Continuing with the Ask The Experts Series, today 5 more bloggers answer the question:
There is a lot of information out there on personal finance as a whole, especially the topic of getting out of debt. What is your best advice on getting out of debt? What tools do you use and recommend to accomplish this?
Name: Robbie Edwards
Website: One Price Taxes
As for tools, I’d recommend Payoff.com as a good place to start in helping yourself get out of debt. Payoff.com not only helps you get out of debt but it also rewards you with prizes for getting out debt.
Name: Jessica Streit
Website: The Debt Princess
When I found myself at my lowest point in life, it was not due to an illness or the break up in my relationship, it was not due to something out of my control. Rather, the lowest point in my life was completely within my doing. I had accumulated so much debt that I could no longer pay even the minimum payments on them.
The tool that has helped me turn my life around has been in receiving an education. I have taken the time to learn as much as I possibly can about finances. I have read countless books, websites and articles about personal finance. I have taken the time to learn about myself and why I was able to get myself into a position of great debt not once, but twice in my lifetime. I have spent a great deal of time learning.
My financial education came later than I would have liked. It was not something I learned until my mid 30s. That is, in my opinion a great travesty. Our society does not typically discuss financial matters. I believe that is a great problem that should be addressed. Educating our children, our young adults and ourselves on all things money related is vital to our success. Financial literacy is something that should be taught to every child before they have left high school. Financial literacy is the greatest gift we can give a young adult before they venture out on their own into the real world.
Name: David Bakke
Website: Money Crashers
When it comes to the topic of getting out of debt, the Internet is packed with information and tools. Weaving your way through it all can be challenging and time-consuming. However, the best way to solve your personal debt issues is to take advantage of a few personal strategies while also taking advantage of some online tools and technology:
1. Fully Focus On Getting Out of Debt: Several years back, I knew that my finances were in trouble, I just didn’t know how bad. Before I finally woke up and decided to do something about it, I found myself more than $30,000 in debt. The best way to start is to fully commit and focus on getting out of debt. To do so, you need to learn exactly how to make a budget that you can stick with and follow over the long term. It literally should be something that you should think about every day, until you have some solid spending and pay-down strategies in place.
2. Slash Personal Spending: There are two things you need to do to get out of debt as fast as possible. First, cut spending. You should look at every purchase that you make on a daily basis and find a way to eliminate it or reduce it. If you buy a cup of coffee every morning at the convenience store, either quit, or buy yourself a coffee maker and make it from home. If you eat out for lunch every day, consider switching to brown bag lunches. Analyze any and all other purchases to find ways to save. You should also slash your entertainment budget. After all, if you want to get out of debt, it will involve some sacrifices in the short term. Also, note that I did not say that you need toeliminate entertainment. You still want to enjoy life, just on a smaller scale until you’re debt-free. If you’re willing to go far enough, consider making the sacrifice to cancel your cable TV to save money on your monthly bills significantly.
3. Generate Income: The next way to acquire the money you’ll need to become free of debt is income generation. Before we discuss grander topics like starting your own business, try asking for a raise or volunteering for overtime at work. You can also consider talking on a part time job. Another idea is to sell your unused items on the Internet or taking on one of many other awesome side business ideas. If you take this route and find it successful, it can easily develop into small business ownership. There is nothing like creating extra income to help complement your efforts to cut back on spending.
4. Take Advantage of Rewards: From discounts to rewards, there are numerous everyday strategies you can be implementing to save a significant amount on your purchases. For example, many of the best cash back credit cards offer an impressive 5% cash back on all of your purchases. Or if you’re a AAA member, don’t overlook many of the best AAA membership discounts that you should be taking advantage of.
5. Mint: The Mint.com personal finance application is the pioneer in online budgeting tools, and I still think their tool is one of the best. They offer budget creation help, goal-setting opportunities and ways to save money. Best of all, Mint is free. Another neat tool is Credit Sesame, which gives you all the tools you need to take control of your finances. They offer a loan search option to find the best rates for you until you can pay off all debt. They also offer credit monitoring services, and the service is free as well!
Website: Deals Planet
The best advice to getting out of debt is never to get into debt. However, there are times when it is unavoidable to end up in debt. There are two possible courses of action: Increasing income and/or decrease expenses.
While each individual situation is different, there are multiple ways to increase income. Start by analyzing your current work situation. Should you consider looking for another job that pays more or should you find a second job to sumplement your current income? Are you taking advantage of advancment opportunities at your current job. Are you utilizing education and training offered by your currrent employer?
Many employers will reimburse employees for taking courses at an accredited college and university that correspond to their current job requirements. Check with your HR department if they offer such program / benefit. While this education may not immediately pay off in a promotion or a salary increase, it will help termendously down the road when you might be considered for a promotion or when you are looking for another job.
The second course for attacking debt is to decrease expenses. Start by looking at the major household expenses home and auto. Regardless if you rent or own you can look for ways to save on your housing expenses. Consider negotiating a lower rent if possibe or look around to see if you a comparable place with cheaper rent. Currently, the interest rate is at its historic low levels therefore you should look into refinancing your home to see if you can save money on mortgage.
Beside the obvious main expenses (home and auto) discretionary expenses could be reduced or even illiminated to reduce expenses. Here are few suggestions:
- Look into reducing your cable, internet, and phone bill
- Cut down on dining out
- Consider shopping at discount stores. They offer the same brands at lower prices.
- Don’t buy the latest “flashy” electronics or mobile phones. Most electronics will go down in price within 6 month-1year.
- Pack your own lunch for work. It is usually cheaper and healthier than fast food.
- Check with your employer if it is possible to work from home. Working from home would reduce your commute expenses.
- Check your local newspaper for free social events. You don’t have to stop having fun just because you are cutting down on expenses.
- Buy clothes on sale. Usually clothes go on sale toward the end of the season.
The credit card yearly summary is a great budgeting tool. It lets you see where you spent money by category; merchendise, entertainment, and auto / gas expenses. You would be surprised how those small monthly fees add up to a big year expense. There expenses that you may not be able to reduce or eliminate. However many other discretionary expense could be reduced or even eliminated.
Website: Nickel by Nickel
My best advice for getting out of debt doesn’t have so much to do with the actual making-payments-on-your-debt side of things but more with the process of getting to a place where you can begin getting out of debt. I think that once you hit your breaking point and you realize that you have to do something, anything, to get out of the hole the most important part is getting informed:
How much is everything costing me? What do I actually earn? What can I really afford? I had a general idea about my bills and income before I realized I wanted to get out of debt, I had a general outline of expenses throughout the year and I sort-of planned towards them… but really when it came down to it I had no idea how much I actually spent after the fact on various items like clothing, food, fun-money. It’s like buying a train-ticket without knowing your destination, you’re going somewhere..but where? I had no idea if what I was planning was actually working and looking back I realize that what I was doing wasn’t working at all.
I started using a budgeting program (YNAB) at first just to see the cool charts at the end of the month but it really has become a valuable tool to measure how well I’m actually doing in achieving my goals. See, people are good at setting goals… but you need to reach and re-evaluate goals too and doing that can propel you do do even better the next time around.
Stay tuned to tomorrows post in the Ask The Experts Series Part 4 where we talk about Building Wealth.