Many of us, when looking at the debt we have, feel despair: How is it possible to pay down so much debt? When my husband and I were first married, I had credit card debt, and it didn’t take long for him to get into the spirit of using credit cards, since we were poor students without jobs.
A couple years later, we were staring at the bills and wondering how we ended up with so much credit card debt. We had income by then, but it wasn’t much. We were already so careful about our spending! How could we cut back even more? How could we find the money to pay down debt?
The cold, hard truth, of course, was that we really weren’t being careful with our spending. I had an “ah-ha” moment when I read a book my mother gave me, Debt Free on Any Income. The book suggested that studies show that the average household wastes between 10% and 15% of its monthly income. After taking another, more honest, look at our finances, it became clear that there was still plenty of room in our budget.
All we had to do was find the waste and apply it to our debts.
Turning Monthly Financial Waste into Debt Reduction
The first thing you have to do when you decide it’s time to pay down debt is identify the sources of waste in your monthly budget. You can get a good start on this by recognizing the differences between needs and wants. Needs are items that relate directly to your surivival: shelter, food, basic clothing, transportation to work. Take a look at your needs, and then identify all of the wants that you are spending your money on. Part of the reason that so many of us are “financially fragile” is due to an inability to really make a distinction between needs and wants.
Once you realize that many of the things you spend money on are actually wants, you can begin to make changes. Cancel TV subscriptions, stop eating out so much, realize that you may not “need” that expensive cell phone plan. You can take all that money you’ve been spending on unnecessary items, and apply it toward paying down your debt. If you want to get really serious about it, consider selling one of your cars (if you have more than one) and making better use of public transportation. The amount you save on gas, insurance and maintenance might surprise you. The same can be said of downsizing to a more modest home.
Generate More Income
Another strategy to help you find the money to pay down debt is to make more money. Look for ways to increase your income, and put that income toward paying down debt. You can get a part-time job, start a side hustle, or build an income portfolio.
Consider opportunities to work from home, or do odd jobs around your neighborhood. There are any number of ways that you can generate more income than you have currently.
Combine your newfound income streams with your efforts to reduce the financial waste in your budget, and your debt will disappear faster than you thought possible.