Everyone has horror stories when it comes to debt, for me paying off debt is like losing weight. We all have great enthusiasm to get out of debt and to lose weight but most of us never follow through and succeed at either. We all make mistakes, and I have my story book full of mistakes that I made while trying to get out of debt. The one good thing about mistakes is that you learn some valuable lessons that you can share with others so they do not get into the same trap.
Mistake number one
This mistake is always number one with everyone I talk to about getting out of debt, and that is having a plan. Just like losing weight you must have a plan and you must stick to the plan. If you have a spouse both you and your spouse need to follow the plan and don’t deviate from it.
Mistake number two
Do not try to get out of debt without goals or have goals that are impossible to accomplish. Here is what you will want to do instead. First put together a plan with your spouse you both need to establish some creative goals for the family. First you need to setup small goals. These goals need to be something that you feel you can accomplish in a month or two. Then setup some medium goals that might take six to eight months to accomplish and then you need to setup some long range goals that will take one to five years to accomplish. An example of long range goals would be like paying off your mortgage early.
Mistake number three
Do not try to get out of debt without a solid documented budget in place. Most people hate budgeting, but this is a must when you’re trying to pay off debt and become debt free. Again just like losing weight, if you do not plan and setup meals correctly you will not lose the weight. Same with budgeting, if you do not have a detailed budget then you will spend money on items that don’t fit into a budget category and you will find yourself getting deeper into debt. You must have a budget no question about it.
Mistake number four
This mistake I really kick myself over, I took my bonus and raise from work and wasted the money on foolishness instead of paying down my debt. When coming into money either by work or other means you must apply this extra income toward your debt and not increase your spending lifestyle. Take the extra money and apply it towards your mortgage principle or your principle on your high interest credit cards. By doing this it will drive down your debt ratio.
Mistake number five
I kept charging on my high interest credit cards even though I knew I shouldn’t. Some families make the mistake of paying their bills with their credit cards in order to earn points from the credit card companies. This is fine if you are dedicated in paying off the credit cards when the bill comes do. I find a lot of people take the spare cash that they have in their account because they paid their bills with a credit card and they blow the cash. When the credit card bill comes in they do not have any money left to pay off the credit card then you start racking up high interest charges and getting yourself deeper into debt. Be extremely careful of falling into this trap with credit card points.
Mistake number six
I did not setup an emergency fund, this was a huge mistake that took me years to recover from. Every household needs to have an emergency fund for those unexpected home or car repairs or life changing disasters. A family should have six months’ salary set aside in a special account that you do not touch. One never know when disaster is going to hit, disaster could be illness, getting fired, your main source of transportation dies, or you have a major home repair that has to be done. Without an emergency fund you could find yourself in a world of hurt. Start today if you do not have one and keep building to it.
Mistake number seven
Do not keep the same lifestyle you are living today. I tried this and found myself not making any headway in getting out of debt. You must change your lifestyle and cut foolish spending. There are many ways to do this, here are just a few that I found I had to change. Stop going out to eat, wash your car at home instead of spending ten plus dollars taking it to a car wash, drink your coffee at home or work instead of stopping at expensive coffee shops. The list can go but I think you get the picture.
As you read this you will see that most of this is common sense items and mistakes. I just learnt over the years of what to do and what not to do. If someone would have shared these with me I probably would not have stayed over my head in debt as long as I did.