Debt is Not Forever-How to Live Debt Free
When Jackie, at the Debt Myth emailed and asked me to participate in the #debtisnotforever initiative, I had to pause. The only debt I currently have is our 15 year home mortgage. And I’m not one of those bloggers whose story includes getting rid of a bundle of debt. Yet, I’ve lived my life with a minimum amount of debt and completely avoided consumer debt, so I figured that I have something to offer to the debt is not forever campaign.
I can tell you about how to live an exceptional life without debt.
How to Live Debt Free
There are 3 steps to living debt free.
1. It Starts With the Mind
Like most decisions, if you want something, or its important to you, you’ll make it happen. Although there are plenty of folks at the lottery counter hoping and dreaming about the “big win”, very few actually hit the jackpot. Notice the relationship between what you say you want and how you behave.
Decide what you want, make a plan, and act. What you want and your actions must be congruent in order to get what you really desire.
For example, if you want to be healthier, look at your lifestyle and actions. What steps are you taking to make yourself healthier? Are you parking your car further from the store entrance? Are you taking the stairs. Are you counting steps and making sure to hit 5-10,000 steps per day? What about food, are you choosing fruit over candy, most of the time?
Your mind sets the stage for your actions.
Decide what you want, make a plan, and take steps to make the plan a reality. Fail, and restart.
Now, back to debt.
Will your life be better debt free? If not, stop here and do something else.
If you want to live debt free, begin by creating the steps or plan to make it happen. Here’s how…..
2. Create a Plan to Live Debt Free
If you have debt, obviously, the first step is to get out of debt. There are many ways to get out of debt, and there is no perfect solution. Choose a plan, write it down, and put it into action. My personal favorite ‘get out of debt plan’ comes from my book, How to Get Rich; Without Winning the Lottery.
BARBARA’S DEBT REDUCTION PLAN:
- Do not take on any additional debt. Put your credit cards away! Cut up all but one or two, stick them in water and put in the freezer.
- Pay at least triple on the smallest debt every month.
- Pay the minimum payment on all of the others.
- When one debt is paid off, treat yourself to a free or cheap reward. Consider a visit to the dollar store or a long hike at a nature park. Choose something that’s a real treat for you. Don’t skip this step. Too much deprivation is unsustainable and a small reward keeps your debt payment on track.
- Start all over and pay triple on your next smallest balance and continue until paid off.
- As you get in the habit of paying down your debt, and your confidence grows, try this approach to speed up the debt repayment. Tackle the highest interest rate debt.
When debt is strangling you, it’s important to pay more than the minimum payment, or you will never be able to save. Put all pay raises, tax refunds, and unexpected income towards your debt.
Keep at it; do not quit paying down the debt. And stop using the credit cards.
3. Fail + Restart Plan, to Live Debt Free
When I was 16, I wanted to lose 10 pounds, so I went to Weight Watchers. The first week I stuck to the weight watchers diet, went in to be weighed, and I didn’t lose any weight in week one. So I quit.
I was unprepared for the long road. And the long road is bumpy and filled with upsets. You can do everything right (like I did with week 1 of Weight Watchers) and not experience success. However, if you continue to take the proper actions, you’ll eventually succeed. Obviously, quitting Weight Watchers after 1 week is not a true test of the program.
The best way to succeed is to prepare to fail. How to live debt free is not a quick plan. It is a lifestyle. Just like eating healthy is not a one and done endeavor, either is living debt free.
Consider this, your roof springs a leak, and the repair turns into more. You discover you need to replace the roof. That is a huge repair, into the thousands of dollars. What happens to your live debt free goal. If you’re like many people, you may not have an extra ten thousand dollars in the checking or savings account to replace the roof. In this case, you might need to take on some short term debt.
Does this mean you’ll never live debt free. No, it means you hit a roadblock.
Expect these types of setbacks, and have a plan to mentally and practically handle them.
Your plan might be a simple as saying to yourself, “This is one of those setbacks. I’ll reorganize my ‘get out of debt/live debt free’ plan. I’m not going to give up.”
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that regardless of the goal you might have in life, there are going to be roadblocks, and if you quit, you definitely won’t meet that goal. When you hit a roadblock, take a breath, and figure out how to go around.
How to Live Debt Free When the Debt is Gone
When the debt is gone, continue to live debt free. That means, adjust your lifestyle to one that doesn’t involve debt. It could be as simple as following this rule: “If I can’t afford to pay with cash, I don’t buy it.” Accept that every lifestyle and habit change comes with maintenance. After you’ve achieved the goal, continue in maintenance mode by following the smart habits that got rid of the debt.
Debt is not forever. Stay the course, readjust when you hit a bump and you can live debt free.
Share your story on twitter and facebook using the hashtag #DebtIsNotForever.