What Major Changes Did You Make to Be Debt Free?

Updated on November 21, 2010
M.D. asks from Rockport, TX
41 answers

I have read Dave Ramsey and we "tried" it for a month or so. Then we quickly went astray without even realizing it. I really want these credit card bills gone!!!! I stay home and sometimes I feel like I need to get a job just to make credit card payments! My husband makes more than enough for me to stay home and us live comfortably the problem is these cc bills. So I am determined to get back on the debt free wagon. Im wondering what extreme measures you went to to get rid of the debt. We try keeping cash out for spending money but we always spend that and more. (this is our biggest problem- the amount of money we blow each month) We talk about a good budget but never follow thru. I know we "blow" way more money than necessary. How do we change our lifestyle to to make this debt go away! Really, I know what we need to be doing- I just need some encouragement to get it done. My husband always says "yeah- I will do whatever we need to" Next thing I know- he got a 50.00 car wash and went out to eat all week. Sometimes I just dont think he gets how those daily 10.00 purchases quickly add up. So my question is what was that life changing moment for you and what extremes did you go to to get it done?

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S.H.

answers from Abilene on

You just have to practice self control. I know it's hard. Have you thought about instead of keeping spending money available, pay it toward the credit card right off the bat? Then, always keep the credit card "on ice" in the freezer for emergencies.

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C.S.

answers from Las Vegas on

I look at the account daily. When I see a ridiculous charge or multiple charges, I call him to ask what he has done. That's all it takes. He knows I am not happy about his spree and he cools it, for a while. I hardly spend any money.

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D.P.

answers from Pittsburgh on

Follow Dave's plan and do the debt snowball....BUT it will not work unless you CUT UP the credit cards IMMEDIATELY! You do need a budget. Add up all of your credit card payments...THAT is where all your money s going. No mall, no purchases until those are paid off. Good luck.

p.s. Car washes and lunches need to come out of his CASH allotment for the week--when it's gone its gone.
You need to get serious and just do it.

Trust me--it will be WELL worth it. And it feels great! :-)

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J.F.

answers from Minneapolis on

Your family needs to visit people living in much less "lavish" lifestyles and realize how much you really have and maybe don't need.

We downsized to a much smaller home and had to get rid of a TON of stuff so we could fit. When I'm out shopping, I ask myself, "Do I need it or do I want it?" I'm trying to teach my 3 year old daughter that, too. She has shocked me by saying she didn't need something and wanted me to take it out of the cart. I also keep a check of the toys and what WILL fit in our limited storage.

Go through your house and sell unwanted items on Craigslist and only use that money to buy new things (maybe someone else unwanted items on Craigslist. It is almost foolish to buy everything brand new.

With Christmas coming up, really think about each present your get for your kids and if it will be just another box to open or an actual toy/gift that will be used over and over again. Try to set a financial limit and a number limit on gifts. Starting next year, start pre-buying your birthday and Christmas gifts. My daughter's birthday is in a few days and I've had 99% of her birthday and Christmas gifts purchased, as well as her sister's Christmas gifts. I bought most of them on clearance or at a great discount at name brand stores. It is the most relaxed holiday season I have ever had (and cheapest!).

And of course, your husband needs to pack his lunch more days than not and either wash his own car or only get it washed (cheaply) once every couple of weeks (if that is important to him).

We drive old cars that we take good care of and still look nice. It is much cheaper to repair the little things that go wrong on a monthly basis than to make a car payment and make repairs.

Lastly, stop using your cards and put them away. If you have to use the card, really ask yourself if you NEED to use it.

It's do-able if you have the income you say you have. And to keep yourself on track, ask yourself what you are teaching your children about budgeting and finance. Do you want them to have credit card debt? I know that is a heavy load to think about.....that is what keeps me going!

I hope I have motivated you and not offended you! That was not my intent!!!

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A.B.

answers from New York on

Life-changing moment: All of our credit cards maxed out.... $60,000 of cc debt and not enough income to make the minimum payments. and a 50-year pay-off plan...

I went into credit counseling. If you can manage your payments, there is no need for that. But what credit counseling did for me was this:

I had to close ALL my credit card accounts. I had to work out a budget on paper and see what i earn and what i spend.

How I made my hubby follow it (who is much like yours): I cook EVERY day. I buy all the meats with a cap of $1.98 per pound except deli meat. I make sure he is never out of the supplies he needs to make lunch. he will buy a $10 sub in a heart beat if there aren't enough "sub supplies" in our fridge. I make a GOOD dinner every night so we don't feel the urge to go out. I am willing to do this because we do not have a penny to spare.

We have to use Visa check cards now, so I can see every transaction on my bank website as they are occuring. I question EVERY ATM withdrawal or charge that isn't at a gas station or supermarket. It pisses him off, but we still have a roof over our heads (for now).

Things are still dire for us. After a 5 year lay-off for hubby... the same year he got a job, I lost mine. I can honestly say, if we didn;t have such crappy circumstances, I would have never become this diciplined. I wish I did though.... if only I had lived a little more like I do now, 5 years ago when he lost his job, we wouldn't be paying $1500 of money to credit card debt every month and facing the loss of our house.

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J.G.

answers from San Antonio on

If you stay home, then cook dinner each night and make leftovers for hubby's lunch the next day. It's easy for him to go out for lunch at lunchtime if you don't have a lunch ready-made for him. But perhaps your husband doesn't like leftovers or isn't disciplined to want to take a sack lunch. My husband IS very frugal and doesn't mind eating leftovers or a couple corn dogs for lunch. Eggs are cheap and he eats two hard boiled eggs every day too. We eat out VERY VERY VERY RARELY. It is just too expensive.

We shop by the grocery ads and often stock up when food's on sale. Like turkeys will be on sale soon I hope - we'll buy 4 and put them in the deep freezer and cook them during the upcoming months. WIth it, we'll make enchiladas, tacos, soup, sandwiches, pasta dishes, rice dishes.... One 15 lb turkey will last us (a family of 3) a good week including dinner and lunch.

Watch out for impulse buys. Yes I'd love a massage. I'd love to buy that new book that just came out. I'd love a pedicure or a new pair of jeans, but I dont' really NEED any of those. I write them on my wish list for Christmas and Birthday so when someone asks what I want, I have my list ready right there.

Cable & Cell phone -- find a better deal. Shop around. We don't have texting nor a fancy phone. We got the cheapest most reasonable package we could find. We wouldn't have cable if it didn't come with our rent. We used to use just bunny ears and Netflix and Hulu. If you have a computer and a nice tv, you can stream your Netflix movies and Hulu tv shows onto the tv.

Pay off the highest interest credit cards first. Then CANCELL them. We don't even have a credit card. We don't have any debt whatsoever. Part of that is due to my husband working and saving his money before we met.

Shop at thrift stores. I find great deals at our local thrift store. I buy Striderite shoes for my 2.5 yr old for $3 a pair whenever i find them. He's got shoes 3 sizes too big because I bought them when I found them in good shape at that cheap price.

Something I saw on TV the other day about grocery shopping - impulse buys. The gal puts the hand held basket in her push cart. Any impulse buy or item NOT on her list she'll put in the basket. Then when she gets to checkout, will look at her impulse 'basket' and decide if she really needs the items in there.

Best of luck. It really needs to be a 'two of you' thing and you both have to stick to it. BTW - our cars are dirty, but oh well. If I really want mine clean, I hand wash it in the driveway. It gets me off the couch and saves money too.

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C.T.

answers from Houston on

I do not know how to really express this in writing but you BOTH have to really want it.

Someone needs to take the reigns and pull the other in.

You need to get on Excel and put together a budget. At the beginning of the month pay all bills and take the rest out in cash. Take your husbands and your credit cards away.

Separate the cash in your envelopes and that is all you have to spend. If you run out of money in one envelope, you will have to steal from the other envelope.

You BOTH have to want this to make it work.

We now pay for everything in cash. Hunting season begins this weekend. I asked how much he needed. He said he needed $250. He took it in cash. I told him that is all he had to spend. This helps our marriage and my sanity.

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C.R.

answers from Dallas on

You need to use cash for everything other than paying bills. Withdraw a set amount of cash each payday. Once that cash is gone on expensive car washes or out to eat then you are done spending until the next payday. Don't carry a credit card, cut them all up. Don't carry a check book, don't carry a debit card. Only carry cash. No ATM cards either. You have to set limits and then live within them. That way all extra money goes to pay off the smallest credit card, then the next smallest, etc.

Throw away the credit cards! We don't have one. We only go out to eat for dinner one night a week and after church on Sunday (some weeks not all). We don't spend more money than we have cash in our pocket.

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G.G.

answers from Austin on

Congratulations for trying to go debt free. You nailed it! You know exactly what needs to be done to pay off your debt. People do not realize how the teeny tiny little purchases add up in no time flat. Never, ever pay $50 for a car wash. Pay for the $5 wash. Then, take it home and wipe the inside out yourself; and spray your wheels with Armoral (50 applications for $2.50...how easy it to spray a wheel). If you need to run through a fast food drive through, only order 2 things off the dollar menu. Don't eat out at lunch more than 1x/week. Make sure you are making meals that have leftovers for your hubby or make him a lunch the night before. A huge saver is to not have car payments. Get your cars paid off and drive them to their death. We have nice cars but they are paid off. They are getting a little older but we take care of them. They don't look like hoopties. That alone saves us $1000 a month!! Watch your water usage and cranking the AC or heat during the day. People don't realize how much money you can save by conserving. Don't go to Target!! Target (at least for me and many of my friends) is a killer. It's hard to get out of there w/o seeing something you want. NEVER buy anything because you want it (at least until your debt is paid off)!! If you see something you like, put it on your xmas or bday list. Never buy it then. Don't buy coffee. Make it at home. Don't by deserts (make those too). You can make all kinds of fun smoothies and coffee drinks for a fraction of the cost. Look at your grocery list and figure out where you can cut back and what you are willing to live w/o. Plan your meals out every week and look at the grocery add first. Buy what's on sale (esp. meats). Prepackaged items are expensive. Don't buy your kids individual snacks. Buy a large bag and divide them in baggies. I know all of this sounds like a lot of work. It feels like it in the beginning. However, it will change your life in a good way forever. You just have to train yourself to do it. It doesn't come naturally. You can do it though!!! It's all a matter of will power. Lastly, look at the services you have. What can you cut out for a year, until your bills are paid off? It's not fun to cut out our luxuries (trust me, I want a housekeeper bad and so does my husband. It's not going to happen until I go back to work). Cut out your yard service (esp. this time of the year). Shop around for a new cable company and try to get a fantastic rate for 6 months. Eat out with your family no more than 1-2x/wk; and when you do, don't splurge; go to the inexpensive restaurants and use coupons whenever possible. Make your kids split a meal or eat off of you and your husband. Oh, and NEVER order drinks at restaurants. Never ever! You would be appalled by how much money you spend a year on beverages. Vow not to buy any more clothes, shoes, etc. for anyone until your CC's are paid off. I am certainly not the best dressed of many of my friends but we have no debt and we have lots of savings. I listen to them complain and worry about their finances all of the time! They are spending thousands and thousands on clothes every year. Fight your property taxes this year! Try to get them lowered. Call/shop around to see if you can get a lower car and home insurance rate. Lastly, you should consider tracking your expenses in a program. It hurts when you see how much you are spending in areas and you didn't even realize it. Good for you for trying to change your life!!!!! Once you have gotten everything paid off, you will feel awesome!!!!!! Then, vow to never buy anything on credit again. If you can't pay for it up front, don't buy it! Live by this rule. Post some important things to live by on your bulletin board. Never leave the house without reading your list (once per day!). The constant reminder will help keep you in check. I hope that many more Americans follow in your footsteps. Keep up the good work and don't get discouraged. These lifestyle changes won't be as hard as you think. ****OH, one last thought. I'm sure you already know this but just in case....never pay the minimum on your credit card bill or you will never pay it off. You need to make the largest payment you can afford every month. Make it count. The faster that debt is gone, the faster you can have your life back.

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S.T.

answers from Kansas City on

then you need to sit down and set a budget do the envelope system it really works we are doing his plan and we have paid off one cc already. pretty much if you are serious stop doing stuff that cost money there a lot of fun free stuff out there you can do with the kids!

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B.B.

answers from Missoula on

My husband and I have a cash system for spending money. The bills get paid out of our checking account, pretty much everything else we buy with cash. No cash, no purchase. We each get a certain amount each week in cash and when its gone, that's it, there is no more til next week. Our pocket money has to cover any eating out we do, any personal spending that isn't covered by our regular bills (for example, car washes, CDs, going to the movies, buying a cup of coffee, whatever). This has worked well for us, but we actually stick to it. We don't cheat and get more cash mid-week or use the debit card. When the cash is gone its gone. If my husband wants to blow his weekly "allowance" all at once he can, and so could I, we don't have to answer to each other for what we buy with it. But we would have to answer if we ever took more money than our weekly allotment. I know that for me, once I broke the habit of constantly buying things, I wanted to spend less money. It was a bit hard at first, but now its actually harder for me to spend than to save, and I'm much more careful with my money.
I buy groceries this way too, cash only, and I only have the cash in my wallet to feed my family for the week. I have gotten pretty good at getting everything we need, a few treats/extras and often have money left at the end of the week. I usually do cook almost all of our meals at home, which helps save money. I'm pregnant now and because I haven't been feeling well we have eaten out much more than normal, which adds up really fast. Cutting that out of your spending will make a big difference.
Sounds like you and hubby need to get on the same page financially, cause this will never work if you are not working toward the same goal, and you will only begin to resent each other.

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M.L.

answers from San Francisco on

I got tired of my paycheck ALWAYS being spent before I got it.. In which case, I cut up ALL my credit cards... paid them off, even if gradually.. did not allow myself to charge anything else.. STOPPED buying coffee out (which I did often) STOPPED going out to dinner (which I did often) STOPPED going into stores where I knew I would find something I liked and even though I did not need... this way, I got rid of the temptation.. Lastly...... I began to think in terms of my child's future...... Did I want him to go to college and IF so.. where.. would this cost.... of course the answer was YES.. I realized that I had I was an impulsive shopper....so now.. years later, no longer in debt.. I still have to watch myself so that I don't get into debt.. how do I do this... for example.. I go into a store, IF I see something I just LOVE.. I no longer buy it on the spot.. instead, I LEAVE the store... and wait a day or two.. If I really still want it (which often, I do not) I go back and get it... most of the time.. it's a passing phase..
Debt is one of those things you have to ask yourself, do you want to be a slave to it... and have it control you... or do you want to open up a world where you have more choices in life. you have MORE choices by less debt.. at first , when you get what you want instantly, it feels freeing.. but that is debt trying to trick you....... you really aren't free... so think about it..
also.. first and foremost.. get RID of those credit cards.. esp as Christmas approaches and tell your friends and family.. you aren't buying a ton of gifts this year because the gift to your family is getting out of debt. most caring people will understand your point of view and will provide support..

good luck! happy holidays!

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J.D.

answers from Dallas on

I have been going through the Crown Financial class and here are some things I am doing.

Review my budget weekly.

Take out cash each week for what I need and when it is gone, it is gone. I am learning quickly where to spend and where to save. This has at times meant less running around in the car to save on gas and eating left overs for days in a row (gasp!!).

I no longer have a Checking Visa debit card. If I need cash, I go to the bank to get it. I have re loadable prepaid card that I use for purchases that need a credit card, but the cash I take out is what I use to load the card.

It is a commitment and a learning process. I have paid off my car so far and working on taxes and credit cards. It is worth it...just keep trying. Some weeks you stay on track and some weeks you may not...you may need to tweak your plan here and there but if you both have the same goal and keep trying you can get there.

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M.L.

answers from Washington DC on

For $3.95, each of you can get a walmart prepaid VISA card with your monthly allowance on it. When it is gone, it is gone.
It can be used anywhere, including online

We gave up the following:
1. eating out, fast food, Schwans, and preprocessed foods. this was our biggest waste. also, he gave up alcohol(beer mostly)
2. driving around for fun. we began scheduling appointments on the same day(we lived in the country) and spending the entire day in town(exhausting with a child and not worth it. we had a cousin who babysat her for us)
3. Haircuts every 4-6 weeks instead of 3(not doable if working)
4. No vacations, no trips to friend's house who moved away
5. No gifts for anyone who wasn't a child of mine. We gave our nieces who we partly raised gifts away from everyone else. My MIL is the only one to make an issue of it to our face at least. His family and community expects a gift for every occasion(graduation, marriages, babies, new house). No wonder people think the town is loaded with rich people.
6. No more funeral flowers(minimum $30 per person if not close). (At the risk of sounding tacky, we gave memorials from an organization that we give to year round. "In honor of your dad a donation has been made) The lady said I could have a box to do myself or she would write them out. I just make a list when we send our check and she sends it to them.
7. No more fundraisers.
We were called Scrooge a couple of times, but it was worth it. Plus, we weeded people out of our lives who didn't respect us for changing. In our case, his parents flaunt money(I think) and people think we have it because they have it.
8. When someone invites us out, we didn't go most times. we do seperate checks if we go
9. Washed dog at home
10. shopped around for discount insurance, but didn't buy it because it didn't cover everything and the savings was minimal
11. basic satalite(no rentals) no movies
12. We actually wear clothes and shoes until a hole is worn in them(again, not doable when working). We literally wear the same clothes and two pairs of shoes over and over and over.
13. Donated our dryclean only to a charity that clothes people and college
students. It costs too much.
14. asked everyone to please give cash or a gift card to our favorite restaurant if they insisted on giving us a gift(we find most gifts totally useless and a waste)*I do not recommend this as it is considered very rude. Plus, my MIL was convinced we must secretly have more debt than our medical bills. She would have given us the money outright, but we would have paid forever in other ways and it was not worth it to us. We see how she treats her kids and relatives she bails out.
15. No magazines, newspapers, cds, movies, new games, etc..
16. mostly water with homemade ice tea or coffe in morning
17. bought a freezer which I find wasteful most of the time, but someone gave us 1/4 of a cow free and deer meat as well because we helped him when he was struggling.
18. gave up carwashes and detailing. quit eating in the car
19. gave away all clutter to people who could use it and donated rest. this made our house seem bigger and me not feel like i needed to buy expensive organization containers
20. hired a professional CPA to do our taxes. She went back and refiled getting us hundreds back for itemizing our medical bills, insurance, house taxes, etc..
21. Every time someone gave us a gift from a chain store(walmart,target),
we returned it for a store credit and tried to use it towards food, diapers, and things we needed. Be advised, without the receipt, there is a $500 yearly limit at walmart and you can only return things 3 times per year at Target. Plus, they might suspect you are a shoplifter. Luckily, my neighbor was one of the managers and when the snooty clerk called to tell him I was there again, he came up and told her he approved it and knows me.
***Many people will assume these changes are because you are totally lacking the funds and some will offer you cash handouts, which HORRIFIED my husband
22. Stopped watching HGTV and reading about fixing up houses, which I love to do. I also did not ever landscape backyards at all, which didn't hurt us at resale because the front yards were incredible.
23. No yearly checkups for the dog. I get her all her shots as scheduled and her boosters, but I stopped paying for the physical which was a scam to me anyway.
24. We don't kennel our dog. We let the MIL babysit her which she is GREAT at. our dog loves sitting all day and getting massaged in between snacks. It is like a doggy spa.
25. Paid cash for one vehicle and 1.95 interest on the second. We drive them until they are breaking down, at least 10 years. We do pay for the oil changes and tire rotations to make it last.
26. cloth diapers and rubber pants sometimes
27. stopped getting perms and my hair dyed. some people say my hair never looked better???(i never did pedis or manis)
28. stopped looking at ads, catalogs, commercials(thanks dish dvr) to avoid
getting tempted
29. stopped window shopping
30. cut back on watering the lawn and some on the a/c
31. over the top, invite every kid we know birthday parties with goody bags and food for the adults so everyone has a fun time
32. started carpooling to events with another M. though several moms do NOT want to start this and told me so
33. shopped without my child and learned to say NO when she goes along and asks for water, a donut, gum, a crappy toy in the checkout line, another coloring book....etc...
34.found people who can fix furniture instead of replacing it
35. tried line drying my new clothes to make them last longer(didn't stick)
36. Hubby got a vasectomy which cost $600
37. Made arrangements to pay medical bills directly with provider, no financing and no interest
38. Continued dental and medical care to try and prevent costly problems
39. Tried every year to negotiate lower house taxes. It never worked even when we had professional help.
40. Found a handyman who will come over any day for $20. He charges less than a specialist and so far he has done everything we asked. Of course, longer jobs cost more.

If I could get my husband to agree, I would give up cell phones, internet, satalite tv, the pool membership we were given, that later we had to renew at our cost, and my car.

I would also sell this house(though it is not big) and get the smallest wheelchair accessible house we could build. I would not let realtors, builders, or his parents tell me we can't build something that small because no one will ever buy it. We could save hundreds every month by living in only what we need and we don't plan on moving.

We are taking a proactive stand on our health so we have less doctor visits, less meds, and a better quality of life. We are working on changing our diet to include a big variety of vegetables. We have cut back on amount of steak and beef we eat. I am exercising at least once a day and sometimes twice.
We are playing outside and playing a lot of board games with our child and her friends.

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R.C.

answers from Nashville on

I'll admit to being cheap to begin with but my husband really got on board so we could pay off the house and tractor. The daughter's clothes go to consignment shops (mine & hubbies are too worn out), we eat at home every night, I pack lunch to work, I don't need a cell phone and don't want one. Honestly, I've never had a credit card and won't buy anything unless I have the cash to do so. I like the idea of freezing the credit cards if you are afraid of cutting them up just yet. You can do this but it'll mean both of you sticking to a budget. Our house is little and old and needs new windows but, by golly, it is ours.

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T.F.

answers from Dallas on

It is a lifestyle you make for yourself. Do not live beyond your means. Be debt free. Discipline and Delayed Gratification are musts.

For us, we don't carry debt except for our mortgage payment which is very low because we choose to save money and pay our own taxes and insurance vs the back benefitting on using our money all year.

We know without a shadow of a doubt that we will owe property taxes around $15,000 by Dec 31 of each year. We don't sit around and justify that the money will show up or we can fall back on a cc. We put that money away routinely. Same with our house insurance which is around $3000 a year and rolls around every Feb. We know it is coming.....we prepare. Discipline...

We do use 1 cc for our business and personal expenses and it is PAID IN FULL. I can't even tell you what an interest rate might be.... never used it.

We make cash deals when we need big ticket items. Ex: a total replacement and upgrade of our 2 ac systems/2 furnaces was around $20,000. We got a huge discount simply for paying cash. The dealer did not have to pay any extra fees because he was financing the deal OR pay the extra fees charged by the credit card companies.

Look around, be creative and you can figure out ways to save and make money.

We do blow a lot of money, mostly on eating out and entertainment. We are reimbursed for business entertainment, not at 100% but a portion. We run our own company and don't hire out things we can do ourselves. Same with personal, I could really use a service to help me clean my house but I am perfectly capable of doing it myself and I don't succumb to "most of my neighbors have housekeepers". The $80 a week I save on housekeeping turns into $4160/yr for ME!!!!

It is a matter of setting priorities and getting in the habit/routine. It does take 2. If 1 part of the team is not on board it is much harder to make it work.

Best wishes to you!

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J.P.

answers from Los Angeles on

We have almost always been "debt free", but live a really great life. I have students loans of $700/month (over the next 20 years), a mortgage and a motorcycle loan (just to keep opur credit fresh - it's only $265). Our other 2 vehicles are paid off. We have 3 credit card bills that get paid off every month.

Ok, so....

1.) Get a savings account, where you have to mail in a payment - not just electronically transer it. We have a credit union that has TWO branches: san francisco and chicago. If I set it up to have electronic access, it would be easy to transfer money. Instead....I mail in a check and if I need money out, I think long and hard before I call them, have them issue me a check and mail it to me.

2.) Do not use a debit card/credit card for small purchases. There is no tangibility to it. You spend it without thinking of it as money. My husband and I have cash in our wallet and when it's going fast, we start pulling the reins back. Once the money is gone, it's gone...and this is why...

3.) We pay ourselves first. I write a check 2x/month to our savings account.

4.) The second our credit card bills show up due, I pay them online, but schedule them out at their due date and then put it in my Quiken/Quick Books. Sometimes we are in the red by $800 or something, but that is the lookout....not the immediate picture. I know that money is already spoken for...so I'm less likely to spend money on frivelous purchases after visibly seeing that red total. I know the money will be there once we get paid...but for now, I see the red.

5.) I only have 3 credit cards and NO small department store cards. I don't care how much 20% for signing up will save me....it's not worth it on my credit.

1 card is a personal card for personal purchases
1 card is for business purchases
1 card is for internet purchases (so I can monitor any fraudulent activity quickly)

6.) I go to Costco and buy Jamba Juice, etc gift cards, since you can get $50 worth of food for $40. I also ask for gift cards for Christmas, birthdays, etc...and then use those when I feel like I want to shop, etc.

7.) I travel and use TravelZoo for our travel. Last year, my husband and I got to take a 7 day cruise to Mexico for $365 each...and we left out of a local port, so no plane tickets, etc. We saved so much money, that we updraged our room and it was still cheaper than a reguar room, if we had booked it out a year ealier.

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M.T.

answers from Norfolk on

Do you have other debts, too? Loans, mortage, car, etc.

Pay off you Ccs and only pay with cash or debit. Cut up your cards. It is liberating and forces you to only spend what you have in your pocket.

Itemize your expenses each month. Food. Clothing. Kids. Gas. Bills. And budget a sole account for those items only. If you are a spend thrift, give yourself an allowance and when your done that is it.

Good luck.

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A.L.

answers from Austin on

This is what I did. I wasn't very good at making a budget in advance, so I did a running budget. Every single time I spent money, I updated my budget for the month. I set up a spreadsheet to track income vs. payments. And put EVERYTHING on it. Saved every receipt, and entered it in. (Every cash withdrawal and ATM withdrawal was a receipt, but ATM fees were on a seperate line item. I still cringe at ATM fees, and imagine them as red lines on my spreadsheet.) It's one thing to have an idea of how much you're spending; it's another to have it right there, in black and white. Print it and post it on the fridge if you have to - I kept mine in the center of my desk. (I was still a student at the time.) You can figure out the best spreadsheet arrangement for you, that makes sense to you. Also, you know that your cable bill, car payments, etc, are going to be the same every month. So deduct that from your spreadsheet right away. After a couple of months of tracking, you'll have a good idea of what you spend on groceries and utilities every month, and what your credit card bills will be. Imagine that, too, is set aside. That money is untouchable. When you get the last paycheck of the month, you can see what's left over. What you do with the rest of it is up to you, but it sounds like paying down debt is your priority. (Though with the holidays coming up, you'll also be able to tell how much of that can be spent on gifts or travel or whatnot.) Financially, it does make the most sense to pay off whatever has the highest interest rate first. But. Emotionally, and for a jump-start - pay off what you can get rid of completely first. That way, you'll be able to SEE that you accomplished something toward your goal.

And as for cutting up the credit cards? They actually are pretty useful to have during emergencies, and cutting up the card is a hard step to take. I have friends who swear by this method: put it in a small ziploc baggie. Put that baggie into a bigger baggie, and fill that bigger baggie with water. Put the whole thing in the freezer. Now, you still have the card, but you can't read the number, and it's going to take a long time for it to thaw out enough to read it. (Can't put it in the microwave, or boil it!) Means you'll have a couple of hours to think about that purchase.

Hang in there! Whatever you decide to do, it can only help! Every little bit, a little bit at a time, and you'll get there!

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J.T.

answers from Killeen on

Wow, thanks for asking this question! I was able to learn a few things myself! It's really hard to set a budget for yourself. My husband and I have tried for several years and we still slip sometimes. The best thing I think we did was when I had 4 credit cards all maxed out.....I started by cutting them to tiny pieces and then choosing the one with the highest interest rate and "snowball." Basically I paid the minimum plus 2 dollars on three and paid as much as possible....100.00 per month, on the one until it was paid off...then move that 100.00 (plus the minimum I had been paying..) on the next one...and so on. I did do something drastic for him....he is the type if he has 20.00 or 200.00 cash in his pocket he'll spend it and have no idea where....so one credit card for him with a limit each payday...he also has a set amount of cash to use from our checking each payday. He knows he has this money and if he spends it all the first day, then he has nothing until the next payday. No exceptions. I've just recently started myself on a budget as well. It covers my fuel usage and meals, although I will be taking my lunches soon too! It's far too expensive to always eat out. We don't eat out much at home, maybe 1-2 times a month...and usually pizza. With 3 children the little expenses can take us over too. Just being careful and concentrating on getting the debt gone. Like the others stated you really need your husband on track with you. Setting mine up with a budget has really helped him. Good luck and have you looked into a home business? I have one that takes little start up and can earn you 200 or 300 a month...give me a buzz if you want more info [email protected]____.com

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L.A.

answers from Austin on

First we got rid of every credit card.
Cook 5 days a week and if we eat out, it is very frugal.. No extras and share the meals.
Once we paid off our credit cards, we saved for anything we needed or wanted.

Our fridge went out, found a $75. fridge in perfect condition off of Craigslist.
Needed a washer, then a dryer, paid less than $75. for each , both of them practically brand new.. both people were single also, so I knew they had not done much laundry in them.

Started paying as much as possible each month on our mortgage and paid it all off.

We always purchased used cars, my husband made sure they were cars he could pretty much work on if needed.. paid cash for the cars. Never paid over $4000. for a car. This summer purchased a brand new car. Put a large down payment and now have a car payment. again, I am paying as much as I can each month to keep our payments down and pay it off early.

We stuck with our Insurance agent for 20+ years, we have great rates on all of our car and home insurance. Even when our daughter turned 16, she was an excellent student so we got a discount.

Regrets.. we have never really been on a far away vacation. We did purchase a camper off of ebay ($2600.)so we have enjoyed that (husband and his father made it a road trip and drove from Austin to Minneapolis to pick it up)., but we would love to have Taken our daughter on some trips out of state at least.

Good news we were able to go on college visits so that she could choose the correct match.

Each Christmas we pay cash for gifts. We have no debt after the holidays.

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J.H.

answers from Houston on

We took the 13 week Dave Ramsey class together and that is still working!!I recommend that!

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C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

This is hard...it is so hard to change bad habits! We lived for so long as poor grad students that I think we got used to being frugal. I can certainly see how it would be VERY easy to buy too much! I often long to buy stuff but I try to hold myself back and only get what we need. Here is how we try to be frugal. First we worked very hard to pay off credit card debt. That was our #1 priority till we did it! Now we make sure we only spend what we can pay off each month so we never have a balance. We try to not eat out...we go out to eat maybe 1-2 x a month. My husband brings his own lunch to work each day. We only own one car that is paid off and he rides his bike to work (which was an easy decision bc he loves to do this). We don't have a TV so we don't have a cable bill. We watch movies on our laptop. We both don't spend much on clothes for ourselves but when we do need something we try to make sure we get quality clothes. This is the one thing I crave - buying more clothes! I never carry around cash so I'm not tempted to spend. We happen to live somewhere with no good shopping so I'm not tempted when I'm out and about (Santa Fe is 45 minutes away so that is where we have to go to shop...or order things online). I like to hit up thrift stores for clothes for the kids or get hand me downs from friends. Of course I have to buy some things for them! We learned tricks to really lower the electricity bill. Make sure your home is well insulated. Don't leave phones and computers plugged in after they are done charging bc they keep sucking down electricity. Hang clothes to dry if you can...the dryer is the worst! Our dishwasher has a "no heat dry" that we use. Don't leave appliances plugged in that have a little clock like the coffee maker bc they are constantly using electricity. Of course, don't leave lights on. That's all I can think of for now. We spent many years living in a cabin in Alaska, so we got in a mindset of living frugally and so it may be easier for us. I wish you luck.

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J.T.

answers from College Station on

Here is what we do- we concentrate on the cc with the highest interest rate and pay that off first (send most of our budgeted cc payment money to that one card). BUT you have to stop using the card!

Dave Ramsey DOES work, as does Suze Orman. THough they all say the same thing (if you can't afford it don't buy it and cash only), you have to se the system than work with your lifestyle.

There is not real need to be extreme. But you do have to make a conscientious effort to know exactly where your money is going every month!

Good Luck!

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R.L.

answers from Houston on

Only a month? I would strongly suggest you give it a try for longer than a month. You have to make a budget and stick to it, that is that! We followed Dave Ramsey's advice, made a budget, stuck to it, did the debt snowball and we are debt free except for our house. His advice really works. We did the envelopes with money for groceries, taking cash to the grocery store really ensures you will not go over budget. Use coupons and look for store specials and plan your menus and grocery lists in advance it really will help you save. Without a list and a plan, you really don't know how much you are spending and on what.

That is also where the budget comes in, if you list everything you spend your money on and I mena everything you will see where the leaks are and what you can cut out.

The debt snowball really works too. As far as credit cards, you do your budge tin order of necessity, house, food, gas etc first then list the credit cards, when you get to 0 anything below the line will need to wait to get paid. Once you pay off the first credit card you can move your other cards up.

I would highly recommend you to find out if Dave Ramsey's financial peace seminar will be coming to your area. My husband attended, then bought the books and we were out of 80,000+ debt in under 3 years.

The important thing is you both need to be on the same page with the budget, no extra expenses!

Hope you find something that works!

S.G.

answers from Oklahoma City on

my problem is getting bored on the weekends and wanting to take my family out for a treat or date night...

i have no active credit in my name...too much bad credit...so i guess not having any active credit is better than accruing more debt...slowly paying one account off at a time

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L.G.

answers from Austin on

How is your husband spending money? Debit card, credit card or cash? Ask him if he will not use plastic and just use cash. Then you can decide how much he can use each week on eating out. Tell him he can only go to the ATM once or twice a month. Then that is it for his cash spending. He can do whatever he wants with it, but that is it. Pack really nice lunches for your husband so he can see how tasty a cheap lunch can really be. Make extra food for dinner so he can also have some hot lunches as well. We have saved so much money since my husband only eats out once a week or less.

I have started using the crock pot more and we don't have to eat out if I am too tired to cook on my busy days. I also keep some prepared quick foods in the freezer for those last minute days that pop up. There should be no excuse to eat out. Isn't it Dave Ramsey who says you have no business eating out if you have credit card debt?

Every purchase has to be looked at as a "want" or a "need." During our tightest Christmases, we each wrapped up a box that had 3 coupons in it for each of our family. Then we only did small stocking gifts. The coupons were good for a 30 massage or doing someone's dishes for an entire day, etc. We so looked forward to opening those gifts.

Let your husband know how you are cutting back and what the goal is. See if he wants the same goal. Show him what you pay each month in finance charges as well as the total for all credit card payments. Do you have a savings account? That is crucial to be able to pay for all those unexpected things that come up. Our cars are paid off but we have to have money in savings to pay for the repairs that happen. Ask him if he thinks that money would be better to put into savings instead of "fun" stuff.

See if he would like you to wash the car every other week or so. Is it a clean car he wants or does he just like getting "treated." Let him know that you could fill whatever the need is. Let him see that it is a team effort.

We don't go out as often anymore. We rent $1 videos at Redbox and pop popcorn for our home dates. It's just as fun but so much less money! We don't buy clothes unless we really need them. That is a huge expense.

The debt must be something you talk about regularly. You can even post the $$$ that you are in debt on the bathroom mirror or someplace as a constant reminder of the ball and chain.

Good luck!

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M.A.

answers from Houston on

I dont need Dave Ramsey to teach me simple math. I am appalled that sooo many people BUY his book to try and get out of debt. He is just sitting up there in his multi-million dollar home laughing, "suckers!!!"
Its really easy...just takes a piece of notebook paper and a pencil.
What is your income? What do you spend?
Make the "what do you spend?" LESS than "what is your income?" and you will pravail.
What did I do to get out of debt? I moved. I moved to a cheap freakin' duplex, that I hate, and managed to completely get out of debt AND have a HUGE savings account for a home early next year. We have lived here for 2+ years...I think thats a small amount to pay (figuretively) for a lifetime of comfort and piece of mind.
During my MAD race to get out of debt (2+years ago) I also managed to save College money for my 3, almost 4 year old....Dave Ramsey? bite that one!!!

While I'm at it, I have to say...we as Americans, want what we want, when we want it...get over THAT...you'll be sittin' pretty!!!!

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T.S.

answers from Austin on

Your story sounds exactly like my own except that I work outside the home and we still have debt problems. My husband came up with a plan I hate and I have been fighting him for a while not to do it. But our cc debt is so bad we have no choice. So we have found a nice couple to rent our house for 18 months and we are moving in with my mom. I don't have the best relationship with her that is what is going to be a challenge. She lives with her boyfriend she has known for 2 months. And I will have to commute 1 1/2 hrs. each way to work. Plus hope these tenants will take good care of my beloved house. But I am beginning to feel excited about getting that debt taken care of. After all in the grand scheme what is 18 months anyway right?

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M.B.

answers from Dayton on

Do your bills together because it's hard to deny those little expenses add up when you see it on paper line by line. We "do" Dave too, and the best thing we did was go to all cash in the envelope system. Freeze your credit cards in a block of ice if you have too, but only spend what is in the envelope. After a couple of times of screwing up, we realized that what was in there is what we had.

I'm still the nerd and my husband is still the free spirit, but taking Financial Peace University together really got us on the same page. Once you get one or two little debts paid off, you get excited and really get that snowball rolling.

The big thing we did was sell the extra truck we had. It was an extra car for us and all paid off, but we realized (well, I realized and talked hubby into) it was a luxury. DH wasn't comfortable putting that toward our debt snowball, so instead we put the $$ in a balanced mutual fund for our next car. About a year later we ended up cashing out the mutual fund to finish paying off our last debt. Aaahhh! Find a way to get excited and motivated - debt free is worth it!

Oh, and make sure you have "blow money" budgeted in so you each have money you don't have to account for. Then if he wants to eat out, there's no guilt as long as he has his blow money in cash in his wallet.

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E.R.

answers from Austin on

Is your husband on board with getting debt free? If so, and his spending is a problem - see if he will agree to handing over the cc to you and having you give him a monthly cash allowance. He is allowed to spend that ONLY and when it is gone it is gone. Maybe he can have some sort of reward at the end of the month for sticking to it to help encourage him when it gets hard. That is what we had to do b/c my husband had the same problem. Mint.com is an excellent free budgeting tool that can help you track your expenses and stay on top of things. Good luck!

J.B.

answers from Houston on

Well we use the Dave Ramsey system and it works well. If you just take to heart the idea of the debt snowball that alone will take you far. List all your debts. Pay the minimum on everything. Then put as much extra as you can on the smallest debt every month until it is gone. Then when it is paid take all the money you were putting on that debt, and throw it all at the next debt in line. You can do it! My husband actually wrote it down and showed it to me and I was blown away that we could actually do it on the money we had. I do think you and your hubs need to agree on a set amount for entertainment and stick to it. We have a set amount for entertainment and it allows for us to go out once a week or so. We also each get a little monthly "allowance" just a little mad cash, it does help. The key is getting your husband to agree, bc if he doesn't and you guys aren't really in it together, it won't work very well. One person can't be paying off debt as another creates it, that would cause problems between you two probably. If you ever get a chance to go and hear Dave Ramsey speak, I highly recommend it, he is so funny! Plus when my hubs and I went it just helped us both get on the same page. Good luck, I know in my house I am the free spirited spender so I am the one that has had to change my ways a lot, so until I got on board we couldn't get far!!! Wish you all the best girl:)

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P.B.

answers from Houston on

We were in debt over $70,000 when my husband wasn't being paid by a company he worked for for almost 6 months and then we started our own business - (things were very slow for the first year). We had maxed out about 7 credit cards (all had high balances on them because of our great credit rating). First thing I did was combine all it onto a personal loan from our bank at 6% interest instead of the exorbanant rate charged by the cc companies. Then I cut up all but the American Express card (HAD to be paid off monthly) and paid extra on the loan every month. Instead of paying the $880 they required, I auto paid $1,000) and make extra payments when I can. The loan was for 10 years and we've paid it off in less than 7.

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A.M.

answers from Austin on

You say your husband makes more than enough for you to live comfortably but, unless you're willing to cut back expenses, he's not making enough money. You have to look at those credit card payments like they are another must pay every month bill, like your mortgage.

Take your total cc debt, divide by 12 months, and add that amount as a line item to your budget. If your husbands income doesn't cover that total number then you either need to cut spending elsewhere or increase income.

To help keep little things from adding up, auto bill pay everything through your online banking so that your bills get paid on payday. Set aside grocery money and there shouldn't be much left. If your husband tries to go out to eat, his debit card might be declined but hey at least your cc bills were paid.

Maybe you can consider working part time to help reach your goals? It doesn't have to be forever.

Also, I prefer suze orman. I watch her show when I need a reality check and some inspiration. She emphasizes that people come first, then money, and then things. It's a hard lesson for our consumer driven culture to learn, but an important one.

Updated

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S.W.

answers from Amarillo on

It takes a little while to adjust but it can be done BUT you both have to do it. That means no more $50 car washes and $10 subs.

When my husband became ill two years ago and I was working we went through everything that we could and cut back on everything possible. The extra land line phones were turned off to one for satelitte and internet. The cell plan was changed so was the satellite plan. We seldom go to the movies so the satellite doubles as our entertainment. The XM satellite radio was turned off, the Audibele account cancelled, and several other things. We ate out of our freezer for several months and put a sizable dent in it. I made meals each day and took my lunch to work. My five dollar lunch was now $125 back into the budget.

After a while it just seemed normal not to have or do certain things. Bills are now paid on time. Hubby applied for social security early and disability. He got the regular social security for a few months and on his birthday he got the disabillity which was nice and we were able to pay mortgage arrears and get the house out of foreclosure. That was another long and drawn out process over several months.

Now we have just the basic bills, XM radio back, Audible and the regular bills. Any credit cards that we had are just about paid off. I was even able to buy an industrial sewihg machine which is something I have wanted for over 30 years. Next year we are planning on going to Disneyland as a family vacation. We are even saving money monthly to build up the nest egg and emergency fund.

Just remember you didn't get into debt overnight and you can't get out of debt overnight. Write out your goals and post them on the frig so you both can see them. As they are done mark them off and move on to the next. Say in (3, 5, 7) years you want to be debt free and look at the long range.

You guys have to be a team and on the same page.

We now go to IHOP for Saturday breakfast. That's out expense and since we get senior discount it is a little cheaper.

The other S.

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A.B.

answers from San Antonio on

When my husband and I got married we had tons of debt and student loans from our single days. The best way to get rid of it is NOT to spend. When it was time to buy a house, we paid no attention to what the bank said we could afford, and went for a house that cost much less. We did get the space we wanted, but we sacrificed the location so we were not stretching to make ends meet--we HAD to have enough money left over to get out of debt. We invested in a better TV antenna and gave up cable (made up the antenna cost in 2-3 months by NOT paying for cable. If you have more expensive cable than we had, you can make that up in less time). So we can only watch network TV, but we are used to that now. For TV stations, the kids only know PBS Kids, and they are happy.

We ONLY went out to eat if it was also a social occasion and someone else wanted to meet us; or if we were with extended family. (And this rarely happened more than once a month.) The only exception was the occasional family trip to CiCi's pizza because we realized (as long as we didn't buy a soda) that it was so cheap it cost about the same to eat at home. (At the time, our daughter was young enough to eat free.) No running out of time and grabbing takeout. Sometimes we ate later after I ran to the store for groceries, but if we didn't make any additional exceptions, we saved. We have no Starbucks in our small town, so that helped! LOL

Not putting too many clothes in the dryer (except underwear, towels, jeans) kept my clothes looking newer longer, and I didn't need so many new clothes. Once my daughter came along, we managed to get plenty of hand-me-downs.

We are Netflix subscribers now that I'm working, but we were not then. My husband has internet on his phone now, but he did not then. We did NOT keep up with the Joneses. And we had to be OK with that until we were out of debt. We both drove older cars. Basically we didn't spend anything we didn't absolutely need.

Did it work? Well, yes, but my husband couldn't take the lack of spending for very long and ended up leaving his job when he found one that paid more! And then I went back to work.

So--how do you get yourself to actually do this and not blow money? Cat T summed it up below with her statement: "You BOTH have to want this to make it work." If your husband is not willing to sacrifice to achieve this, it is not going to happen. You have to want to be debt-free MORE than you want to satisfy your desires. Have a heart-to-heart with your husband to see what he is realistically willing to do. Good luck!

E.K.

answers from Seattle on

My husband and I have paid off $20,000 worth of debt in 3 years. Mostly, we both worked extra and threw everything we had at debt. For one card, we were able to offer a settlement, and they accepted it (7,000 on the card; they took $4100). Of course, there are downsides to that. But my best advice is to stick with Dave Ramsey. His philosophy works. You have to make tough choices, but it will work of you do it. Good luck!

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A.M.

answers from Indianapolis on

Maybe it would help if you wrote out all your purchases, even the "little" ones and that way you can really see where all your money is going or keep all you receipts in one place and at the end of the week or month go through them and see what was "extra". I did the 2nd one since I kept forgetting to write things down and I found that when I went to the grocery mid-week or not on my normal grocery shopping day to get "just one thing", I rarely got just that one thing, I almost always ended up buying something else that I maybe really didn't need but it was a good deal. Another thing that helped me was telling someone else what I was doing and making them help me stay accountable. I picked my mom and step-dad and they would ask me at the end of the week, how I was doing and at the end of the month we would go through all my receipts and that curbed my splurge spending because I knew (even though it was my own money) I would have to account to someone else where it was going. Now I am re-married and my husband does all the bills and I am in charge of the grocery, school and other household expenses. We each get $20 a week to spend, this includes any dinners we have out too so if we want to go out to dinner on Friday or Saturday, we have to hold back a portion of our cash from the week or hold the money for two weeks etc. The only going-out dinners that do not fall in this category are birthday and anniversary dinners, but we do account for that in our budget for the month, we include it in the birthday/anniversary limit. Hope this helps! It feels great not to have to worry about credit card debt anymore! If you do want to work, you may try substitute teaching, it's not a whole lot of money but you only work when your kids are in school and you can say any money from that or half of the money or whatever is going towards this bill or in savings. Good luck!

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C.B.

answers from Dallas on

you just have to get mad enough at the debt(both of you) to want to cut down on your lifestyle- it is a major change and usually a shock to the system! :)
One thing that really helped my husband and I get really excited about getting debt free was going to one of his live events- see if he is coming to your city in the spring- and get tickets for Christmas! (I just noticed you're around Dallas- we went to the Dallas one and it was Awesome!)
Sticking to a budget and holding each other accountable to it is really hard to do- but how bad do you want to be out of debt? I guess one of the best things to do would be when you are shopping or about to spend money- ask yourself if it is something you really need, or if it could go towards paying off a credit card. If it can, put the item back and use that money to pay off your card!
Good luck!
~C.

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I.G.

answers from Seattle on

It not about extreme measures. It's about moderation and living within your means. If you hubby is not on board it won't work.
You know what to do, your problem is you don't stick with it. It like a weight loss problem: a few weeks of dieting and then going back to your old habits won't work. Only changing to healthier financial habits in the long run will work.
Good luck!

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L.M.

answers from New York on

Great question!

I've never heard of Dave Ramsey until about 6 months ago on this website. I've never looked into anything he's written, workshops, etc. I had large debt many years ago, and now all I have is mortgage and car payments (our choice we want new cars), but a nice nest egg saved up. No extremes, this is how we did it....

1. I took a look at how we were spending our money and made a few changes. The biggest being hubby was eating lunch out several days a week and me once or twice. We started brown bagging it and became fans of leftovers.

2. I bought a lot of things second hand (yard sales, consignments shops).

3. Hubby and I agreed we would not make any large purchases without discussing them together. Help to keep us on track of whether the purchase was a "need" or a "want".

4. I played the credit card transfer game. I had good credit (never even came close to maxing out a credit card), just lots of debt, so I was always getting those 0% for 6 months offers. I would transfer from card to card. Since my $50 payment was going all towards the principal and not towards interest, I could see the balance go down quickly which was encouraging.

5. I always paid at least double the minimum payment, usually tripple. (years ago before the new credit card laws the minimums were so low it was a joke). Still always pay more than the minimum.

6. Credit card interest is calculated on your daily balance. So I'd often make 2 payments a month. Over time, this adds up.

7. It's the little things that add up. We lived a frugal lifestyle. Hubby says cheap, I say frugal. If we were going out for the day, I'd pack water bottles and snacks. Vacations were taken off season and the cooler was always well stocked to avoid having to eat all our meals out. I cut coupons. If I needed flowers for a hospital visit, I'd use a vase I purchased for $.25 and pick up a boquet at the grocery store, total spent $6.50, better than $20 in the gift shop. We made our own cards - not only saves money, but we had fun making them. When we ate dinner out, no dessert - if we still wanted desert later, we ate desert at home.

8. I turned the therostat down 5 degrees. We all wear slippers and sweatshirts. We all have an extra blanket on the bed.

It can be done. It just takes time. commitment, and some common sense.

Good luck!

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