I recently wrote out a check to pay off my car, the last consumer debt, including my home, that I owed. Being debt-free is incredibly invigorating, and I can now look forward to my prime wealth building years that lie ahead. A friend asked me to outline some of the lessons I learned along the way, so here are just a few of them….
Burn the Ships: When the Spanish Captain, Hernan Cortez, landed in Veracruz, he knew that some of his crew were scared due to rumors of the viciousness of the local ‘savages,’ so he had his men burn the ships. This ensured his team would either conquer or be destroyed, but the option of quitting was now off the table. My wife and I burned our financial ships by putting all but $1,000 of our savings towards debt January 1, 2017 and then conquered by also doing the following:
Be a Team: You and your significant other is a partnership when it comes to finances, and a house divided truly will fall when it comes to monetary goals. You have to be on the same page. The best advice I heard before approaching my wife about committing to getting out of debt in 2017 was “Explain the WHY, not the WHAT or HOW.” Thanks, GW!
Budget/Plan: If you fail to plan, you are essentially planning to fail. Use a budget plan to see how you are spending your money, then work to reduce or eliminate as much excess as you can. There is a free online budgeting tool called www.everydollar.com and several online sites (www.daveramsey.com and www.mrmoneymustache.com to name a couple) that are incredibly helpful in reducing inessentials that can drain a family’s bank account.
Give: We started the year giving away only an average of 4-5% of our bring home pay, while making minimum payments on all debts and spending the remainder. By October, we were averaging giving away 12% for the year to date. Somehow we were able to pay 48.5% of our post-tax income to debt this calendar year and increase our giving by 7+%. Is it coincidence that I somehow ‘found’ 56% more of my money to put towards debt and giving? I don’t think so. The better steward you become of God’s money, the more he gives you and the better you get at distributing it in a manner in line with HIS will.
Educate Yourself: If you want to be successful, there is likely already a blueprint out there if you’ll just look for it. I read Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, which sparked this journey, but I then read half a dozen other books on personal finance along the way that also helped.
Side Hustle: There are a lot of easy ways to make money in the world. Refer to www.sidehustlenation.com for some clever ideas to increase your income and have more money to throw at debt. Or, just grab your lawnmower and walk over to that yard in your neighborhood that seems to always need to be cut and offer a good deal.
These are but a few of the lessons I learned the past 10+ months on this journey. I’ll detail more tips in the future if you’re interested.