Getting out of debt takes discipline. But there are some things you should NEVER do to win the fight against heavy bills! Are you guilty of any of these?
You racked up some serious debt, and now one thing is clear. If you want to have a different life, there are certain things you can never.ever.do.again.
Don’t worry. It’s all worth it when that magical day comes that you get a paycheck that doesn’t have to immediately be divided up between your un-best friends, credit card company A, B, and C.
What are these forbidden things? Glad you asked!
The Things You Should Never Do If You Want to See Your Freedom (from Debt) Again
Focus on Deprivation
That’s right! The fastest way to tank all of your hard work is to focus on what you can’t have.
This might sound something like, “Sorry, guys. I really, really wish I could go to lunch with you. But I can’t because I was stupid with my money.”
For example, back in elementary school, my art teacher had a sign on the wall with a cross through the word can’t. It was the forbidden word in her room.
At the time, I got a big kick out of saying “cannot” to get around this rule. (C’mon, I was 7!) But now I actually appreciate the circumstances that make this rule great.
Go ahead. Remove can’t from your vocabulary.
Choose from one of these answers instead:
“Guys, I’d love to go to lunch with you! But I just don’t do that these days.” (There’s something empowering about the word don’t. It allows you to own the choice to spend your hard earned money on other things.)
“I’m not up for going out to lunch today. But if you want to bring something back to the office I’d love to eat my brown bag lunch with you!”
“Anyone up for organizing a potluck for Friday instead?”
Truthfully, I’m not totally against them. But you need to put some rules in place for balance transfers.
Do the math. With those fine print balance transfer fees on most cards these days, you’ll likely find that the savings is minimal at best.
With a real debt plan in place, you already have a good guess about when you’ll have each card paid off. If you can’t move the date of that final payment up by at least 3 months with a transfer, you’re better off sticking with your plan.
Try to beat that date with extra struggle instead of juggling numbers from one card to the other.
On the other hand…, we did find an instance when the balance transfer math worked very well in our favor. Discover card had a fantastic deal. That’s because instead of the silly “0% interest rate…but only after you pay us 3% of the whole balance” game, it’s a straightforward deal.
Discover offered us no balance transfer fees in exchange for a 4.99% interest rate. That simple deal was a no brainer, and it saved us several hundred dollars and several months of payments.
*One notable exception is if you find a
unicorn offer for 0% with no balance transfer fee in your mailbox. Jump on that baby! (But only if you have a plan for repayment. Don’t call this “at least I did something” and ignore your debt.)
You also want to be aware of…
Being Too Optimistic
Whoa! You knew you were getting a whole list of nevers….but this is going too far.
Hear me out!
There have been times in your past when you decided to put things off, because future you will be able to handle those payments much better than current you.
That’s why “no payments for a year” on furniture is a thing. Or 0% interest for 18 months.
These deals make us feel safe. Because that yearly raise is going to make all the difference in our budget next year!
Except that you got a yearly raise last year…and do you feel any different now? Did your budget suddenly expand in a big way?
Even if you had a year of huge successes, that’s just not something you can count on. Earning money always means relying on others. The money has to come from somewhere. And there’s no stability in other people.
I mean, unless you’re printing money. In which case, this is not the blog for you. 😉
One thing I can promise you: there is no better time to start getting rid of debt than now. Shed that stuff like a layer of coats in the Sahara. How fast can you get rid of it?
Do it now!
Drain Your Emergency Fund
You look at your savings account and think, “Dang. If I take all that money and give it to the credit card companies, I’ll be that much closer to done.”
Number one, who’s to say you won’t have an emergency tomorrow?
But more importantly, number two…you need to learn how to use an emergency fund. Now. It’s time to retrain your brain.
Credit card debt indicates that you don’t have much of an emergency fund or don’t know how to use one.
If you don’t have one, you can do it! Use these Clever Tips That Will Help When Your Savings Takes a Hit (Again).
But if you already have some money saved up, start using it when you have to. Teach yourself not to reach for the credit card when your car breaks down! Instead, take some cash from your savings account. And then repay yourself.
Doesn’t that feel better?
Next up, never…
Think “Just This Once…”
So you have a budget in place and you’re hammering bits and pieces away from that chunk of debt at a decent pace. That’s when you notice a huge sale on that glorious thing you’ve had your eye on for years.
In the grand scheme of things, your eye candy doesn’t cost that much. And it will probably only set your debt goals back by a month or two. Isn’t it worth it???
The thing is, most of us thrive on “don’t break the chain” habits. When you’ve been well disciplined for months on end, it might seem like you’re simply treating yourself.
But once you start spending, it’s hard to stop.
It’s like when you go to your favorite store for some specific thing. If you look around and can’t find that one thing, you might be able to make it back out of the store without spending any money.
But once you put even one thing in the shopping cart, you’ve broken the spell. Now your brain is in spending mode. It embraces the phrase “Might as well!” As in, “I’m already buying this thing. Might as well buy that thing, too!”
This is why we can’t seem to leave certain stores without spending $100. And why some of us have to hide shopping habits.
This next one could try to sneak up on you! Beware the temptation to…
It seems like no big deal. You’ll just use a little money you’ve set aside to plant a few flowers in your flower bed.
But once you start…oh, dear. Now you need more topsoil. You can’t let those flowers you spent good money on just die!
But that doesn’t look quite right. Let’s get some mulch, too. Oh, and this wind chime is adorable!! It’s on clearance, so no big deal if I just grab that, too.
And now your small project has cost you triple what you expected.
Instead, keep a running list of projects you can’t wait to tackle once you’re out of debt. I promise that writing it down will give you a small sense of satisfaction.
No, it’s not the same as accomplishing the end of a job well done. But think of how exciting it will be to pay cash for projects without the guilt of debt!
Ask nearly any successful person, and they’ll tell you the secret to getting ahead is not giving up.
You don’t have to win the lottery, or be good at math, or play any games to get out of debt. You just have to be persistent.
Get scrappy. When you can’t find the extra money to hammer down your debt, find a way to get it.
Want to be free from debt more than you want anything else.
Sacrifice your free time for a side job. Sell those things that used to be so important to you. Swallow your fear and ask for a raise.
The only thing that should be more important to you than getting rid of debt is your relationships with loved ones. (But remember, that requires giving of yourself, not spending money.)
Getting out of debt means never letting bills control your choices again.
After all, you hold the power to change everything!
Ready to do this thing? Here’s how we paid off over $20,000 in credit card debt while raising 5 kids!
What’s on your list of “nevers”?