By Christelyn Karazin
David Bakke dug himself out of over $30k in credit card debt he accumulated during his college years. He is now debt-free and shares his tips on the blog, Money Crashers Finance.
Whether you’ve got a little debt or a lot, it puts a strain on managing your finances. Interest payments are a waste of money, and climbing out of that hole is never fun. But the truth is, getting out of debt doesn’t require a ton of sacrifice. With some thoughtful planning, a little research, and some spending discipline, you too can become debt-free.
Knowing where to start is the hardest part, so check out these six strategies first:
1. Effectively Pay Down Credit Card Debt Map out a game plan for paying off your debt and prioritize your efforts. Start with the credit cards with the highest APRs and work your way down the list – you’ll pay less overall†interest in the end. Once your balances are out of your life for good, always remember: If you can’t pay something off by the end of the month, then you simply can’t afford it.
2. Reduce What You Pay for Food The best way to reduce the cost of your grocery purchases is to clip coupons. Depending upon how much time you invest, you can trim your grocery bill by as much as 80% using extreme couponing strategies. Next, look for a farmers’ market or a local farm and do your produce shopping there. The quality is equal to (if not better than) your local supermarket, and the prices are much more affordable.
3. Reduce Personal Purchases Whether you’re carrying too much debt because of bad spending practices, medical expenses, or unforeseen personal events, now is the time to better discipline your spending. When you consider buying something, ask yourself if this is something you want or something you need. “Needs” are required for survival (such as housing, transportation, basic utilities) and “wants” are everything else. Eliminate as many wants as you can until you’re debt-free.
4. Generate More Income You may have a goldmine of money-making opportunities right under your nose. All those old electronics, clothes, and college textbooks can be sold on eBay or Amazon. If you’re unsure about an item’s value, check its sales’ history on eBay through the “Completed Listings” tab. You’d be surprised at what people are willing to pay for.
Next, check out paid survey websites such as LightSpeed Research and Pinecone Research. They offer $2 to $3 per survey, and they generally take about 30 minutes to fill out. You won’t make a fortune, but every little bit helps. If you’re looking for something more substantial, you can look to start a business or explore some of the additional ways to make money from home.
5. Cut Utility Bills Adjusting your thermostat by just three degrees can result in a 20% savings on your energy bill. Take shorter showers, and run only full loads of clothing and dishes to reduce your water bill. Turn off all lights and appliances when not in use, and unplug the ones you don’t use very often. Just some minor tweaks in the way you handle your home energy use can add up to significant savings at the end of the year.
6. Pare Back Services Do you really need 500 TV channels and three paid movie streaming services? Is an unlimited data plan for your cell phone really necessary? Most of the time we can get by with less and still be very comfortable. Explore reducing your fixed monthly rates, and you can pay off your debt that much quicker.
Final Thoughts Remember that these are not lifelong sacrifices. They’re only necessary until that last balance is paid off. It’s up to you whether to leave them in place once you’re debt-free, but if you’ve become a more disciplined spender, try leaving them in place. In either case, just make sure you don’t revert to your old spending habits, or you’ll find yourself right back in debt.
What other strategies can you think of to get out of debt?