How to Get Started Reducing Debt

Are you sick and tired of being in debt? Do your debt payments have you feeling like it has its chain of weight around your neck? To the point where you can’t get out from under it?

Well, if you were like me 10 years ago, you’d feel like you are a slave to your debt. At that point, I had been out of college for a couple of years, and recently married. I had the feeling that I could take on more debt, because I was generating more money that I had ever before in my 24 years of life. In a way, I suppose I felt I was entitled to a little luxury with a new car, 15k in student loans, credit card debt from our marriage, and a 100% financed mortgage. 

Recently while talking to one of our groups from church about debt, I had a flurry of these feelings flood back to my memory. Basically of how I was slave to my lenders and the future commitments (payments) I’d locked my family into. In about 2007/2008 I read, Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover – and that – coupled with watching my dad go through bankruptcy, further drove into me the feeling of being “sick to my stomach with debt“.

During a recent business trip I thought a lot about what I went through, what people from our church are going through, and five easy steps to get started on getting out of debt. Here are my suggestions on how to get started on your road to a debt-free lifestyle.

  1. Identify Debt
    –  Summary: Most people have a hard time of knowing where to start. Start by first identifying what debts you have, how much, and rate.

    • Example:
      • Home Mortgage – $200,000 – 5.25%
      • School Loan – $50,000 – 6.75%
      • Car Loan – $20,000 – 2.50%
      • Credit Card #1 – $2,500 – 19.99%
      • Credit Card #2 – $750 – 15.99%
      • Credit Card #3 – $4,000 – 25.99%
    • Point Interest
      • Select your highest priority debt to payoff
      • Pay the minimums on all your other debts
      • Snowball payments – once you’ve paid off highest priority debt then roll that payment to your next priority. Continue on down the line until all your debt is paid off
  2. Visualize
    – Summary: Display your debts on the fridge. Have you ever had a time in your life when you were bigger than you’d like to have been, and you weren’t at your ideal weight? For many people, they put a picture on the fridge of what they look like when they weren’t at their ideal weight. In the same way with debt, put pictures on the fridge of all your debts – which aren’t ideal for you. This will help 1) remind you of where you are still at, and 2) where you’ve come from as you cross them off.

    • Points of Interest
      • Allows you to see debt melt away
      • A place for you to add new debts you take on
      • A daily reminder (maybe a good or bad thing depending on your view)
      • Doesn’t keep your debt in the dark, but out in the open.
        • For many of us debt is somewhat of a secretive sin that we don’t want others to know about. What we may not know is that when we are open with others about where we’re at, then we may soon find other people are having the same struggles too.
  3. Search for Lower Rates
    – Summary: Negotiate lower rates with your creditors.  Work with your credit card companies and mortgage companies to do everything you can to get the best rate you can.

    • Points of Interest
      • Fight for your money and don’t be satisfied with your existing interest rate.
      • Refinance your house if you are paying more than 5% on a 30 year mortgage.
      • See if doing a credit card transfer from your existing rate to a 0% card is an option
  4. Lower re-occurring bills
    – Summary: If your primary focus is paying off debt, then do everything you can to reduce your existing bills to put down more towards debt payments.
  5. Do IT!!!!!
    – Summary: Remember the feeling you had at the beginning of being enslaved to your lenders. The feeling that you aren’t living your life any longer, but living a life of work to pay your creditors. Use this as the motivation to pay off your debt and just DO IT!

    • Points of Interest
      • Stop living the life you’ve always lived
      • Don’t be complaisant with the life you’ve always lived
      • Your action (or inaction) will determine the level of your motivation

Well these are a few ideas to provide you motivation on getting started in your process of getting out of debt. What ideas do you have for getting out of debt?

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4 comments

  1. My favorite tip here is about visualizing the debt. My husband and I were having dinner at another couple’s house the other night and they had this list on the refrigerator with foods they aren’t supposed to eat due to allergies, sensitivities and things like that. For instance, my friend can’t eat too many almonds. But she used to love making almond milk. Now, having that reminder right where she can see it helps her stay on track and keeps her healthy.

    I might have to try that tip with debt.

  2. Charlie says:

    Thanks Bethy. In a way, I think about them in terms of clouds. Each cloud is a cloud of debt hanging over our heads. Draw some clouds on your fridge and write “Discover Card” or “Honda Accord” or “St. Johns School Loan” – applicable to the debt you are paying on in each one. Then the amount you owe underneath each title.

    Let me know if you follow through! Would love to see some pictures! :)

  3. There was actually an interesting study done by a few professors @ Northwestern. Their studies found that people who payoff the lowest balance first has a higher likelihood of completely paying off their debts. I am a firm believer in Dave Ramsey’s method over paying off the highest interest rate credit card first.

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