Not all of Toronto would realize it, but the reality of paring down personal debt to a financially healthy zero-balance can be simple without always being easy.
It comes down to shifting how we see credit and spending in general, changing the momentum one decision at a time. Once a person experiences a change in one action and starts feeling the benefit of less debt, more money and a greater sense of personal accountability, carrying that on through other decisions becomes something that individual wants to do and gets almost too excited about to stand it.
These steps aren’t necessarily one-time, Earth-shaking moves that will instantly drop thousands off your debt ledgers in one fell swoop. Taken one after another, they are the important moves that can bring about a combined altering of attitudes toward your personal finances in such a way that the bigger, seemingly “impossible” changes seem excitingly possible.
- MAKE AN HONEST BUDGET
Where you stand right now doesn’t have to determine where you can go. One way or another, it does determine the available routes toward your destination. Before you can wipe your debt out, you must establish a budget that trims the unnecessary spending.
Mint.com, Quicken QuickBooks and Microsoft Excel are all platforms that can lay out your monthly expenditures at a glance in clear and concise fashion. Take a look at every place where you normally spend your income and ask yourself either, “How necessary is it that I spend my money here?” or “Do I really need to spend this much?”
Don’t bring yourself down with unnecessary self-shaming if you ultimately deem your personal spending a bit indulgent. See that as a signal that you’ve identified the more positive route that will lead you somewhere else.
- START SMALL, PAY MORE, AND WORK YOUR WAY UPWARD
Drawing down immediately on the biggest, most intimidating debt in your ledger could intimidate and discourage you right from the start into asking yourself, “Look at the size of that balance! How am I ever going to get rid of that?”
Don’t do it. Pay off some smaller debts first. That proves to yourself that you really can take responsibility and pay these balances off. Once the momentum begins and your confidence bills, turn to the highest-interest credit card debt that remains and work your way down from there with the same new-found confidence and discipline. Commit yourself to paying as much as you reasonably can above the highest-interest card’s minimum payment monthly, including making weekly payments if feasible. Keep up the minimum payment on the remaining cards beneath it on the food chain and up the payment on the next one as soon as you’ve paid off the highest annual percentage rate (APR).
Get creative and resourceful. If you happen to have a card that offers zero-interest balance transfers, move the balance with the highest interest to that card and wipe out one debt immediately – just make sure the balance transfer doesn’t expire before you’ve paid off the debt. Meanwhile, consider pouring at least some of your “bonus” income throughout the year from taxes or your job toward paying down or paying off debt.
- CALL A CEASEFIRE ON (SOME) SPENDING
We aren’t suggesting a vow of poverty. We are telling you to take drastic measures to stop prolonging your debt cycle by putting more spending on credit as soon as you’ve paid your balances down.
On a day-to-day basis, leave your credit cards at home when you go out. Carry cash instead, so that what you physically have on your person is what you can spend, period. Cashback or travel rewards can just get too tempting when you’re trying to change your ways, so don’t leave yourself that option until you’re comfortable that you have a responsible perspective on credit.
The Internet just makes the slope more slippery. Don’t store credit card information with online retailers – it just makes spending on them altogether too easy. If you have to actually physically enter your card every time you make a purchase, it gives you time to pause and let the reality of once more increasing your debt sink in and affect your choice.
- CHANGE IS A VICTORY – CELEBRATE IT!
Small victories are still victories, and positive reinforcement is still a tried-and-true method of behavioral alteration. If you’ve long labored under the yoke of debt, treat every reduction as an occasion worthy of reward.
As you change your daily habits to start viewing your spending more realistically and cut costs reasonably where you can – cutting dine-out lunches at work down to one per week or eliminating a few lattes per week – treat yourself in such a way that you aren’t completely living a Spartan lifestyle that just isn’t “you.” Take in a movie. Go out for drinks with friends. Let the treats become motivations that remind you that you’ve accomplished something when you wipe out one outstanding debt after another.
Even when applying these simple (not necessarily easy) rules, it can be difficult to know where to truly begin. Change can be scary, Toronto – we understand that. We’re here to help, though.
Share your struggles with us. Our consultants and counselors are here to listen and help you change the way you approach debt so that you can pay it off, walk away from it, and never look back.