Paying your debt is an eye opening experience which can be very overwhelming (at least it was for us). A few years ago month of May of 2012 to be exact was the moment I decided to look over our finances and the results were a bit scary. When you see how quickly your money is going downhill you realize major changes has to be made. So, on this post I would like to share a few of the things we did that helped us pay off most of our debt and now we continue on our journey to pay off the remaining balances.
Paying off your Debt or at least starting on your Frugal or Finance Journey takes dedication and time, there is no magic way of going about it. What we learned is that through the struggles and learning how to be frugal, how to budget and how to save it showed us that we can learned to accept this new Journey we have encountered. Through this process we have been able to show our kids how to find deals and how to manage their allowance (money) they get monthly.
We have been able to realize that we made many financial mistakes but accepting it has helped us open many doors which we still enjoy today.
- The First thing we did was get all of our bank statement, credit card, bills, and any extra expenses we may have.
- Once we gathered our paperwork I started creating a spreadsheet which we divided our categories as Deposits and Expenses
- Under deposits we entered all of our income and under expenses we entered a few sections (Utilities, Other Payments and Budget)
- Knowing how much your Income and Major Expenses are (like utilities and other important expenses) help you understand and see how much you have left to divide that amount on other necessary payments.
- Once your Budget (Spreadsheet is prepared) and you know an estimate of your monthly expenses now you can take those amounts and add them to your Budget (my Budget consisted of monthly spending such as Grocery, Dining Out, Car, House, Medical, Entertainment and Other) Please note our Budget Category changed depending on our situation)
- Once the major Budget Categories was set for a 3 -6 months finance run, we took the remaining amount and divided that on our credit card debt.
- Set your credit card debt priority (listing our debts in order by the amount owed on each)we found the Dave Ramsey Snowball Method which is Baby Step #2 made the most sense on helping us pay our debt a lot sooner.
- Once we did our list we were so surprise to see how much we owe on credit cards and student loans this amount was over $31k (what an overwhelming feeling we both felt once we saw our debt amount) We had to accept that making a plan and following it through was challenging but it had a bigger reward if we fully commit to it. Accept the challenge and begin your journey to a debt free life.
- Accepting the challenge and starting our budget for the first few weeks was a little hard to get used to but we knew this was our best and only hope. We stopped using our credit cards or debit cards and started paying using cash placed on an envelope (just to make sure we dont go over our assign budget by category) we also found this idea using the Dave Ramsey envelope system.
- We assigned a dining out amount per month per family member. At this point we included our kids on how to manage their eating money, the best idea at this point was for them to open there own bank account and use the card to pay for there meals when dining out. So Instead of us paying with our bank card and not keeping track how much we spend eating out (now we set a budget on dining out so that extra money can be used to pay off our debt).
You might face unexpected bills or situations which might take you by surprised. Once we got the hang off this new journey we felt so much better thinking things are looking up until we faced some unexpected/emergency situations. That is something we had to face over the years emergency situations such as doctors, hospital, dentist, car repair (just to name the high amounts) but using the Dave Ramsey 7 Baby steps has helped us be prepared for such unexpected situations. When those moments arose, as a couple we needed to decide how to pay for those unexpected bills. We knew as a couple this was something we had to talk about and make a mutual decision were we both felt comfortable making. So, in most cases we would decide it would be best to use the money we set on a side following Baby Step #1 which is to start with a $1000 emergency fund. Once we were back on our feet we would try to save some money and add it to the emergency fund until we would reach $1000.
Once you start to notice a close estimate on each category and expense you can do more research on how to cut back to save even more money. Here I can name a few of the ways we started to cut back in.
- Setting a Budget on Grocery helps you or I should say it motivates you to keep that budget amount without going over and getting creative comes in handy. We started couponing the same year we started the spreadsheet and here you can read more on how we cut back more than half on our grocery expenses.
- Creating a Budget on Dining Out it is hard at first to set a realistic amount on how much you can spend on dining out for a family of 4 but we knew if we would cut back on this expense it can help us stay on track and use that money on paying off our debt. We started to get creative and found many deals and coupons that helped us pay less out of pocket. Sign up to your local and favorite restaurants, on a monthly or quarterly basis you might receive emails with promotions and/or coupons to specific restaurant. Also on your birthday you get free items or a coupon for Buy one get One Free. Restaurants we have sign up to which has sent us many coupons are: Panera Bread, Ruby Tuesday, Olive Garden, Sweet Tomatoes, Chilis, Applebees, Outback Steakhouse, Longhorn, Ritas Ices, Dairy Queens, Cold Stone, Burger King, Chick Fil A, Dennys (just to name a few)
- Signing up or registering to your favorite stores can help you save big time when shopping, we have used many coupons at our local stores and have saved more than what I expected. Some of the stores we have sign up to are: Kohls, Bealls, Marshall, Old Navy, JcPenney, Sears (just to name a few).
- Energy Saver changing your light-bulbs has helped us save on our electricity expenses, we also asked for an appointment for our electric company to stop by our house and let us know how much which other area we can save. He suggested we turn off lights and fans when not in a room, during the summer were the a/c is used the most try to set it to 82-84 when no one is home or on vacation. Having someone clean your laundry duct helps the dryer work less meaning the clothes dry a lot quicker so it spends less time drying. These suggestions has helped us a lot and we have seen every year on the months when our light bill is the highest we seen an improvement.
- DIY this was an interesting one since we are not handy people jejej.. but moments like these has helped us discovered areas we didnt know we were good at. Instead of buying wood furnitures, pillows, decorations and wall art we have taken the challenge to buy wood and make our own items. We have made console table, outdoor furniture, providence bench, hubby workstation and other items as well. Later will share some items we have created.
- Entertainment (Movie Theater)- instead of cutting back on going to the movies sign up to some companies that can send you movie tickets were you can see movies for free and before the movies are released, you can read more about it here..
- Ebay is our friend jejej. This site is such a good place to buy items for a much lower price and is also a good place to sell items you no longer use or need. There are times our kids would not use there games console, or electronics and selling them on ebay has been a good way to make some money or save it for a new gift they can use. We also sold purses and electronics which also has brought in some money.
- Mow your own lawn or someone elses for extra cash. We have saved over $300 a year on having a company mow our own lawn, so instead my family sets an hour or so to cut the lawn and on occasion has helped someone else cut there lawn too.
- Coffee what a good addiction at least it was for me. I loved coffee it was my first treat in the morning and my treat a couple of times a day (but then I gave up that addiction because of how my body rejected this treat). I know is still many peoples favorite treat and it can easily set you back almost $1000 a year so cutting back on buying your favorite coffee you can make it at home and save a lot every year.
- Iced Coffee is my new treat for some reason my body is able to it and instead of buying something that it has many calories I make it at home sometimes 2 times a day ( I brew my own coffee and add almond milk and truvia sugar) this has helped me save over $600 a year.
- Free magazine subscriptions since I started couponing I was able to also find some opportunities on getting free yearly subscription to very well known magazines. Over the years I had received Martha Stewart Wedding, Good Housekeeping, Latina, Ebony, Glamour, Shape (just to name a few)