Our nation stands on mounds of debt. We owe in cars, education, house, credit cards and get suckered into pay-later financing. As my career has grown, so has my spending habits. I don’t know about you but doing something new or wearing something new gives me a little kick of euphoria. From the moment I swipe my card, to the moment I wear the item of clothing, I revel in my purchase. Once that wears off, I am onto the next high.
All photos are by Sarah Mackenzie Photo.
It’s important to acknowledge this lousy chase to get new items from the get-go so that you can identify your urges. That is one factoid that will enable change and get you on the right path. Not only that, but you will have to acknowledge the weakness with every urge you get.
Credit Cards are all too tempting but a necessary evil unless you are always fortunate enough to pay for unfortunate events with cash. This plastic devil is excellent for emergencies and purchasing high-price tag items (ex. replacing a broken dishwasher). It’s even better when you collect points and use them to buy plane tickets. However, the downfall is that you can EASILY get carried away.
Credit cards can force you to live beyond your means and eventually develop a dependency on using it to keep you afloat. Credit card debt is a never-ending roller coaster with a very thin and faulty seatbelt.
How do you get a sturdy and reliable seatbelt?
I have learned some tricks in helping stop the splurging impulses and was able to half my debt in half a year. It was a struggle and took dedication and a lot of “no thank yous” to some social invitations, but it worked! If you want to be on your way to a debt-free future, below are my personal five tips that helped me cut my deficit in half (note: I am not a financial advisor. This is just my suggestions).
Avoid Signing in Blood
Obviously, you never want to sign anything with blood. But the point is that you want to avoid as many CONTRACTS as possible. Being obligated to pay off anything is just a distracting obstacle even if it is 0% APR. This year, I signed a YEAR contract with a personal fitness company. That could have easily screwed me when I dropped out of my last job if it wasn’t for the fact I had a decent bundle of savings to get me through. To cancel the contract would have cost me more than it was worth, so I kept on with the payments. Anything resembling this is worth avoiding – especially TimeShares (AVOID at ALL cost).
Living the Lie
Some people need to splurge. Hell, we all do! But doing it to the point where you wipe out most of your cash before the month is over is not a healthy habit and can contribute to more credit card debt. One thing that has helped me is to set a budget for myself every paycheck that will allow me to get myself a little gift. In my household, we call it a “Chooch” which is short for “Chucharia.” This is either a Puerto Rican term or an inner-circle family term. Either way, you get the point.
What this does is help you focus on buying something without going overboard. If you have an addiction especially, depriving yourself of something that provided you with a typical pleasure will ultimately cause you to have a relapse. Therefore, my suggestion is to budget some money aside so that you know what your limits are and can avoid touching that credit card.
Plug in that Spreadsheet
I know this is super boring. But since I just mentioned it in the last tip, it has to be discussed. Budget, budget, budget. I am OCD, so I write down everything that I have spent. Note this will not help you stop spending altogether but can help you identify what you’re paying the most for. Budgeting will allow you to gather that data so you can make a calculated decision on where you can cut costs. Financial experts are also available to help in this regard if you end up feeling clueless.
Additionally, plugging in those numbers will keep you accountable. It will be a habit you will have to FORCE yourself to do until it becomes natural. (They say one month is all you need to establish a habit.)
Whip out cash
You do not have to carry cash around literally. You do this step with a debit card swipe. To keep myself on a budget, I left my credit card at home and instead only carried around my debit card. This forced me NOT to spend unless necessary or calculated. Yes, I did have apps on my phone that would allow me to pay for things but it didn’t tempt me as much as that damn card. However, if you find yourself to be a digital swiper, feel free to remove the ease of payment from your phone.
Eating out to eating in
Every work week I would drop over $50 for lunch because I would go out to buy food. Do not do this! I could have saved myself over $100 a month if I had just brought my lunch from home on most days and ate out the rest. If you are even more diligent than me, you can bring food every day.