7 Tips to Get Free From Debt

Editor’s note: I’ve known Jennika Weismer for over 2 years now. She is an amazing Registered Nurse and is actively working to become a Nurse Practitioner.
As my girlfriend, she has inspired me to lose weight, eat well, and get my ass in shape. She has been an integral part of my journey and I hope I have contributed to her life as much as she has mine.
This is her first blog post, she has shown amazing drive and determination to get free from debt. She wanted to share with you how she did it and wants to inspire you to handle this in your own life.
Take it away, Jennika.
 
 

7 Tips to Get Free From Debt

Written by a former credit card junkie

After graduating from nursing school, I was buzzing with anticipation of my first paycheck. I had thought about this moment for years while busting my ass for eight dollars an hour all throughout nursing school. Think of all the money. I was going to cash that bad boy and hit Michigan Ave hard. Dreams of new shoes and shiny Italian leather purses danced through my head.

What didn’t dance through my head was rent, cable, utility bills and of course, groceries. I’d like to tell you that I came to my senses well before the7-tips-for-getting-debt-free shoes and Italian purses were bought but that would be a lie. I spent a good portion of my early twenties maxing out credit cards and living with a few bucks in my checking account until the next paycheck. My parents bailed me out from over-blown credit card bills on more than one occasion (thanks guys!). It wasn’t until I met Jeff that I started to think differently about money. At this point, I had been working as a nurse for a few years and had realized how hard I actually work for every dollar of that paycheck. I started thinking less about those shiny new accessories and more about what I wanted from life: taking trips, paying off my car, buying a home, and saving for a family. I had never thought about these grownup things before and all of a sudden the reality in how much they cost hit me like a wall. I was broke. Broke and in debt. How would I ever get there?

 

Thankfully, I managed to pull myself out of that sinking black hole and I want to share how I did it. Here are my 7 tips for getting debt free.

 1. Read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover

Let me start by saying Dave Ramsey is not paying me to say this! (Hi Dave! Kidding…). In all honesty, Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover changed my life. Jeff’s best friend who knew I was trying to change my spending ways gifted a copy of this book to me. I was skeptical at first, I’m not a religious person and I knew Dave Ramsey was Christian. Is he going to preach to me about all the ways God will change my financial struggles? I wasn’t buying it. With some encouragement, I dove in and man, am I glad I did. I won’t go into detail because I really do believe you should read it, but Dave’s 7 baby steps to being debt free are how I built the foundation for creating my new debt free life.

2. Make a Budget

One of the main points Mr. Ramsey makes is that you must know where your money goes. Spend every penny before you make it. At the end of 2012 when I got my W-2 form, my mouth dropped as I looked at my net income. “I made that much money?!” I exclaimed, “Where did it all go?” Jeff looked at me, “Don’t you have a budget?” He asked. A budget, what the hell is that?! Budgeting is a process and it’s not easy but you have to start somewhere.

Start by figuring out how much you bring in on a monthly basis. This one was tricky for me as a nurse since my income fluctuates but even a rough estimate is ok. For me, I always budget on the lower end so if I make more, it’s a happy surprise instead of leaving me in a panic. Once you know how much you make, figure out each area your money will go to and how much will go there. To the penny. I use a budget app on my iphone for easy tracking. Another budgeting tool that I’ve used, which might seem weird but has worked amazing is budget envelopes. I made a list of all the ‘categories’ I needed money in, most of which I don’t spend on a monthly basis. An example of some I use would be household items, car insurance, auto maintenance, clothing and gifts. Each month, I budget a certain amount for each of these and physically take money out of my account and put it into envelopes that I keep in a secure place (please don’t rob me, you won’t find them, promise!). When it comes time to pay the insurance or fix that pesky screech the car makes when you stop, it won’t break your bank. This was especially helpful for me as I started my budgeting journey.

3. Start Small

After you’ve budgeted your money and you know where it’s going, put that newfound financial control towards paying off your debts. Following Dave’s debt snowball, start small and payoff your littlest debt first. For me, this was some out-standing credit card debt. The small stuff was easy; I could make sense of a couple hundred dollars, even a thousand. I’d watch as the number on my account decreased and that feeling from the first zero balance was exhilarating and enough to keep me going.

 4. Set Goals for the Big Ones

I said, the small ones were easy, which implied the big ones were not, right? After burning through my credit card balances with “gazelle-like intensity”, I was faced with the big one—my dreaded car payment. I bought a used car in 2011 for a little less than 16,000 dollars despite the fact that I had no down payment and couldn’t even imagine that much money. To make it worse, pretty much as soon as I drove it off the lot I realized what a piece of junk it was and it’s given me trouble ever since. So when I was faced with paying it off I had all sorts of excuses. I should just trade it in and buy a new one. Why would I pay it off when it’s such a piece of junk? I’ll never be able to afford that much money. But, I had committed to becoming debt free so I shoved my excuses aside and went after it.

What helped me wrap my head around the large amount of money I had left to pay off was setting small goals. I’ll pay off 5,000 dollars by the end of this year. I’m going to make it to 10,000 dollars by {insert date}. Goals such as these helped give me a smaller frame of reference within a larger total so that I still had milestones to celebrate. Within a year and a half, I had paid off my car and owned a vehicle out-right for the first time in my life.

5. Live Within Your Means

Remember how I said I bought a lot of shoes and purses with my paycheck right out of nursing school? Yeah, that was NOT living within my means. This one is really important and I can’t tell you how many people I know who really struggle with this. Know how much you are “allowed” to spend on frivolous things that you don’t really need and don’t spend more than that. It’s as simple as that. Don’t spend all your extra cash on clothes, or alcohol, or trips you can’t afford. Or if you do, don’t expect to be debt free.

 6. Say No

Along with living within your means, learning to say no is important too. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you getting debt free is easy or without sacrifice. You have to learn to say no to the things that aren’t within your budget, your plan. Jeff and I changed a lot about the way we did things when we started getting serious about our finances. We ate out a LOT less (this is good for your waistline too, by the way), we examined how we were spending our money and if we really needed those things we were buying, and we said no to things we were invited to. No to dinners with friends, no to events, no to going on trips, no to anything that didn’t fit in our plan. This can also be considered priorities. I often hear,” I could never do that”, or “I wish I could get out of debt” from friends. The truth is, they could if it was a top priority.  But apparently it’s not as important as that all-inclusive trip to Hawaii. I’m just saying, I certainly didn’t go on any vacations while trying to be debt-free. Harsh, but true.

 7. Work Your Ass Off

When I really started to get serious about paying off my car, I knew I needed more income than just what I was making at my one job. So I got another, and then another. That’s right, I had three different RN positions for about six months while whittling away at my car loan. It wasn’t easy and I didn’t have a lot of free time but it was so worth it (I’m down to two now). Ain’t no shame in getting a second job to give you a little extra cash to put towards your goals. Whether it’s putting in overtime at your current job or picking up a second gig, make it happen if you want the extra money. I also took money for any gifts, birthdays and my entire tax return towards paying off my debt.

You Did It!

Congratulations, you made it and you’re debt free! Now Save, Save, Save! Now don’t go out and blow all that extra hard-earned money that you don’t have to use to pay off debt. Keep up your budgeting, re-evaluate as necessary, save that extra cash and don’t slip back down the black hole of debt. Good luck!

Photo Cred: Woman Stomping A Credit Card by stockimages via freedigitalphotos.net

Author: Jennika Weismer

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4 Comments

  1. Congrats! YOU’RE DEBT FREEEEEEEE…did you do the scream? My wife and I got on board a few years ago, after we saw my sisters going through the baby steps with success and am happy to say WE’RE DEBT FREEEEEEEE as well. Nice job.

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  2. Awesome!!! Congrats! Did you call in to Dave Ramsey’s show???? My wife and I are almost debt free- just a few more months!!!!!!!! It’s always cool to read people’s thoughts and stories on how they re-gained control of their life and money

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  3. Great post! I’m not debt free yet – but working towards it! We’ve been on a long road – but making changes to improve it all the time. Thanks for sharing!

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