Pay It Off & Keep It Off
Climbing Out of $16,000 in Credit Card Debt
A New Father Shares 5 Tips on How He Climbed Out of Debt
One of the most challenging times in one’s life, both on a personal level and a financial level, is becoming a new parent. It’s something my wife and I are currently planning for and as we have learned it is a complicated issue to plan for.
We can google the costs associated with a new baby, but until it gets here we can’t know for sure what that baby will do to our monthly budget. The biggest financial challenge is not the new costs associated with a new baby but the reduction of income from one or both parents taking time off from work.
Increasing costs, decreasing incomes and lack of sleep seem like a good recipe for piling up loads of debt. That’s what happened to one new father who racked up $16,000 in credit card debt after having his first child.
After he taped his very last dollar to the steering column of his truck, he decided to focus on channeling all his efforts towards paying off every last penny of credit card debt. He was good enough to share the lessons he learned for getting out of debt on Reddit.
1. “Later” never comes
When paying off debt it’s important to be very specific with your timelines.
- What day of the month are your payments due?
- How long would it take you to pay off your debt making the minimum payments?
- What date do you plan to be debt-free?
- How much do you need to add to your monthly payment to ensure you hit your debt-free target date?
Simply saying you’ll deal with your debt “later” is a sure-fire way to keep piling on more debt and getting deeper into the debt spiral.
2. Pick a debt repayment strategy you can stick to
In his original post, the new father recommends using Dave Ramsey’s snowball approach to debt repayment. I’ll take this opportunity to highlight both the snowball and avalanche methods to pay off debt, both of which have 4-simple steps.
The snowball method
Step 1: List your debts from smallest to largest.
Step 2: Make minimum payments on all your debts except the smallest.
Step 3: Pay as much as possible on your smallest debt.
Step 4: Repeat until each debt is paid in full..
The alternative to the snowball method is the avalanche method, which also has 4 steps.
Step 1: List all your debts from the lowest interest rate to the highest interest rate.
Step 2: Make minimum payments on all your debts except the debt with the highest interest rate.
Step 3: Pay as much as possible on your debt with the highest interest rate.
Step 4: Repeat until each debt is paid in full.
So, which method is right for you? It depends entirely on your personality.
If you are easily discouraged the snowball method may be the right choice for you. By paying off your lowest balance debt first you get a psychological boost from seeing a quick “win” which provides motivation to keep going.
If motivation is not an issue for you the avalanche method might be a good fit. By eliminating the debt with the highest rate of interest first, you ensure you minimize the amount of interest you pay and can pay off your debt in the most efficient way possible.
It doesn’t matter which method you choose as long as you stick to the game plan.
3. “The Joneses can suck it”
You may have heard the term “keeping up with the Joneses”. It refers to many peoples’ need to spend money to impress their friends, family, and neighbors. If some people see their neighbor just bought a new car, they feel compelled to go out and buy an even more expensive car.
As the new father pointed out in his Reddit post, you’ll never be able to get out of debt and stay out of debt if you “buy things you don’t need, to compete with people you don’t care for anyways.”
4. Pick up a side hustle
This comes down to simple math. The more money you make the more money you have to pay off your debt and the faster you can become debt-free. If you have the option to pick up over-time hours at work or pick up a side-hustle, you’ll be able to increase the amount of money you have to throw at your debt.
5. Be obsessed with your goal
Managing your finances is more about psychology than math. The math is easy to figure out. The hard part is maintaining the discipline required to climb out of the debt hole. Paying off $16,000 in credit card debt is no easy task. It will require sacrifice and for some people a complete change in lifestyle. It will be tempting to quit when things get hard. The only way to guarantee you achieve your goal of living debt-free is to become obsessed with making that goal a reality.
In his Reddit post, the new father recommends putting sticky notes around your house and office with $0.00 written on them. This serves as a constant reminder of your goal; having a credit card balance of $0.00.
Yes, you still need an emergency fund
The only point I disagree with from the Reddit post was the advice to “save nothing until the debt is paid off.” While I understand the impulse to take this approach, the very first step for any successful debt repayment strategy should be setting up an emergency fund.
If you don’t have cash on hand in case of emergency, you leave yourself vulnerable to loading on more debt. Remember, the goal isn’t simply to get out of debt but also to stay out of debt for the rest of your life.
Let’s say you’ve spent the last 6 months throwing every penny against your credit card debt. You’ve been doing a great job paying it down and are starting to feel good about your financial situation. Then it happens. Your car breaks down and you need to pay the mechanic. Where are you getting that money from if you have no savings?
You are borrowing it.
You’ve spent the last 6 months paying off debt, and now the debt piles right back up. That can be a deflating feeling and even causes some people to give up or lose hope.
The best way to keep the debt off is to build some savings as you pay off the debt. It could take you longer to become debt-free, but it will increase your odds of staying debt free moving forward.
I’d love to hear from you. Do you have experience paying off debt? What tips can you share that helped you along your debt-free journey? Let me know in the comments below.
This article is for informational purposes only, it should not be considered Financial or Legal Advice. Consult a financial professional before making any major financial decisions.