There are some fast ways to start getting out of debt. First would be to seek out a Credit Counseling Agency. Make sure they are nonprofit and have a good reputation. If they are real, they won’t ask for any money. The minute they ask for payments or a percentage you need to hang up the phone. A Credit Counseling Agency will give you all sorts of solutions and support. They will help you condense all the debt and negotiate with the creditors for lower finance rates and payments. Some agencies will deal with everything and even withdraw a lump sum out of your checking account monthly to disperse to all the creditors until the debts are paid. They will also help you get secured cards to build your credit back up.
Another way is to follow the advice of Dave Ramsey. He is a big guy in finances and debt management. He is big on budgets and paying off the mortgage. He teaches about the snowball method and envelope system. Daveramsey.com. He’s a big Christian for those who are also Christian. Not that that would be a requirement.
These are the big starter steps for a new life free of debt.
The next steps would be to make a budget and then start doing major Reducing and Cutting and Downsizing.
Downsizing is my first choice. Downsize everything you can. The house, the cars, the utilities.
Reduce all the utilities remaining, the gas, the commute, the driving, the groceries.
Cut out all the extras. Dinner out, coffee at Starbucks, lunch at the Bistro, shopping sprees, movies at the Regency, getting your nails done, having your hair streaked for $200 a month.
The last couple steps are becoming a penny pincher and free finder. This is where you make a game of it and start finding as many ways to do or have things for free, to use what you already have, and all the ways to save money or not spend it in the first place. This takes some creativity.
So, here are some examples. For those of you who have read my blogs, this will be booorrring. For anyone new, it may inspire you.
I got into over $30,000 in debt in my early 30’s. I tried paying it off myself and even tried putting it all on a big credit card so I only had one payment. I tried it all and wound up in more debt. I finally found a Credit Counseling Agency and gave them all my credit card and school loan info. They condensed it all, negotiated lower rates and dealt with everything. I didn’t have to answer the phone, open the mail or deal with my creditors ever again. Every month they took out a sum of $375 and dispersed it among all the creditors. I could make bigger payments if I wanted to really get it down fast. I had to pay off my car on my own that was the one they wouldn’t deal with.
Later on in my 40’s I married and my spouse had bad credit so I was advised to get the secured credit cards to build both our credits. This is where you put a few hundred in an account and they give you a card. You use the money from that account and every month you refill it. You build credit fast. I needed credit because after I paid my debt I paid everything with cash for years and had no credit.
You can get these credit cards through your bank or companies that do this for people with horrible credit. Once again, I advise you to seek out a Credit Counseling Agency.
So, fast forward to the future and I’m a housewife with children. We have no debt, the cars are paid off and we have no regular credit cards. We have even built savings. How did we build the savings? When I found out I was pregnant I worked up to the 8th month of my pregnancy and while I worked we put all my paychecks in a savings and lived off his paychecks. We also took all our tax refunds and put them in savings each year.
Now we have babies and I’m at home…oh no! Bali’s job goes under and we have to move for work. He gets a job as a cashier making a little more than minimum wage. How do we do it? We have 4 of us plus two big dogs and later a cat that comes along and moves herself right in. We have a house with a big yard because you have to with kids and dogs. I have to be honest, if you are lower income do NOT have pets. It’s expensive as far as needing space for them and it’s really hard to get a rental with even a cat. Not a financially smart move. But these were all rescues that came along at better times and they are our furry children.
I find this great book The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. I read it all and then search out more and more frugal and thrifty books and articles, youtube videos, and blogs by people, mostly stay at home mothers, living on less than us. The one I really liked was blissfulanddomestic.com. This woman’s family lived off 14,000 a year. They even bought a home. She has great advice and ideas. Check her out. She even has budget templates you can download. Very sweet family and fun to watch. Wellnessmama.com is a great site for homemade cleaners and toiletries. She’s more granola and health conscious. She makes EVERYTHING. There are so many blogs out there that are so great for advice and inspiration. Livingwellspendingless.com has great advice and the woman who started the blog wrote a book 31 days of Living Well & Spending Zero.
I started making my own cleaners and laundry detergent. I even did cloth diapers for some time. I hung the clothes on the line, I picked the fruit and lemons that were on the farm where we lived. I shopped at Winco (super inexpensive and employee owned) and used the envelope system. We had an antenna for TV and I read a lot of books from the library. A lot.
The food was all homemade and no junk. Going out to eat was not happening. Coffee and brown bag lunches. Then I started getting even deeper with it. I would add water to my dish soap and shampoo to stretch it. I would add coffee grounds to yesterdays coffee, using the same filter for a couple days. I saved every loose coin in a jar. We ate leftovers and old bananas became banana bread, old fruit got pureed and made into something. Old bread became croutons.
This way of living is good for the family and the environment. You learn to recycle, compost, or reuse everything. You do things like sit down at the table for a family dinner, you talk and read together because you only have 10 channels on your antenna. You spend a lot of time outside when you hang laundry and pick fruit. You take a lot of walks with children. The cleaners you make are easy on the environment and children and pets. The harsh cleaners cost a lot. Vinegar is magical.
At first, it’s hard to transition from going out all the time to be entertained, dined, shop, and basically stimulated with instant pleasure. You miss going to the cafe for a latte and out to dinner with friends. You miss buying new clothes and eating popcorn at the theater. You may feel agitated and bored silly at first. But then you get used to being at home and you begin to be creative and productive at home. You start baking your own bread, listening to music as you clean your home deeply, you rearrange your living room, start a few new plants from the other houseplant trimmings, you repaint a dresser to make it look new for a few dollars for paint, you get into reading outside with your ice tea that you made yourself. You start a garden, you build the children a sandbox. You all start living outside more and listen to the birds in the morning as you sip your coffee and throw the ball to the dogs, read a book, the boys digging up invisible treasures in the dirt.
Life becomes very simple when you are no longer lead by shopping and spending. You become very home based. You realize that life becomes much sweeter. You become more present and family oriented. You begin to make your home cozy and yard a place filled with delights.
Later, we moved into town where I downsized our house. On the farm, we had a very big house and yards. In town we now live in a tiny house with a moderate yard, however, it’s cozy and we save $600 in rent and utilities. My husband’s commute is 30 minutes shorter. The boys and I can walk everywhere and have access to great parks and a library. We can really have fun now. We even have a dog park.
Our finances have changed. Bali manages his own small gas station and we have $400 more a month to work with. When our refund came this year we paid off a couple little debts we had acquired. It made a huge difference. I also created household savings separate from our large savings.
A life lived this way is not so bleak. You do learn to enjoy this life. In the end, you get out of debt, build a savings and experience such peace and freedom that it is worth it.
Today, I do go to the theater and enjoy a very expensive bag of popcorn while watching a movie on the big screen now and then. I do get myself a latte when I go out to do my grocery shopping. I treat myself to a new wardrobe at the thrift sales. One thing I don’t skimp on is organics and grass fed meats. I am concerned about our health and the planet’s future. I support organic and biodiverse farming. I support clean air, water, soil, and compassionate ways to raise meat. I support small and local shops and mom and pop establishments. I’m a bit anti-corporate. I don’t see them doing much good out there. When I do buy an item I try to buy quality. That is why I love the thrift stores. I have purchased the best furniture and clothing that will last ages. Places like Walmart and Kohl’s are just mass producing junk that fills up our landfills. Spend the extra on the good stuff.
We are now buying our first home. We didn’t qualify for a very big loan and are savings is plump but not that plump. I had to really get creative here also. We chose to move to the town where Bali works. It’s smaller, cheaper, mostly agriculture. It’s grown on me. I found a HUD bank owned house and put a bid on it and won. We purchased our first home for $135,000! It just had its whole house inspection and has good bones but needs a lot of work. We have just enough left over in our savings to hire a few people to do the work. We will do the rest. Our mortgage will be smaller than any rent we have ever paid. Thus the frugal life will continue.
Today when we have more money we put part of it in savings and share and enjoy the other part. We will always live simply and frugally because it is a sane way to live and we enjoy it. Good luck to all of you out there getting out of the confines of debt. I hope this inspired you.