The Really Quite Good Guide to Pay Off Debt

I woke up one morning worried I wasn’t going to be able to pay my bills, let alone pay off my debt. I was scared. Debt had taken over my life.

You see I took a risk and moved to Miami for a woman I loved. I didn’t have a full-time job, enough savings, or at this point enough to pay my monthly bills. I was swimming in the middle of the ocean and couldn’t see land.

My story has a happy ending. I paid off thousands and thousands of dollars of personal debt. I know what it’s like to be in debt and I know how to get of debt.

The Really Quite Good Guide to Pay Off Debt will take you through some of my personal experiences and recommendations to pay off debt. Read this and you will be taking the necessary steps to get rid of debt once and for all.  

BUDGET

The number one reason I paid off debt was that I had a budget.

I paid off over $100,000 in personal debt and it all started with a budget.

This is the honest truth if I would have not started paying attention to what I was spending and telling my money where to go I would still be getting monthly bills from my student loans instead I paid them off years ago.

When I first started I was not making a lot of money, in fact, I was barely making it.

My previous budget involved checking my ATM receipts to see how much money was available for anything from a cash withdrawal to a monthly student loan payment. Let me tell you something:

“THAT SH*T DON’T WORK”

I wish I could tell you that I realized I was being bad with money and the next day I was calculating my perfect budget on my handcrafted excel budget sheet.

“THAT SH*T IS NOT TRUE”

I started with writing my first budget on a piece of paper, moved on to using an online application called Mint and then creating my own excel budget sheet. It all takes time but most importantly I had to start somewhere.

I recommend the Zero Sum Budget because it’s simple and I like simple when it comes to budgets

Budgets to many people are a scary word, they do not have to be scary. In fact, it’s all about facing the big ugly word head-on.

Many things in life are difficult to start, but once you get the basics down it becomes easier and easier until it’s almost no work at all.

Is my pep talk working? Great! Then let’s do this. I’ll walk you through step by step.

Example of a Budget

Start by grabbing a notebook, pen, and a calculator

This is going to be the first budget we do and it doesn’t have to be difficult in fact the easier it is the better.

1) Write down your income at the top of the page

If you make $2,000 every paycheck and get paid twice a month, write $4,000 on the top of the page. If you have your pay stub or bank statement close by feel free to use exact numbers, but if not use an estimate of what your income is.

2) Below that write down your expenses

I like to write down what my expenses are just to the right of where I plan to put the dollar amount of what things will cost. For example, I will write down “Cell Phone” and then the dollar amount to the left of the description. Again this is a work in progress so if you have your monthly bills close by use the exact numbers, if not an estimate will work just fine.

3) Try to get that number to zero

Here is where the calculator comes in. After you have written down all the expenses you can think of start reducing each expense from your income. I like to keep a running total just to the right of my description.

As you get closer to zero and cannot think of any more expenses to add write down one last category, savings. Take the remaining running total and add that amount to bring the total to zero. It’s OK if you go past zero on your first budget, no judgment here.

4) Repeat

This is a great start to a zero-based budget and it was simple. As you get more comfortable with your budget, I recommend getting more accurate and personal to your situation. It may start with a piece of paper and an estimate, but over time this will more closely resemble an accurate financial plan each month of your income and expenses.

CONGRATULATIONS and remember:

“THIS SH*T WORKS”

This is the beginning of getting your money doing what you want it to do rather than letting it slip through your fingers. No more paycheck to paycheck, know where your money is going.

Beginning with a budget is the answer to paying off debt. I know that with a budget you will pay off debt faster and more efficiently.

I challenge you to take your written budget from above and take the next steps to work on crafting a more detailed personal budget that reflects your income and expenses to help you take the next steps to pay off debt.

PAY OFF DEBT

I went out to get the mail each and every day while in Miami. Getting the mail as a kid is fun, I even remember calling companies to get free magazines just so I could get more mail and Yes I was a weird kid.

As an adult, my mail consisted of junk mail and bills. I remember opening up my private student loan statement to see my monthly payment had increased by triple the amount I was previously paying.

Shortly after this, I found myself in Chicago working full-time at my old summer college job. Things had to change. I knew I had to take action and pay off my debt.

I had small debt, medium debt, large debt and I was in the goldy locks phase of deciding how to pay off debt.

Strategies to Pay Off Debt

The most common strategies to pay off debt are for whatever reason based off of snow. As funny as this sounds, maybe you are familiar with them:

  • Debt Snowball is a debt reduction strategy where the primary focus is to pay off the smallest debt first regardless of the interest rate. The advantage of this strategy is psychological as paying off small amounts of debt gives you immediate wins and motivates you to keep going.
  • Debt Avalanche is a debt reduction strategy where the primary focus is to pay off the highest interest rate regardless of the amount of debt. The advantage of this strategy is mathematical as paying off the largest interest rate is the fastest strategy to pay off debt.

I recommend the Debt Snowball which is what I used during my debt pay off journey, but I care more about the strategy that YOU will stick with.

It’s important to remember paying off debt is more about your mindset than it is a math problem

The best way to get started with the Debt Snowball is to list all of your debts from smallest to largest on a sheet of paper or a Google sheets file.

Facing your debt is one of the hardest things to do in this process. The great news is you are on the road to Even Steven and being Debt Free!

Now you will focus all of your energy, hard work, hustle, and money on eliminating the smallest debt.

Even Steven Money what about my other debts those are not just going to pay themselves?

Correct, while all of your focus is on the smallest debt we will be making the monthly minimum payments on the larger debts. Even better make sure to have all of your payments set up automatically.

We want little wins, we want to feel good for knocking out that first debt! Do you have your strategy selected? Are you ready to kick a** and take names? Fantastic I want to hear all about it.

Like my Facebook page and tell me all about it! I love and I repeat LOVE hearing about how people are winning with money.

SAVE MONEY

When I first moved back to Chicago I had no money and was living with a family member who let me stay at his house until I was able to get back on my feet financially. I had to save money because I didn’t have any!

I was able to find a job shortly after my arrival and my suburb living was changing to life in the Windy City. My family member practiced tough love or he didn’t want me eating all of his food, both respectable decisions.

After finding a place for cheap and with a couple extra roommates near my new job I had to eliminate one of my expenses. I made the choice to sell my Mercedes Benz aka Benzo de Lorenzo.

You are probably wondering what I was doing with a Mercedes Benz while barely being able to make monthly payments on my bills? The best answer I have:

I'm an idiot, please learn from my mistakes.

Here’s the thing there are hundreds and thousands of ways to save money. I sold my Mercedes Benz on Craigslist and lived with 2 random roommates less than a mile from work. My story on how to save money is going to be different than your story.

Examples of How to Save Money

Type in your Google search “How to Save Money”. Find anything? Yes, over 2 billion results. Crazy I know. Don’t worry I don’t expect you to click on every article.

guy gives thumbs up

Clearly, this guy gets it

Click on one from the first page that intrigues you. I chose the America Saves article.
America Saves is a campaign coordinated by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and is dedicated to helping individuals save money, reduce debt, and build wealth.

The article has 54 different ways to save money, I bet at least one of them you can apply to your current situation. I like saving BIG money first, so I always start with the largest expenses of most households. Home, Transportation, and Food.

We hit on the first 2 with my personal experience let’s try our hand at the third, Food. Food Savings Suggestions from America Saves:

  • Brown bag your lunch
  • Commit to eating out one fewer time each month
  • Plan your meals in advance and stick to a list while grocery shopping
  • Shop by unit price
  • Stick to water
  • Save time and money by doubling the recipe

Pick one thing on this list and get to it! I’m choosing “brown bag your lunch” as my example. It’s an easy win and can save you money at the local lunch spot that charges $10 per meal. Let’s say 1x per week you brought your brown bag lunch and it cost $5, so you saved $5 every week by doing this.

$5 X 52 Weeks = $260 year. That’s an extra student loan payment! More money wins!! Remember just in this one article alone they mention 54 possible ways to save and I chose this article as one of 2 billion search results. So many ways to save money.

Guess what I want you to do after you save money? Tell me all about it! Take a picture of your ham sandwich or the brown bag you are taking with you to work, follow me on Facebook and then shout out to me with the #mywaytosavemoney and tag me.

EARN EXTRA MONEY

My first 9-5 job in Chicago was earning 30K per year or $15 an hour at a bank. I wanted to pay off my debt fast, I needed more money. I was already finding ways to save money, but the next step was to earn extra money.

The best way I knew how was to start selling items on eBay.

I had experience in the past from college and Miami selling on eBay. From earning beer money in college to earning money to pay the bills in Miami, I knew I could make money.

In Chicago, I was buying new or gently used clothes from a local thrift store. I’ll save the details for another day, but the story is I was earning extra money above and beyond my 9-5 job at the bank.

$100 and even $1000 a month. Imagine yourself making extra payments on your debt and watching the balance take a giant plunge from $19,000 to $18,000. It made me smile paying off large amounts of debt.

Earning more money is the secret sauce to pay off debt.

How Do I Earn Extra Money?

The first thing to do is look at what you already do or have experience with, it’s the common sense approach to earning more money. Teachers make great tutors, it’s already part of what they do every day.

If you would rather break away from your everyday experiences this is the right time to be alive.

The new gig economy has opened up the world to earn more money. Own a car? Drive for Uber or Lyft. Own a home? Rent out a room on Airbnb. Like to make things? Start an Etsy shop. Love dogs? Become a dog walker on Wags.

If you are looking for more ideas, check out Side Hustle Nation’s 99 Side Hustle Business Ideas You Can Start Today for ideas and inspiration.

The extra income you make is the difference in paying off your student loans in 10 years versus 3 years, it that’s BIG of a deal.

The key is to start today. I believe that every single person can make extra money on the side.

Be proud of what you are doing to pay off debt. You don’t have to drive for Lyft forever, rent your home on Airbnb, or walk dogs on Wags for the rest of your life, but to pay off debt fast you do have to earn extra income.

I want to hear more send me a direct message me on Facebook or tag me and include #payoffdebtFAST with your picture or story.

MONEY MINDSET

When I first started thinking about how much money I owed to the federal government and big banks my preference would have been to stick my head in the sand. In fact, that’s what I did at first.

I remember adding my bank and credit information into Mint, a popular budget website. Then I froze, the part I didn’t want to input was my student loan information. I was afraid to know how much I owed. Student loan debt was my biggest fear.

Eventually, I entered my student loan information and faced my fear. Something changed after that. Just being able to stand up and acknowledge I owed thousands of dollars was a big deal for me.

I began reading personal finance blogs like JD Roth’s Get Rich Slowly. Then I started listening to Dave Ramsey, personal finance expert, and radio host. The library became my happy place and I began reading everything they had to offer on paying off debt, budgets, and saving money. I became a money expert.

My mindset changed from being scared of debt to being confident that I was going to conquer debt.

I was going to win and debt was going to lose.

The steps are outlined here: budget, pay off debt, save money, make money. Money mindset matters more than all of them put together. When you change your mindset to one that will win with money, the game becomes fun.

Your mindset will change because you are focusing on the right steps. The budget is created and you are telling your money where to go. In your own voice or Kevin Hart’s which can also be really fun, tell your money where to go.

You are looking for ways to save money and make extra money to pay off debt. I believe in you!

Change your mindset.

Need help? I am happy to help, check out my Facebook page to help you get in the right money mindset. It will give you the chance to talk directly with me, someone who has paid off over $100,000 in personal debt including student loans, credit cards, personal loan, and a car note.

Take Action

I know how difficult it can be to get out of debt, save money, make extra money, and budget. If you read this entire article you are on your way to paying off debt.

Take action! Read how to pay off debt as many times as you need, send as my Facebook comments of your brown bag lunch as you want!

I can’t wait to see the picture of the last time you ever make a monthly student loan payment and you are Even Steven and Debt Free.

If you read through this and are looking for more personal attention to get on the road to win with money, I am available.

This is exactly why I started Even Steven Money and why I’m working to be America’s favorite Money Coach. I’m here to help you achieve your goals and win with money.

 

>