4 Money Strategies We Used to Knock Out Thousands in Debt

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knock out thousands in debt“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”  Michael Porter of Harvard Business School said that, and it’s pretty profound.  

Adding new habits to our lives can be an important way to make a change.  But it’s often more important to quit old habits that are leading us away from where we want to be.

That’s why our family has been so effective at paying off debt.  We’ve managed to pay of many thousands of dollars worth of debt on one income, even while raising 5 kids.  And we’ve done that by not only eliminating bad habits, but replacing them with much better habits.

4 Money Strategies We Used to Knock Out Thousands in Debt

Let me show you what I’m talking about.  Here are four money strategies we’re using to knock out all our credit card debt.

This post was written by Jamie Jeffers, one of our amazing staff writers!

1) Stop Spending Already!

You might have debt because of an emergency or from one really big purchase.  But chances are good that if you have debt, you also have a spending problem.

It’s unbelievably easy to overspend without realizing it.  If you don’t have any sort of plan for your money, it will slip through your fingers like dry sand.  

You can solve this problem by budgeting or trying an app like EveryDollar.  But we chose an even simpler method than this.  

(Don’t worry, we also budget…)

Implement a #yearofno.  

As in, should we buy this thing?  

No, we’re still in debt.

Can we afford to see that movie?  

No, we’re still in debt.

I think you get the picture.  Replace your unnecessary spending with debt payments.  You’ll knock out thousands in debt, and those fun purchases and experiences will be much sweeter when you can pay for them guilt free.

2) Start an Emergency Fund…And Actually Use It.

Maybe you don’t even have any sort of emergency fund yet.  You’re in good company.  An astounding 59% of Americans couldn’t cover the cost of an unexpected bill if they needed to right now.

So for some of us, the problem is that we need to build an emergency fund.  (Learn how to start an emergency fund from scratch here.)  But for others, we need to learn to use that money for emergencies.

If you’re the type of person that grabs a credit card in an emergency, that’s a tough habit to break.  It’s convenient and you don’t have to struggle with the stress of using real money. And it is a stress, isn’t it?  What if you use up all of your emergency cash this week only to have a bigger emergency next week??

The thing is, every time you grab that credit card you reinforce the habit of using credit.  Even in emergencies, try to use cash when you can.  If that means emptying your emergency fund…guess what?  That’s why you have an emergency fund!

Once the emergency is over, you can bootstrap your way into refilling the account.  You might have to drop your debt payments to minimum levels while you repay yourself.  That’s okay.  You’ll gain so much more from establishing the new habit of using your emergency stash.

3) Stop Working So Hard

Sorry, I’m not gonna tell you to quit your job.  Instead, let’s talk about a magical word… “automate”.  When the government began social security, they took a percentage from every paycheck before the worker ever saw it.  Why do you think they did that?  

Out of sight, out of mind.  If workers had to pay social security as a monthly or yearly bill, many people would have been upset every time they sent that money.  But it doesn’t take long for us to stop thinking about things when they’re done automatically.

How can you automate your money?  Direct deposit and automatic payments help.  Opting in to 401(k)s (especially when your employer offers you free money to do it!) is fantastic.

Adding another layer to our automation helped us get out of debt faster.  We opened a new checking account and depositing part of every check there. That money was only ever used to pay down debt.

There was no debit card for this account.  With this separated money, we began a good habit that made debt payments a cinch.

4) Stack the Deck In Your Favor

It’s fun to go with the flow, but letting life dictate everything is expensive.  You might enjoy dropping everything to head out on a day trip.  But take 5 minutes to pack a cooler first and you’ll save some quick money.

Here are some other ways a little planning makes your money go a long way:

  • Pack a lunch (use up those free leftovers!)
  • Meal plan
  • Check the calendar.  You’ll save missed appointment fees and last minute grocery store runs (I had snack duty this week?!).
  • Put together a plan for power outages and stomach bugs.  A box in the closet beats a run to the expensive convenience store.

Using some simple money strategies can make all the difference in your life.

Remember, a strategy means choosing what NOT to do, and replacing it with a much better habit.  If our family of seven can make this happen, I know you can do it, too!

What’s your favorite money strategy to knock out thousands in debt?

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