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9 Tips to Becoming Debt Free

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Becoming debt free is not impossible. By implementing these 9 steps, you will be on your way to financial freedom.

9 Tips to Becoming Debt Free

When my husband Paul and I met we each had thousands of dollars worth of debt.  We both had multiple credit cards, we both had car loans – a good $20,000 combined.  We lived with that debt for years.  Paying minimum payments, then turning around and charging more on the credit cards when we did get them paid down.

It seemed that no matter how much we paid and how many payments we made, we were always sitting in the exact same boat every single month. It was a vicious cycle and one that I am positively thrilled not to be a part of any longer.   Becoming debt-free literally changed our lives.


After a couple of years of being debt-free, Paul was able to leave his job with the cable company in order to help me with this blog.  He is able to become a stay-at-home dad raising our boys, taking them to sports practices, they head to tutoring, he is able to go on almost all of their school field trips and more.  If we still had that debt hanging over our heads, there is no way we would be able to enjoy our current lifestyle.

1. First and foremost, figure out how much debt you have.  You can’t work toward the goal of being debt free (or at least in the most effective manner) if you have no idea what your starting point is.

Start with a free worksheet like these to make a list of your debts along with their respective interest rates, current balances, credit limits and more.

2. Realize you are not alone.  Millions of people in the United States are struggling with debt.  When we had $20k in debt hanging over our heads I felt so ashamed.  It was as if I had a big sign on my forehead stating “I owe $20k in credit card debt” as I walked around Walmart.

I knew I shouldn’t charge those things when I bought them, yet I bought them anyway.  Perhaps the most important aspect of becoming debt free is defining your WANTS vs your NEEDS.  Big difference and most of it is all in your head.

3. Pay cash for what you can.  We bought Paul a new truck this year, and we did so with cash.  Granted the truck is ten years old, but it is in excellent shape and we were able to take our time selecting the vehicle.  This is all because we have been debt free for years.  Instead of using our income to pay off debt, we have been depositing into a savings account.  Our money is working for US not the other way around.

We are avoiding hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars in interest fees because we saved up the money instead of financing.

4. Create a budget (and stick to it).  Creating a budget is daunting.  No one wants to follow a budget in the beginning.  It is scary and you may feel that you’ll be suffocated and deprived.  While that certainly may be true, how suffocated and deprived are you feeling every month when you make those minimum credit card payments?

Buckle down for a year or two and work your butt off and you’ll never feel suffocated and deprived again.

5. Skip grocery shopping for a week.  Can you work a once a month No Spend Plan? Skip your grocery shopping for one week every month.  Buy ONLY the necessities, the money you’re NOT spending that week goes directly to the “pay off debt” section of your budget.

By using the foods that you have in your pantry – you’re using things up before they expire and you’re staying organized. Use up what you have for one entire week – buying only what you NEED to complete those recipes.

6. Cancel services you don’t use enough of.  Do you really need that cable package? Could you downgrade? Do you have to have a landline?

7. Track your progress – with a friend!  Keeping track of our progress was fun once we started seeing a dent in our debt.  It is nothing but pure motivation.  Sharing your debt elimination plan with a trusted friend allows for two things…

a.) Accountability.  If you don’t keep up with your debt elimination plan, your bestie will be there to question you about it.  So much easier for you and your spouse to agree on not paying the extra on that card this month in favor of an extra date night etc.  If you have to account for those actions, though, you may be less inclined to do so.
b.) Celebrate the successes together.   Is your bestie paying off debt too?  Or student loans? Check in with each other once a month – over a glass of wine perhaps? – and compare notes. Cheer each other on.

8. Have frugal friends.  I have become the friend that doesn’t like to spend money.  Our friends understand that I am “that friend” but they also know that I live well because of it.  They may not ask me to have coffee every single weekend, or to go here or do that, but you know what?  That is OK with me.

We often have get-togethers at our home where we are able to share the costs of food.  Paul will score a pork shoulder or ribs to smoke while they are on sale, then each of our friends brings a side or a salad or a desert and we have a big, fun, happy {cheap} dinner while all of the kids play.

9. Do you NEED it or do you WANT it?  This is the question I began asking myself during our debt elimination period.  I haven’t been able to stop asking myself this question since.

Do I NEED a new pair of jeans? No. Do I NEED a pedicure. No. Do I NEED gas for my car? Yes.

Going without is worth it when you consider your future. The instant gratification had to stop. When it did, I freed up hundreds of dollars every single month – it all added up so much faster than I realized.

Becoming debt free doesn’t have to take forever.  By buckling down Paul and I paid off all of our debt – including those car loans we each had when we met – within 18 months.  We will never live in that amount of “bad debt” again.

We are able to live in a nice home, drive nice cars, go on vacations, all because we sacrificed (for just 18 months!) and made lifestyle changes that will last just that – a lifetime.

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