How to Live Debt Free by Barbara Young
(PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS ACTUALLY OUR FIRST ROUGH DRAFT...WE APPRECIATE YOUR PATIENCE WHILE WE EDIT IT TO PERFECTION)
I am really good at some things and really bad at others. I am really good at money, making money, spending money, handling other people’s money, and really bad at parking. Even with my new front sensors and backup camera I still do not know how to park. So we will stick to what I know and that is all about money. I used to think that I was good at money because at the time I had a good income, always paid my bills on time, and had a great credit score. The truth was that I was in debt and living month to month but I thought that was normal. They don’t teach you about how to handle money in school and I didn’t learn from my parents. I really thought I was doing well because I was always so much better off than other people my age, and then I got a book one Christmas called The Total Money Makeover. I became so engrossed in the book that I finished it by New Year’s Eve. Basically I learned that everything I knew about money was wrong. The book taught me that I didn’t need to live out of my means to impress other people and that owing money is bad. These are really hard concepts because this is what “normal” is nowadays. We buy cars with money we don’t have because we are “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” to impress people we don’t even like. I found out a lease is the most expensive way to have a car and not to buy brand new cars. I was skeptical but also hopeful because I wanted to be out of debt so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to at least give it a try. The author of the book also has a daily radio show and podcast and I would also listen to him taking calls and answering people’s questions about money and how to get out of debt. There were also days people would do their “Debt Free Screams”. I would listen and it gave me hope. Listening really got me to become a believer and I have most of what was taught engrained in my brain now because it was really the same questions and answers over and over. I hope I am able to teach you how to live debt free and stay debt free.
Now I do not believe in every single thing that I read because in the book it specifically says that medical billing
careers working for yourself don’t work and I am living proof that it does, so I am the exception to this. So with that being stated let’s get started. This is a lifestyle change, similar to a diet. I know people who have read the book, gone debt free, and gotten right back into debt so this is something once learned you have to follow through all the way and never look back. Most people, doctors included, live month to month, in debt, have student loans, new cars financed, and 30 year mortgages, so it has become normal in society to live like this. But I can tell you from experience that you don’t have to and how great it feels to know now that if I have an emergency I do not have to use a credit card and that I can sleep with peace of mind that I own everything instead of banks owning me. So if you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else. First you have to understand credit, debt, and money. Your credit score is actually a score made up of how good you are at borrowing money. If you were to stop using credit it would be a 0 as if you were dead. Credit card companies make it seem like a status. I remember my first credit card. They make it an emotional experience for us. Mine was leopard print and I was so proud to have it and I kept growing my credit and soon had a whole wallet full of cards to every store I shopped at. The truth is stores make more money in selling you their credit cards than in the merchandise. Saving the money the day you open the card or the points or air miles you get are not worth it. No millionaire has even gotten rich by credit card rewards. I remember when I first got my Black Card invitation. It’s a status symbol but it’s actually bad. I have all credit card offers turned off now. There are studies that paying with cash actually hurts. It is much easier to hand over a card and spend a lot of money than it is to do with cash. Everyone else is broke too and when they see you making changes they will make fun of you. For example I choose to drive my 14 year old car. Everyone likes to make fun of my car but in reality I love my car because I am proud to own it. Money problems are also the #1 cause of divorce so you have to do this with your spouse if you are married. You both have to be on the same page. Your children will learn from you, like mine did, and you will be changing your family tree.
So I had been in debt before and paid it off and the way I did it was that I had paid off the highest interest rates first because that was what financially made sense to me. I didn’t have the rest of the pieces put into place so when I had an emergency I went back into debt. All of the pieces to living debt free are in 7 steps. The first step is to make a $1000 emergency fund and put it somewhere easily accessible, but not to easily, for emergencies. Now you have to know what an emergency is and what it is not for this money. This money is if you get an unexpected flat tire, not to buy something that is not budgeted for and you just want to buy. You will see once you have this emergency money that due to Murphy’s Law it will no longer seem like an emergency when something happens. Now I mentioned budget and it’s a scary word. I actually avoided doing budgets for a long time because I didn’t understand exactly what a budget was and how to do it and it doesn’t sound fun. I now have budget software and since I started I realized it actually is not a bad word and when you have a budget instead of not knowing where your money went, you are actually just telling it where to go. I do not deprive myself of anything. If I have the money and I want to buy myself a present, I just have to put in on my budget. Last year for my birthday I got $2000 diamond earrings and it was actually ok to spend that money because I had it on my budget. So do a budget every month and you will actually find money you didn’t know you had and see how much you spend on things you didn’t know you were spending. The 2nd step is called the Debt Free Snowball. Instead of paying your debts with the highest interest rate, you are going to list all of your debts from the smallest to largest. All of the extra money you find in your budget you will use to start paying off your smallest debt first, and then once that is paid off you get a momentum going and put that extra money to the 2nd smallest debt and so the snowball begins. Paying them off gives faster gratification and will get you motivated to make more money to be able to do it faster. You should also think of others ways to increase income. Work more hours, start selling things you don’t need. If you have a financed car, sell it, and drive a beat up car that will get you to and from work until you are out of debt and can upgrade. Cars are most expensive when new and lose their value right away. Millionaires buy certified used 2 or 3 year old cars with cash! Sell so much stuff the kids are scared they are next. Cash talks. People can tell you it doesn’t but it does. Those diamond earrings I bought for myself, well the first store didn’t care that I had cash; the second store did and got my business. Everything becomes negotiable when you have cash in your hand. Also during the paying off debts it was advised to make a personal sacrifice with something that would hurt, so my personal sacrifice at the time was getting my nails done.
Now once you are out of debt, you have to follow the rest of the steps to stay out of debt. The 3rd step is a fully funded emergency fund and this will be a different amount for everyone but this is the peace of mind that you will have cash for an emergency instead of having a credit card emergency. I keep mine in a liquid CD. It should be three to six months of expenses if you lost your income. The 4th step is to start saving for retirement, if you haven’t started already. The 5th step is College Funds for your kids so that they can go to college debt free. The 6th step is paying off the home mortgage. Imagine living completely debt free including your home! Yes this is possible! Think of all the money you will have with no debt or payments and the great things you can do with it! The last step is to build wealth. We do this with long term high interest mutual funds. We are now at the point where your money is making money.
There are some other tricks I have incorporated into my financial life. I read an article about making an email address just for bills and have done that and now have all my bills sent electronically to that email. I also pay my bills with online banking. Instead of going to multiple sites to pay bills, it is one site and it is done much faster. They also send checks for me on my behalf so I am not handing out my account number. It is easier to keep track of everything this way. I save all the invoices on my computer instead of having paper bills. I also read a book on tax deductions. I am not an accountant but my accountant was not allowing me to deduct what I should have been deducting. I switched accountants. I also keep receipts for every single thing I buy. I was surprised to hear at a place I frequent for pizza that I am the ONLY person that ever wants the receipt. There are services to have receipts scanned for you if you are not a paper fan and then if you wanted even incorporated into QuickBooks. I use my bank debit card as a credit card. Your bank card offers all of the same protections as a credit card and can be used at all of the same places you would normally need to use a credit card for instead of using credit. If you must use a credit card be prepared to pay it the exact same day. The credit card websites will not let you pay it the same day, but you can with online bill pay or write a check and put it in the mail, to avoid having any credit add up. Learn more about the Total Money Makeover, the Complete Guide to Money, and EntreLeadership by going to daveramsey.com. There are also free budgeting tools and apps on the site. This has changed my life and I hope it can change yours too!