In the society of Buy Now, Pay Later it’s difficult to maintain a debt free life. The feeling of financial freedom is one that cannot be compared to much else. Can you imagine not having to make regular monthly payments and being able to enjoy every penny of your hard earned cash, instead of making banks richer with your interest payments?
Create a Working Budget
The first step in gaining financial freedom is getting a clear look at your finances. Set aside time to dig into your finances and create a budget. You need to include every expense you incur, including those that aren’t monthly (such as insurance, taxes, school supplies, Christmas, etc). On the flip side, you also need to include every source of income you have.
Toss Out those Credit Cards!
If you’re looking to gain financial freedom, then it is essential that you make a commitment to not get into any more debt, which includes credit cards.
Control your Spending
There are areas of your budget that you are in full control of, like groceries and entertainment. Since groceries are usually a huge part of a person’s budget, take a long hard look at your grocery spending and find areas where you are able to trim. Stop all non-essentials in every negotiable category until you’re able to feel some financial relief.
Once you figured out where your money is going every month and you’ve trimmed every area you can — use your “saved” money to pay down any remaining debts. Start with the lowest balance and throw all of your extra money at it to eliminate it quicker. Once that debt is paid in full, take the money you were paying on it monthly, plus all the extras and apply it to the next debt with the smallest balance. You’ll gain momentum very quickly and you’ll see your debt disappear right before your eyes!
Gaining financial freedom is never as fun as it was to get into debt in the first place. It just plain hurts! Try to keep your eyes on your end goal of being free from monthly debt payments and set realistic goals for what you’re going to do once you’re done with this journey. It’s tough now, but soon the feeling of freedom will be so worth it!
I admit it. I’m an emotional spender. If I am feeling depressed or angry or trapped there is nothing like acquired validation. The problem is that this form of self medicating can ruin my financial (and thus the rest of my) life. Particularly in a day and age where all I have to do is click my savings away at online stores. Once I accepted that I had this problem, I was able to combat it.
Go Card Free
I don’t have cards. I don’t have credit cards, debit cards, store cards, or any other card that allows me to spend my money with a swipe while ignoring the cost on the screen. I have checks because I have to see how much I am writing out in order to use a check, but there was a time I didn’t even trust myself with checks. I carried cash for my daily needs. I shopped only stores near my bank so that I wouldn’t lose my money between the bank and the grocery store. In short, I restricted my access to convenient money.
I didn’t tell the whole world. I did tell my fiance. I told him that when we got married I couldn’t have access to the account. I would work, and I would bring in money, but he needed to be the one to police the account. It made me feel a little juvenile, but I felt this conversation was a better one to have than the one about where all the money went.
What I was in charge of was paying the bills. I would make sure our rent got payed on time or that our electric bill was paid in full. This kept me in touch with our financial situation and kept me more rational about wanting to spend.
These of course are temporary fixes. I couldn’t go my whole life avoiding money. I had to face the problem of what was making me want to spend. In my case it was an expression of self worth. Wasn’t I worth a new dress? Wasn’t I worth eight settings of dishes in my choice of color and design? Of course I was! It wasn’t until a friend pointed out my spending to me that I realized I had a problem.
Spending can be an addiction and just like any other addict I needed a support system. Since I recognized my problem early I relied on family and friends and was able to deal with my issue without proffesional help. Others are not so fortunate. Many don’t have a support system to help them and could end up swimming in a river of debt and unpaid bills. For these people proffessional help is the best way to avoid spending more money than they have.
Not all of us were born Thrifty Divas. Some of you may visit our site regularly, but you’ve just recently started to cut corners and save money with all of our tips we post lately. One of the questions I receive a lot is how to pay off credit cards. Many years ago as a college freshman, I fell into the trap of credit cards. I definitely wasn’t prepared for them nor was I responsible enough to pay them every month.
As a freshmen with a new found freedom and a piece of plastic that could buy me anything immediately, I quickly got into thousands of dollars worth of debt. It was horribly depressing and I spent my senior year of college just trying to clean up my mistakes. I now have a very healthy fear of credit cards and try my hardest not to let other college freshmen fall into the trap that I did.
Some of you may not have gotten into credit card debt the way I did, but you may find yourself in the same situation spending most of your hard earned money on interest, lay fees and penalties. Here are some tips I learned along the way to getting out of credit card debt.
1. Don’t ever get one. Okay, someone is going to say it, so I will state the obvious. If you don’t want credit card debt, try your hardest not to get one. It may be easier said than done for some, but it is the easiest way to stay out of debt.
2. List your credit card debt and make a plan for paying them off. I think the easiest way to do this is to make a list from the most debt to the least. The reasoning behind this is because bigger balances cost more monthly because of interest. If all of your cards carry similar balances, list them by interest rate. Try to pay off the higher interest rates first.
3. Pay more than the minimum. Most credit cards now have a place on the statement where they tell you how much you’ll pay if you pay the minimum and how long it will take you to pay it off. Even if you pick only one card to pay more than the minimum on, you will start paying them off.
4. Ask for a lower interest rate. We covered this a couple of weeks back, but credit card companies want your business. Some will lower your interest rate just because you ask. If they don’t want to, ask that your card be deactivated and that usually changes their minds. Not that you should use scare tactics, be prepared to fully follow through.
5. Avoid debt consolidation. According to financial guru Suze Orman, “Be very careful where you turn to for help with credit card debt. Debt consolidators are often a very bad deal. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is a smarter choice.”
6. Use your tax refund. I always say you shouldn’t count on your refund for anything. Then when/if you get it, it’s just like extra money. And with extra money, you should pay off debt. It’s that simple, when you’ve prioritized your list of credit cards, so through and pay off what you can. I promise, you will feel as amazing as you would have if you’d have spent the refund on a new flat screen television.
Have you gotten out of credit card debt? What are some tips that helped you?
Disclaimer: If you are a person who struggles with credit card debt this post is not for you. My intention is to show the money saving possibilities when you can outsmart the credit card company promos that we are bombarded with every time we shop.
We have all seen them or heard the cashier say, “Would you like to sign up and save X% on your purchase today.” Most are required by their managers to say this. I would say almost 100% of the time, I say no and rightfully so.
Before I tell you how to outsmart these companies, let’s go over how they make their money.
Their biggest money maker is your interest! Credit card companies WANT you to not pay your full bill every month. If you do, they make no money. If you are someone who pays it off often, I bet you get credit increases often. They hope that one day you’ll use it for a big purchase that wouldn’t be able to be paid off.
They also make money from your late fees, annual fees, over the limit etc.
So the first step to outsmarting the credit card company is very simple and will save you tons of money.
Always pay off your bill. Another little disclaimer here, I know that due to some people’s circumstances this can’t always be done, but the more you can try the better.
Outsmarting those promo deals. This is what I really want to talk about. I can honestly say that out of all my large purchases in the pass few years i.e. TV, washer and dryer, refrigerator, bed etc, I’ve gotten anywhere from 20-30% off just by opening an account with these places, putting in on the new credit card then marching my way back to customer service and paying it off.
This tactic only works though if you’ve been shopping around, price compared, found your best deal and then saved up for it. A lot of these places will have no interest for 6 months to a year. I don’t think it’s bad to make payments if you are disciplined to do so and avoid those finance charges they will tack on if it’s not paid off during that time.
There are some department stores like Kohls that will send discounts for those with their credit card. The catch is you have to use the card for that purchase. However, right after you get your killer 30% off, just march your way back to customer service and pay it off. You can even pay at some of the registers!
Another great deal that you may have seen around is the Target Debit Card. Can I just say that I LOVE this card? It’s not a credit card, but a debit card that draws straight from your checking account. Every time you use the card, you get 5% off your purchases. Couple that with the awesome match ups we give you here and you’ve got a great deal. I just got the card a few weeks ago and the only downside I’ve seen is it takes 3-4 days for the money to come out of your account.
Also, these promo deals aren’t worth it if you are just making small purchases. I wouldn’t even think about getting one of them unless I am going to save a couple $100 dollars.
In the end, credit cards can be dangerous in the wrong hands. However, when used by the responsible Thrifty Diva, they can save you a lot of money!
Have you outsmarted the credit card companies? Which deals have you taken advantage of? Tell us in the comments!