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Getting out of debt is easier said than done.
Ask anyone who has struggled with anything from a higher than average car payment, a mortgage they can't afford or mounds of credit card bills and they'll tell you without much hesitation that debt is the kind of monkey you just don't shrug off your back without much effort.
You have to work hard to get it to even budge.
That's why when discussions abound about saving money, debt and finances, those who have a hard time balancing their budget just as difficult as their checkbook know that there isn't much they can add to the conversation.
That is, until they come up with a plan to get out of debt, one that if executed correctly will give the quite the story to tell, one of redemption and perseverance.
The tricky part, however, is determining your course of action and following through. More specifically, you want to make sure you haven't left anything paramount off the fine print and have a plan that is solid, unwavering and crosses and dots the “t's” and “i's” respectively.
A big part of your debt salvation plan has to include giving up things that you love but ultimately realize that they don't fall under the category of being a necessity. These often are things like cable television, particularly the movie channels, sports packages and pay per view costs that are luxuries in the purest sense of the word. Your cell phone also can wreak havoc with your budget and certainly has elements of it that can go, such as you data plan you've adopted that is way too large than what you actually need.
Clothing, restaurant dining and other recreational activities, like joining a high priced country club for example, also should be carefully examined and slashed at a moment's notice. That's not to suggest that you can't buy yourself a new outfit for a job interview or if you're wearing tattered rags as tops, but to participate in a full on shopping spree is just plain silly.
The money you are saving from eliminating expenses should be directed toward paying off the highest interest loans, credit cards or debt that you currently have. The biggest mistake you can make with your zero debt plan is to take that extra money and pay off your student loan as example. That loan typically flirts with interest rates that are between 1-5% at most, rarely higher than the single digits.
Instead, find that Visa or MasterCard bill that has been bothering you for years and double up on that monthly payment, with the goal being a closer to zero balance with each monthly bill paid.
Adopting just a few tweaks to your spending habits and how you view debt is more than enough to climb out of that hole you've dug yourself and starting seeing a light at the end of that financial tunnel.
More times than not, when you take a look at those individuals who struggle with debt, you can pinpoint the problem rather quickly.
Constructing a prudent, intelligent financially sound person starts with the foundation that often is devoid the moment you spend a few minutes with an individual who struggles with debt. That “foundation” is a budget, something that easily measures your expenses versus your income and how you spend your money.
Sounds easy enough, right?
The issue with budgets is twofold: the ones who have them but couldn't tell you the first thing about them or, worse yet, the ones who don't have them at all.
Recently, a person asked me quite simply how they could save money over the next six months, to which I asked a question that seemed rudimentary and common in nature.
“Do you have a budget?”
This person replied “yes, I do.”
So far so good, but the follow up question wasn't exactly met with rave reviews. I asked “do you spend more than you make?” The response, “I don't know, probably.”
When it comes to matters of money, there are no minced words or uncertainly. Money is black and white and so too should be your budget. The two variables that cannot be manipulated or questioned is how much you're bringing in versus what's going out. If the latter is more than the former, your budget isn't up to par.
Even more ridiculous is the aforementioned person who actually has a budget but really doesn't either know what that means per say or just chooses to ignore for reasons that only they can understand. You can argue that having a budget and not knowing the ins and outs of it is no different than not having one at all. The budget itself is only as good as the person who follows it.
Aside from not following or having a budget, one of the bigger missteps when it comes to money and tracking it is the easily forgotten incidental expenses that often plague even the most ardent and savvy money manager.
For instance, you may have, after your bills are paid, approximately $1,000 leftover cash to stick into some sort of savings account. But ask yourself an important question: did you remember to include items such as your daily coffee, lunch on the go three times per week or an allowance for things like clothing, tolls to and from work or gas?
Having a budget is hardly full proof if the person behind it isn't willing to adjust it, monitor expenses closer than just the topical, monthly bills or pretend that it even exists.