Dave Ramsey once said, “Not until the pain of the same is greater than the pain of change will you embrace change.”
By 2014 I was desperately ready for a change. I’d finally landed a great paying job and thought that NOW I’ll finally be able to tackle those old debts that I’ve had forever.
Who was I kidding?
I had no strategy and no spending plan. I didn’t tell my money where to go before I received my paycheck. I spent money based on emotion. Don’t get me wrong, I would make sure all of the necessities were paid for (rent, car note, utilities, etc.), but I had no emergency fund or steady savings account. What would happen if my car needed repairs? What would happen if I had a family emergency? What would happen if I was out of work for a while due to illness? All of these questions would plague me from time to time, but I would push them to the back of my mind and move forward with my Michael Kors purchase.
My priorities were out of whack. I did what I wanted with my money when I wanted to. I was spending it faster than I could earn it. I would look up one week after getting paid and have absolutely nothing to show for it. After a year into this great paying job, I had the nerve to believe that I deserved more money!
“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”
I attended my first ever financial conference in 2015 and ever since that day my attitude and mindset about money changed. Initially, I held the attitude that I could never pay down debt on my salary AND maintain my monthly living expenses, but the speaker challenged that idea. I will never forget him telling the audience that if you be upfront and honest with God about your financial situation, then he can and will step in and help you. Up until then I wasn’t sure where I stood financially (i.e. just how much debt I had) and I didn’t have a working spending plan. So, over the course of several months I located every statement and piece of debt in my name. I took a good look at my salary and my debt and I set up a strategy for 2016.
Finally! A Plan
I’ve laid out the seven steps that I’ve taken since deciding to tackle $5,000.00 worth of debt. I don’t have everything figured out; I’m learning along the way. I do try to look ahead as much as possible for expenses that are outside of my monthly expenses. For example, I have two cars that car tags and registration will have to be updated. Since the financial conference I have a working spending plan that I’ve stuck with for almost a year. I’ve found a way to incorporate the debt snowball within my spending plan (check back later for this post). For now I want to share with you 7 strategies to knocking out some major debt. *Please keep in mind that you don’t have to pay down $5,000.00 worth of debt. I chose that figure based on my salary, lifestyle, and financial obligations. Choose a figure that works for you. I’m a single woman with no children so my debt snowball plan will look different from a woman who is married with children. I just encourage you to start somewhere. Don’t undermine what you can do. If all you can do is pay off that $50 medical bill that was in collections, DO IT! It will make you feel proud and ready to tackle the next piece of debt.
My 7 Steps:
1) Tithing– this is a non-negotiable. Prior to creating this debt snowball plan I didn’t tithe. I knew I should, but I would find every excuse not to tithe. I noticed two things when I didn’t tithe: one, no amount of money ever seemed to be enough. Two, something was always coming up: my car or my health. Now, when I began tithing, I began noticing extra money coming from everywhere. Work, family, and friends. You name it, it was coming in. In addition to tithing, I began meeting other people’s needs financially or otherwise. I gave myself away and ended up being blessed. Coincidence? I think not.
2) Who do I owe? – I collected every statement from the creditors I owed money to. For this first round of debt snowballing I selected two medical bills, a student loan, two credit cards, and my mama. (Yes, I owed her too, don’t judge me!). I selected these bills for the first round based on interest rate and balanced owed. Although I’m focusing on these creditors, I’m still able to make payments to my other financial obligations.
3) Count my money– I reviewed my paystub at work and discovered that I was allowing deductions to come out that I didn’t really need at the time (e.g. accidental death insurance). I worked with our Benefits counselor at work and we designed a health plan that made sense for me. I also increased my 401k contribution for long-term savings.
4) Cuttin’ Corners– I’ll never forget the sense of euphoria that I got after getting off the phone with AT&T one afternoon. I’d just finished reading Nicole Lapin’s book Rich B*** and she encouraged the readers to take a look at their bills and see where they could make adjustments. I started with my cell phone bill because it’s always been one bill that fluctuates. I followed her guidelines and was able to save $50 per month on my bill and keep the same services!
5) Added 2 Checking Accounts– I have three accounts with my bank: two checking accounts and one savings account. I insisted on keeping my bill money and play money separate. I use my savings account for my emergency fund. *Word of caution: make sure your savings account is not easily accessible. Mine is and that is a change that I will be making in the near feature.
6) Tell my $ what to do– I get paid every two weeks. Every week I have a finance meeting with myself. This is where I see if there will be any expenses outside the normal monthly expenses and I adjust accordingly (i.e. car tag and registration). I usually go ahead and set up my payments to come out automatically so that I don’t miss a due date (this has worked wonders with my credit landing me an excellent payment history).
7) Write the vision; make it plain– every day I write this: “I will eliminate $5,000 of debt by December 31, 2016.” I’ve created a vision board that says “Paid in Full” at the top in huge lettering. I look at this board every day and remind myself why I’m doing this. In turn, just looking at my debt free vision has allowed me to get creative in saving money and applying it towards my debt.
I hope this inspires and motivates you to start your own debt free journey. I can tell you from experience that you will mess up and you won’t get it right on the first try, but keep trying. I believe that God will honor how responsible you are with even just a little bit. In the words of Amelia Earhart, “The most effective way to do it is to do it!”