After graduating from college in 2006, I was left with nearly $35,000 in student loans. I made sure not to apply for any credit cards while I was in college because my grandma always told me how bad they were. But the day that I relocated from North Carolina to Georgia my car began having problems so I decided to take out a $1,500 credit card in which I quickly maxed out within the first few weeks on car repairs and rental cars. And one thing led to another, next thing I notice I was nearly $80,000 in debt.
Getting out of debt now seems to be popular. Most of my debts were not all related to unconscious overspending, but then again a majority was. I found myself going out to eat nearly every day, I didn’t care because when I maxed out the card, I would just request a limit increase (talking about something depreciating in value). When I needed gas in the car, American Express (or should I say American Distress) was my hero. Especially moving to Atlanta with so many ladies, I found myself on a date with someone different but I didn’t care because I had my “handy dandy” credit card. On my first Christmas (with my now wife) after knowing her 4 months I bought her an $800 bracelet and necklace set because I didn’t know what else to buy her (really $800!). Some call it death by one-thousand cuts. I bought a little thing here, a little thing here and the next thing I knew is that I looked up and I was “way over my head” in nearly $100,000 in debt. I know for some of you out there there may be numerous other reasons for accumulating your current debt which may job loss, health issues, and major unexpected house/car/family emergencies. But everyone has a story to tell.
I was able to pay off the (DUMB) debt that I accumulated during those years before I decided to make a change. The following tips helped me and I am certain that it will help you make a significant dent in that debt load.
The first thing that you must do is get motivated on the primary reason you are ready to take action on eliminating debt. Paying off debt can be a long and hard process. For some, it could take years to become debt-free (it took me 8 years to pay off nearly $100,000 on a teacher’s income).
While on your journey to debt freedom, it’s only natural to have highs and lows. Having highs are great because you’re motivated and excited, and it seems like the debt just disappears. But it is equally important during the low times to find different ways to stay motivated. It takes a long time to get out of debt, but it’s so worth it! You just need to find ways to motivate yourself when you are going through a rough patch.
Occasionally treat yourself to a date night or a meal. Remind yourself about all that you will gain from not having payments coming out of your ears. When I was paying off debt, it felt like it was never going to end but I am here to tell you that it can be done! Stick to it! The motivation that worked for my wife and I was watching videos of other people doing their debt-free scream on the Dave Ramsey Show and rewarding ourselves in little ways like going to the dollar flick to catch a movie.
Track ALL Progress
Identify and list ALL the debts (medical, legal, family, credit card, department stores, student, etc.)– showing the total due. When you make a budget and mark your progress, you can see that you are making traction (which can really motivate you to keep going).
Total Up Debts
Total up the debt. Total up the finance charges and fees. Really take these numbers in. Of course, this is scary but very important for creating an effective plan and moving you to a debt-free life.
I called all of my creditors and asked them to waive the late fees. Most of them did. If you are usually on top of your bills and just got behind, often the creditors will work with you on waiving the fees – but you have to ASK. There’s a saying that goes “If you’re hungry you have to open your mouth to eat”. In other words, if you want something, speak up. The worst that could happen is that they say no and you have not lost anything. At least you tried.