How to Get Out of Debt

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How to Get Out of Debt

From the January 2010 Trumpet Print Edition

Debt years are depressing years. You want to travel to help educate your children, but you can’t. You want to send your friend something special to encourage her, but you can’t. You want to buy something nice for your spouse, but you can’t. You desperately need to purchase a functional appliance for your family, but you can’t. The list of financial can’ts reaches into every part of your day-to-day life, it seems. Family arguments result from the financial strain. Life is too precious and too short to grind under the financial and mental burden of unmanageable debt. If you are in debt, get ready to get out!

Okay, what do I need to do right now?

Scrutinize every aspect of your life where you spend money. Look for ways to make emergency cuts. The goal: live far below your present income. What expenses can you cut out entirely? Remember, the more you sacrifice now, the sooner you’ll be debt-free. If you are serious, you have already stopped making impulse purchases and buying on credit and have budgeted for payments that will gradually pay off all your previous debts. If you haven’t already done this, start right now!

How do I budget?

Really sacrifice! When the going gets tough, remember: The more you sacrifice now, the sooner you’ll be out of debt. To do this, you will need to look at every single aspect of your life where you spend money.

What do I do with my home?

Your residence is probably your largest expenditure. Remember, drastic times call for drastic measures. You need to consider moving. You might be able to move to an area closer to your job and/or near a store you could walk to for shopping. You could cut your expenditures by hundreds of dollars per month if you rent a less-expensive house. Paint and elbow grease are not very expensive. Dirty, dingy rooms can be made very livable and attractive with a little cleaning, paint and inexpensive curtains. If it’s an option, consider the dreaded “moving back in with mom and dad” strategy. The bit of rent you will pay your parents could help them with their bills too. Conversely, if an aged parent can no longer take care of themselves and you have the ability to care for them, consider taking them into your home, as opposed to paying for them to live in assisted living.

What do I do with my car?

Perhaps your second-biggest expense is your vehicle. Ask yourself if you could possibly get along completely without it. A car can cost as much as it costs to support an extra family member. Seriously consider getting rid of your car altogether, if possible. Perhaps for a few dollars a month, you can carpool to work or ride the bus. Maybe you can even walk or bicycle. The money you receive for your car—plus the amount you save in insurance, gasoline, licensing and maintenance costs—will help you get out of debt far sooner. At the very least, if you drive an expensive car, consider selling it in favor of something more modest. If you drive your vehicle “into the ground,” instead of trading it in every few years, you will save yourself thousands more and take a big bite out of your debt.

What do I do with my groceries?

As you look over your food bill, you might be surprised by this advice: Do not skimp on your health! Doing that will cost you more later on—in more ways than one. While you must provide for adequate nutrition, you can accomplish it using less money than you think. Eliminate all food expenditures not essential to maintaining good health. Buy food on sale—and in bulk when possible. Learn how to shop wisely. Cheaper cuts of meat do just as well as more expensive cuts. If you are able, purchase and butcher an entire animal yourself; this saves you dollars per pound. Baking your own bread and planting a garden can also be huge money-savers and improve your health. A $1 tomato plant can produce many dollars’ worth of tomatoes. Also, if a member of your family has the time, clip coupons for savings.

What do I do with my stuff?

Now, meticulously look at your other expenses and possessions. Cell phones, MP3s, cable, Internet: these are all expendable expenditures. You can survive without! Pets are another area where some people spend thousands of dollars per year. Difficult though it might be, maybe it’s time to find another home for them. Go cheaper with recreation expenses. A family dinner at a restaurant can become a family picnic at a nearby park. A trip to a major-league ballpark can become a nine-inning nail-biter at the local high school field. An excursion to the movies can become games and family conversation at home. Saving money doesn’t have to dent your quality of life—it can actually improve it!

Where else can I save money?

Think about where you keep your money: the bank. Eliminate overdraft, bank account and atm fees. Banks often to charge overdraft fees of $35 or more if you overspend. Additionally, the bank charges you interest on the money you’ve borrowed to cover your purchase. Link your savings and checking accounts so you can borrow from yourself, not from the bank. By opting out of overdraft protection (many banks enroll you automatically), your account may be denied if you have insufficient funds, but at least it’s not as costly a one. Additionally, make sure that your bank accounts are free. Many banks now charge maintenance fees and fees on accounts below certain minimum balances. If this is the case, consider finding a new bank. Also, to avoid atm charges, only withdraw money from networks that are free to use.

What strategies do I need?

“Are you willing to get another job and work a few 80-hour weeks?” asks debt consultant Dave Ramsey. “If you think that it is too hard, you will never get out of the debt that you brought upon yourself.” This is the approach you need. When it comes to tackling debt, to get the most bang for your buck, you should pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first and maintain minimum payments on all your other debt. But if you need of a psychological boost, you can use the snowball method. Pay off the loan with the smallest principle. Once that debt is paid off, use those payments to help pay off your next-smallest debt. Whichever method you choose, keep moving forward. Be sure not to waste hard-earned dollars on gambling or lotteries. And remember, the only people that get rich quick with get-rich-quick-schemes are the schemers—not the desperate suckers who fall for them. Act with integrity and honesty. Follow the law and stay away from unethical businesses and practices (Proverbs 22:16; 28:6; Romans 13:1, 7). ” A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. … He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him” (Proverbs 28:20, 22).

But I’m still in debt!

It will take some austere living to get completely out—determine to stick with it! Rejoice in your progress. Seeing your debts melt away will be worth the sacrifice. Proverbs 24:10 says if you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Be strong! People often quit when just a few more steps would reveal rays of light on the horizon. It may seem overwhelming. Do not give in. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to run our spiritual race patiently, intelligently, casting off impediments. The same principle applies in our financial “race.” Seek God’s guidance. See your employer. See your creditor. Talk your situation over with them. Don’t procrastinate. Keep thinking. Keep planning. Keep working. How badly do you want it? Remember: God wants us to prosper. He wants us to be able to live the debt-free way of life and experience the blessings that come as a result of obeying His financial laws. So keep working, get creative in finding ways to save money, and persevere. You can do it! The results will be well worth your efforts.