How to take charge of your debt
Take charge of debt.
Are you struggling to pay off a mountain of debt and completely overwhelmed? Do you frequently pay bills after the due date? Are you regularly asking friends and family members for loans?
Eliminating debt is hard, I know. It takes time, persistence, and in all honesty – a lot of work.
When I maxed out my credit card a few years ago and found out that in addition to that, I also owed the government over $10,000 in taxes, I panicked. I had just gone out and purchased a new vehicle (not one of my smartest ideas!) and now I had two more debts to manage.
It was scary, but I allowed myself to feel scared. I also forced myself to do something about the situation I had put myself in. I needed to find a way to dig myself out of debt before my debt pile grew any bigger. That was the beginning of my journey to a debt-free, frugal life.
If you’re someone that is struggling to pay off debt, let me assure you that no matter how much debt you have, it is possible to get rid of it. It seems as though many people think that debt is just a way of life and I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Take charge of your debt and start living a happier, debt-free life.
1. Embrace frugal living.
One of the quickest ways to start saving more money and paying off your debt is to simply embrace the beauty that is frugal living.
Useless, cook at home, buy used – by adapting to a frugal lifestyle, you will cut out the excess and be able to focus on what really matters.
2. Contact creditors.
Take responsibility for your debt and contact those creditors that have been hounding you to try and strike some kind of deal with them.
If they know that you are struggling to pay your bills, many creditors will be happy to offer you some type of discount in order to pay off the money that you owe them.
Just by asking, you may be able to get a lower interest rate, or they may even lower the amount that you owe.
3. Cut back on expenses.
When you’re trying to pay off debt, you should not be spending money in areas that it doesn’t need to be spent.
Eliminate all of the luxuries and cut back as much as possible on things like groceries, hydro, water, and gasoline for your car.
4. Create a budget.
The key to financial success is the budget. Without one, you are spending your money aimlessly and this often leads to financial ruin – which is why I always recommend that everyone create a budget.
It’s not hard to do and is a great way to track your money so that you always know how much you have.
5. Make more money.
Easier said than done, I know – but earning more money will always help to pay off debts.
The first thing I always suggest is selling things in your home that you no longer need. You can also try survey sites and selling things on Etsy if you’re crafty.
6. Create an emergency fund.
An emergency fund is an important part of any financial plan. Even if you have a pile of debt to pay off, make it a priority to set up an emergency fund – because an emergency will happen, and you don’t want to end up having to pay for it with a credit card.
Start out with an emergency fund of $1,000 until your debt is paid off, and then you can increase it if you feel the need.
7. Take extreme measures.
Sometimes you have to do extreme things to pay off your debt. Consider becoming a one-car household, a second or third job and for some, it may actually be necessary to cut your losses and file for bankruptcy (hopefully it doesn’t have to come to this, though).
By deciding to take charge of your debt, you are taking the first step in becoming financially successful. Debt is one of the worst things you can do to your finances and so I encourage you to pay it off completely as soon as you possibly can.
When things seem dire and you feel like you can’t ever get ahead, remember that there are thousands of others going through the same thing. Thousands of others that will likely dig themselves out – you can dig yourself out, too.
Being debt-free is an amazing feeling – don’t give up. You can do it!
My biggest struggle is the desire to spend $$$. I can’t believe how strong that desire can be. I have set goals and work hard to live a frugal lifestyle. I have set my self to suceed is by swiching to cash only and have set my savings in an ING direct account so i can’t get it out instanly, I dont have my credit cards in my wallet. We have given up fast food and were eating alot more fresh then processed – which can cost alittle more but the benifits out way the cost. I have enjoyed doing this it can be hard we live in a country where over spending $$$ is very normal, but i want set a great example for my kids.
I love your website so much! I was wondering what you acually can say when you contact a creditor like a credit card company? My debt is all cards that I am finding hard to pay off…I missed a few payments by accident and they called which now will be noted on my equifax beacon score…
Lesley: if you contact the credit card company and tell them you are having a difficult time paying your bill, if you have lost your job tell them they can give you a “break” for a month or two. Most credit card companies will work with you and if you have been with them for a long time sometimes they will say well if you can pay this much than it will take care of the problem. It can’t hurt to call and ask them if they can lower your interest or things like that.
I totally use Gail Vax-Oxlades “jar” method. SO EASY to see where the money is getting spent when you only use cash for it! Ditch the credit and debit cards! Cash is the may to go!
I started to seriously budget a few years ago. My biggest problem was eating out during the day but I fixed this by coming up with a list of what I considered staples in my kitchen. I have pretty much cut out all visits to Tim Horton’s because I always have coffee in the house as well as waffles and bagels. Even on days when I have to wake up early I have time to make a quick breakfast. I’ve also gotten heavily into couponing and channel my spending energy on scouring various sites to see who has the best deals. It’s always a struggle though, cause when you’re hungry and not close to home, what do you do? I have cereal bars in the car and usually something to drink but sometimes a granola bar isn’t enough!
@ Lesley – I don’t know about the credit card companies, but I have found that even one missed payment can be sent to a credit collection agency and your credit card account closed. I have been in the situation where I owed 16 grand on a line of credit and a credit collection agency was hounding me every day. It was scary, but once I called I could tell the guy really wanted to help me. It’s ONLY a job for the credit agencies and they ARE willing to help you. I wrote a hardship letter and a financial assessment to prove I could not pay the money back and they settled for $4800! Wait long enough and these companies WILL settle for a way lesser charge. Just make sure you get a release letter from the company saying the account has been settled and you can notify the credit bureau to update your credit file. This charge was REMOVED from my file =) Credit cleared!
I think the first step is knowiing what you spend. Keep all receipts for everything you buy. Then you can see exactly how much you spend on everything and know where to cut back and create a budget for those things you need. You have to know where your money is going in order to even begin to fix the problem.
The 3 best things we did for our budget seemed to be the most simple. First i took all our credit cards out of our wallets and put them in the freezer (didn’t realize how easy that was and it really does work in cutting back on spending). We created a workable budget and the third was give our selves from the budget an allowance.. That was our money to spend on whatever we want. Its funny its so simple yet it took us a while to figure it out.
The best thing we ever did cause in 6 months we have paid off 2 of our 4 credit cards, paid for our trip to LA and working our way to paying off our debts, going away for a holiday AND working towards our plan of emergency fund.
Its funny, some of our friends make fun of us for not going out every weekend and drinking or whatever but with our allowance we have to pick and choose our show.. and we got the last laugh when i told everyone we paid some of our cards AND we are going to LA.. i am happy
We have just started to pay off our debt I can almost see the finish line I can wait till we are done
For us the biggest tip was talk about our debt truthly openly truly talk about It
…. I would never open our visa bill I would just put whatever I could on it
my husband and I had one big long talk and we looked at our goals and got on the same page… Some days are harder but I just ask myself when I buy this will it help or hurt my goal
Have everyone in the house be on the same pg is important
Thanks for all ur help!
Thank you for your advise ladies! I will be contacting the credit card companies this week to try and figure out a payment schedule. My bank will not assist with a consolidation loan as I’m too high risk to default. It would have been so much easier. 🙂
Debt is so easy to get into, and so hard to get out of. A couple of things we have done to “buget” is; using Cash as much as we can. Buying a bunch of meats when we get paid. Stock up on staples like rice, potatoes, side dishes and the like. Downsized our Denali to a 1yr old used minivan ( saves so much on gas! And saves us $700 on payments! ) Using leftovers into a “repurposed” meal the next day and last but the most important, letting our kids know what we are doing. That just because you may have the money doesn’t mean you should spend frivously. Its okay to budget and “share” a meal at a restaurant. If you are going to waste most of the food, why? So often my husband and I share. And also to share with others that you do this because its wise. I think talking about it more will help take away the stigma of being frugal. Its just smart living. We have so much when so many have almost nothing.
Also, I live by this to when it comes to “deals” ; a deal is only a deal if it is NEEDED! 🙂
@ Lesley, another idea is to contact your local credit union to ask them about a consolidation loan. Credit Unions are different than banks as they are ‘member owned’ (everyone puts in $5-$10 to own a share, you get this back if you leave, some pay annual dividens too). They are usually customer service based & want to help people. Your town propably has a couple.