guideline.
7b. If you have a negative balance, then you have room for improvement. See where your numbers don’t match up and seriously consider where you can avoid spending, sacrifice areas of spending to then place that money toward the debt. If your debt is really high, then seek out professional help or at least more knowledgeable individuals than myself.
8. Practice telling yourself “no” when you are trying to decide whether or not to make a purchase. Remember to ask yourself “is it a want or a need?” & is it going to help or hinder you from reaching your future financial goals. There’s no need to go overboard here, so make those purchases while using your own discretion. You know better than me if you deserve that candy bar.
9. Learn to cook. Eat at home. Avoid or limit how much you spend on groceries or eating out. When you have a limit you will more fully understand what a need vs. a want is.
10. Buy some needed items used. I find great deals on my and my toddlers clothes at thrift stores, along with cheap wood furniture & household items that I redo to fit my style. You can find just about anything at your local secondhand stores. You might be able to locate one of my favorites, DI, near you.
11. Become an amature DIYer and learn to do smaller, easier projects and tasks for yourself. I have learned through YouTube tutorials how to cut my own hair, give a neck massage, paint my kitchen table set, etc. The bigger more complicated ones I give to my husband, who is much more resourceful and knowledgeable than me. Of course use caution and only take on what your confident in doing yourself. Some things are better left to the professionals and experts.
12. Trade a lavish vacation for some staycation fun. Who says family vacations have to be out of state?
13. Research free entertainment in your area and go! Take advantage of that free concert in a nearby city or that movie in the park by your neighborhood. Instead of going to the movies, rent a movie from a Rebox or borrow one from the library for a movie night in.
14. Married couples: continue to go on dates, but be open minded and creative about date nights. If you have kids, ask another family if they’d be willing to trade babysitting duties with you.
15. Stay at home moms: find ways to make money while working from home if you need to supplement your husband’s income. You could sell used items you find for a profit, babysit other kids, start a blog, etc.
Some situations may require huge changes, such as relocating or selling a home, but hopefully your situation is much simpler and involves canceling a monthly subscription or membership.
Whatever you need to do, find a way to make it happen. Making sacrifices today can and will equate to a less stressful and more carefree life tomorrow. Keep doing what you’re doing to make those changes that bring you closer to the financial freedom you are dreaming of.
Make sure to print off our free monthly budget sheet.
Comment below: Have you ever been in debt? Are you out of debt now? What do you think allowed you to pay off your debt?
Tawnya is the founder of The Dancing Dollar, a blog about frugality & personal finance. She writes about how frugal living can help other individuals & families live [happily] below their means. She & her husband are on the path to pay off their home in less than half the time. Click here to learn more.