No More Sleepless Nights: A Smart Plan for Debt-Free Living
Having a pile of debts to worry about is not fun. Seriously. Who wants to spend their Friday nights at home, with the phone turned off, because they’re afraid that they might run into a debt collector if they step outside of their home or make themselves available? It’s so stressful, that some people commit suicide over their ordeal. Don’t do that. There’s help out there if you need it, and there is a way out that doesn’t involve bankruptcy.
Time To Create A Budget
There’s no time like the present to create a budget. If you’re in debt, know that the easiest way to get out is to create a surplus – a savings. It’s as simple as spending less than you make. And, a budget is the best way to organize all of your spending and savings.
Once you’ve got your income and expenses sorted out, all you have to do is start making cuts or prioritizing your expenses so that you can dig yourself out of this hole.
Get a spreadsheet program or a few sheets of paper – it doesn’t really matter. Now, write down all of your income and expenses. Write income down in one column, on one sheet. Write down all of your expenses in another, on another sheet.
When you’ve finished with that, add everything up. Now it’s time to figure out where you can make cuts to your expenses or increase your income.
Consolidate Your Debts, If You Can
According to Debt Consolidation USA, there are three ways to consolidate your debts: debt consolidation loans, debt consolidation companies, and home equity loans or lines of credit. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses.
A debt consolidation loan, for example, requires you to have excellent credit since it’s typically an unsecured loan. This may not be suitable for you if you’re already a little behind on some of your bills. A home equity loan is more feasible when you still have decent credit, but you’re having a little trouble making payments.
A debt consolidation company is usually necessary when you can no longer pay your bills. These companies negotiate with lenders and creditors to help you lower your overall payments and debt load.
Sometimes, you’re able to reduce the total amount of the debt you owe, and other times you just reduce the payment, and extend the terms of loans so that they can be paid off.
In most cases, debt negotiators are causing part of your debts to be written off, which will hurt your credit. The benefit is that you’re not hurting yourself quite as much as if you filed for bankruptcy.
Cut Costs Where You Can
If you cannot consolidate debts, for whatever reason, it’s time to look at ways to cut costs. Maybe you can get rid of your cell phone plan and move to a landline – it may be a tough pill to swallow, but people lived for hundreds of years without a cell phone. You might be able to get a Trac phone or something similar for emergency purposes if you really think you need something.
Another area to look is your entertainment costs. People spend a lot more than they need to on the weekends. It’s OK to have fun and relax, but maybe you need to buckle down and cut back on the partying.
Your grocery budget is yet another area that can be safely modified without sacrificing nutrition or satiety. Most people eat at least some junk food, and the perception is that this is cheaper than eating healthy. The reality is that healthy food can be cheap. You should also focus on eliminating food waste, which is one of the hidden food expenses.
Beans and lentils, for example, are very cheap and easy to prepare – no not the canned beans either. Dry beans that need to be soaked overnight are one of the cheapest meals you can buy. They’re loaded with fiber and protein, as well as minerals and even many important vitamins.
Liver, a traditionally uneaten meat in America, is loaded with iron, b-vitamins, essential vitamin A, and zinc. And, it’s cheap. If you grill or smoke it, it’s also very palatable. Look for calf’s liver if you don’t like the traditionally gamey taste of beef liver.
Aside from that, cheap eats include sweet potatoes, regular russet potatoes, peas, and peanut butter. Bacon is a little on the pricey side, but it pairs well with salad – another cheap lunch or dinner idea. Chicken breast has become a little overrated. Opt for thigh meat or leg quarter, which can be purchased at a fraction of the price and are just as healthy for you.
Do Not Increase Your Debts
Don’t spend any money on any other debts – do not take out a loan, do not go to Rent-A-Center. Do not sign up for any “deals” that require monthly payments. Pay for things in one go, with cash. Pretty soon, you’ll be out of debt, and you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.
Author Bio: Lizzy Bale is a happily married mother of three who loves to enjoy life one day at a time. She loves the outdoors. She loves hiking and swimming the most. When she does have to stay indoors, she likes to contribute her experiences with personal finances, paying down debt and managing the household budget.
Image via Andrew_Ciervo, modified by me.