Seven Winning Ways to Become Debt Free
By Deborah Nayrocker
More than one-half of Americans say they worry about how much money they owe, according to a recent AP poll. As a nation, the amount of consumer debt has doubled in the last ten years, not including mortgages.
With the availability of low interest rates during the past four years, home-equity borrowing has gone up. More homes have been purchased with creative financing. The result is more indebtedness and tighter budgets.
The number of home defaults from subprime mortgages continues to increase steadily. Mortgage resets have not peaked yet.
When it comes to managing personal finances, many people find they are spending more than they earn. Consumers can eliminate debt and create more cash flow by following these tips for becoming debt-free.
- Track and analyze spending. Keep all receipts for cash, debit, and credit card purchases. Record expenditures and review spending patterns. Become aware of where your hard-earned money goes so you know what spending habits need to be changed.
- Make a realistic spending plan. To keep costs lower than your income, weigh true needs vs. wants, and spend accordingly. As a family, prioritize and justify household spending. Look at discretionary expenses like entertainment, recreation, and vacations. How much money can be saved by eating out less often? Look at transportation expenses. If auto payments are taking a big bite out of the spending plan, are there ways these can be cut back or eliminated? Take a closer look at overall family spending patterns. What expenses can be cut back? Begin to make spending changes.
- Create an emergency fund. The average American saves less than a dollar of every $100 earned. Find workable ways to set aside funds every payday for unexpected expenses. Costs for car and home repairs or health problems can quickly break an already tight budget. When an unexpected bill comes your way, be prepared financially. Instead of charging unexpected bills on your credit card, dip into your emergency fund.
- Pay outstanding debts on time. Establish a bill-paying routine so bills are paid efficiently. When credit card payments are late, the result is high late fees. You will find interest rates spiking on the credit cards. And the cycle continues. Late payments harm your credit score, making it more difficult to get a loan later on.
- Leave home without the credit cards. Studies show that shoppers spend 33-34% more when they make purchases with credit cards instead of cash (Master your Money). If paying with a plastic card is a habit, pull out your debit card instead.
- Pay off debts ahead of schedule. List debts and prioritize them. Which ones have the highest interest rates? How many payments are left? Focus efforts on paying off one debt ahead of schedule, then continue onto the next one. Commit to become debt-free, whittling away at credit card balances and loans.
- Avoid any new debt. Don’t be lured by teaser credit card rates. Avoid department store cards with higher rates. Don’t make financial promises that will be difficult to keep.
Remember that our resources are from God. We can ask God to help us be better and wiser stewards with what He has given us.
If you are in a tough financial situation it is likely that it took several years for you to get there. Don’t expect everything to be resolved in a short time. Plan to take the same amount of time to get out of your money troubles as it took to get into them.
You can speed up the process, however. Decide to pay off what you owe with an aggressive plan. Make a commitment to follow through with it. The more committed you are, the sooner you will see your rewards.
It’s been said that success is “the progressive realization of worthwhile goals.” Focus on the goal of getting out of debt, and one day you will become debt-free. You willreap the many rewards of financial freedom.
Deborah Nayrocker writes on personal money management topics, showing others how to take control of their financial future. Deborah is the award-winning author of The Art of Debt-Free Living--Living Large on Less Than You Earn. She is also the author of Living a Balanced Financial Life, a popular Bible study focusing on money management.
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