Getting Out of Debt- Personal Lessons
2 FREE Printables- Financial Goals Worksheets
Being in debt is a stressful place to be in life. It feels like you constantly have the boogeyman at your door, and you feel like you can’t truly enjoy your life. That’s the way it felt for me anyhow. I got into a lot of debt at a very young age mainly due to being naive and not really knowing too much about personal finance.
I made a lot of financial mistakes in my early 20’s that have amounted in me accumulating over $100,000’s in debt. It took me 5 years to get out of debt and through everything, I came out of the experience a bit wiser.
I want to share some things that I’ve learned during my debt free journey.
1. Always Research Before Jumping In
One thing I learned while I was getting out of debt was to learn how to do extensive research before making a large purchase.
One thing that put me into debt ($30,000) was buying a timeshare. I didn’t really do much research (or any research at all) on timeshares before I purchased one. To make matters worse, a year or two later I went to the timeshare company to learn more about my timeshare and they convinced me to purchase an upgrade! All in all I ended up with a $26,000 timeshare (plus maintenance fees and interest).
At the time I thought buying a timeshare was a great investment because I always wanted to travel and this company has properties in many different places. This was before airbnb existed and even before Groupon became popular.
Here I was, 23/24 years old with $30k in debt for a timeshare I couldn’t even afford to use because I couldn’t afford a plane ticket! I’m pretty sure if I had done more research I would have decided to not buy the timeshare. I ended up selling my timeshare but before I could do that I had to pay it off fully and I was only able to get about $3,000 for my timeshare.
If you are looking into timeshares my advice would be to do a lot of research to make sure you are happy with your purchase.
Another mistake I made that kept me in debt is the car that I purchased. I bought a Jetta, and it was an affordable purchase ($15,000), but I did not know how expensive servicing and maintaining the car would be. If I would have done more research on car maintenance I would have stuck with a Toyota or a Honda. Those are great cars and they are very affordable to maintain.
Now I do a lot of research before making a large purchase and I really take my time before I decide to buy. I look online for reviews which has really helps a lot. I look for quality items that will last a long time.
2. Learn to Live a Frugal Lifestyle
I have learned how to live a very frugal lifestyle because I have lived on my own since 18 years old in San Diego (one of the top 10 most expensive cities in the US). I also became a single mom (without any assistance from the father or receiving child support) and was financially responsible for everything (rent, food, clothing, diapers, daycare, etc.)
Because of these experiences I’ve learned how to stretch my dollar as far as possible. There are many ways to live frugally while still enjoying your life. I will be creating posts on this specific topic so stay tuned!
3. Learn to Tell Yourself and Friends/Family "No"
Learning how to tell my friends no I can’t go to dinner or on that vacation was a lot harder than telling myself no. It’s hard because so many social activities revolve around spending money and I had a few friends who had a lot more spending money than I did because they lived with their parents and didn’t pay rent and utilities.
I had to learn to be selective with the activities that I did with them so I wasn’t constantly spending money. I also resorted to old fashioned phone calls and text messages in order to keep the relationship going. Sometimes I would host potlucks at my apartment as well. These were our “girl nights” and they were always a lot of fun.
4. Record Your Spending
I learned how important it is to record my spending. For a long time (5 years) I used the cash envelope system. I would collect all of my receipts at the end of the week and record everything that I purchased. I had set a spending limit for myself so I would record what I actually spent each week to see how I did.
To be honest I kind of failed at the cash envelope system because if I didn’t have enough cash at the checkout counter I would pull out my credit card. (The struggle was real).
I think writing down all of your expenses for the week is a crucial step in order to get full accountability on your spending. I seemed to think I spent less than I actually did- I would forget about purchases I made at the beginning of the week and inevitably would go over my spending limit.
It’s important to have full awareness on what you are spending your money on because then you have an opportunity to see what areas you are able to cut back on, and also what your spending triggers are.
5. Being in Debt Was a Blessing
This sounds completely crazy! Who in their right mind would consider a struggle they endured (for years) to be a blessing?! Honestly I finally got to the point where I realized my debt was such a blessing for me. Being in a really hard situation forced me to learn everything I could in order to improve my life.
Because of my debt I don’t believe I will ever find myself in debt again. I am so much wiser and more mature, and I am capable of making good financial decisions now. I’m even ready to teach other people what I’ve learned!
6. Write Down Your Goals
I have read many times that there is power in writing your goals down. Just yesterday I was digging through old papers and found a paper that had my goals written down on them. I haven’t looked at that paper for a few years, and the funny thing is that I have accomplished a lot of those goals! A couple I haven’t accomplished but am on my way. One of them was to be a blogger (and here I am creating my blog!).
Writing your goals down is a crucial step for getting out of debt. Every time you are faced with a difficult financial decision you can use your goals to guide you to make the right choice for your future.
Have you thought about where you want to be in the next 3, 5 or 10 years? I have created a financial goals worksheet to help inspire you to write your goals down. Go ahead and download it now.
I hope that this post inspired you on your debt free journey. Please understand that we all make mistakes, it’s all about how we handle those mistakes that determines our future. Debt can even turn into a blessing for you too if you learn and grow from it. Life is all about how we take our misfortunes and turn them into our blessings.
What have you learned during your debt free journey?