If you want to get out of debt and stay out of debt for life, budgeting is essential. All the same, merely having a budget isn’t quite enough. You have to have a budget that you can stick to, and check in with yourself often to make sure that you stay on the straight and narrow. If you aren’t quite sure how to do this, these tips should help.
Write it down
Take an honest look at all of your financial responsibilities. Gather all of your monthly bills and draft a budget. Tally all of your monthly living expenses in addition to your debt. You can use online resources like Mint.com, or even a general spreadsheet to help you complete this step. The most important thing is getting it all down on paper.
Know where you are
Subtract your monthly expenses from your income to get a clear picture of where you are financially. From here, begin making adjustments.
Paying off your debt
Use your excess income to help draw a baseline for your debt repayment. Start off with credit cards you have that carry a small balance, but that have a high interest rate. Funnel all of your excess cash toward that debt until it is paid off. Rinse and repeat this process for each debt you have until you can become debt free. Of course, that will also require some additional budgeting adjustments for most households.
If your budget shows you that you have more obligations than resources, it’s time to scale back your lifestyle. Cut out things like entertainment, dining out, and cable. The cost of financing anything is too high, whereas cash will always be king. Remember, things are replaceable, and you are paying more to own things you finance than what they will ever be worth. You can always replace things later on, or add services, and entertainment as you free up more of your money that you aren’t throwing toward your debt. The trick is to craft a budget and a plan that you can stick to. Simplifying your life is a great way to do that.
Think about the last time you started a fitness routine or tried to kick a bad habit; having a partner by your side, holding you accountable is crucial. Involve your family in your plan. Explain why you need to scale back some areas, and get their input on those things. From here, review your budget once per week with your family or your partner to make sure that you are on track. Then, adjust as necessary. After a while, budgeting (and sticking to your budget) will become second nature.