The First Steps to Take on Your Debt Free Journey
Starting any kind of lifestyle change can seem daunting at first. You’re saying goodbye to the ‘normal’ way of doing things and having faith that it will be better for you in the long run. I can promise you right now that starting your debt free journey will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
When you take control of your finances, it may seem like you’re denying yourself satisfaction by not allowing yourself to go shopping, splurge on a new treat or go out for some drinks – and this can feel hugely frustrating. But what you’re actually doing, and what you’ll come to understand as you go through the process, is that you’re giving yourself the best kind of satisfaction you possibly can- and that’s a financially safe future.
Spending money now gives you instant satisfaction, whereas saving to hit a target is a delayed satisfaction. Learn to love these delayed satisfaction and try to work in arrears, so that what you started saving last month will benefit you today. Once you’ve nailed this mind-set – coupled with a minimal approach to consumerism – then you’re halfway there.
The mantra that helps me through is ‘Don’t deny yourself what you want the most for what you want right now’. In other words, the joy you’ll get from a shopping spree will be nothing compared to the joy of hitting a savings goal in the future.
Set yourself big goals for what you want to achieve in the future. Examples can be clearing your credit card debt or paying off a mortgage sooner. Then break those big goals down into medium goals. This can be something like saving or paying off £100 a month.
Once you’ve set these goals, you need to find a way of holding yourself accountable to them. Telling a spouse or friend about your goal or posting it on social media might make you hold yourself to it, as it’s harder to let others down than just yourself.
Make a spreadsheet of how much you’ve paid in bills and expenses in the last year, then divide by how many paydays per year you have. Bills and expenses could include (but are not limited to) your rent/mortgage, council tax, food bills, internet, phone contracts, gas, electric, water, TV license, and any other bills such as a car on finance, or minimum credit card fee payments.
Where to cut back?
Be honest with yourself and see where you can cut back to make those monthly payments easier. The less you pay in outgoings per month, the more you have left to save or throw at debt. Here are five ways to start the process of decreasing your expenses per month.
1. Monitor your Media
If you’re prepared to make sacrifices in order to be debt-free then take a look at what you’re paying for your TV per month. Sky or Virgin media rates can sometimes start at £50 a month, which adds up to £600 a year that you can instead use to pay off a debt. If you still need your TV fix, consider a cheaper paid online subscription like Netflix – which is less than £100 a year.
Also take a look at every time you go to the cinema. If you go twice a month as a couple, that could be over £350 a year (before you’ve added on the snacks and drinks you absentmindedly pick up). Learn to not fear missing out, and instead catch movies six months later, when you might borrow them from a friend or watch them live on Netflix.
2. Exercise for Free
If you think you need to pay for the gym to get healthy then think again! There are a lot of ways to work out for free and live an active lifestyle without spending anything. Take up running, use your body weight for weighted exercise and count your calories via free apps like MyFitnessPal.
It’s time to stop calling Uber every five minutes and walk any journey that’s under a 30 minute walk. Once you’ve got a good pace, you can increase this to 60 minutes. If you really need to travel, consider public transport, as it’s often cheaper than driving or getting a taxi.
4. Eat for Less
No more restaurants or buying your lunch everyday if you want to hit those goals. The two things you need to adopt to cut back is cooking everything at home from breakfast to lunch to dinner and batch cooking – where you cook a massive meal on Sunday and then that sees you through the week. Implement these two changes and you’ll see the amount you spend on food cut in half.
5. No Spend Activities
If you’re a social butterfly, it can be hard to say no to Friday night drinks or that festival this summer; however you need to focus on ‘no spend’ activities in order to reach your goals. I love no-spend activities and find it a fun challenge to get creative with a friend, for a date, or taking the kids out for an activity.
Methods to Increase your Income
Growing the gap between the money you’re earning and your monthly minimal payments will free up money to save or throw at debt. Try out some of these methods to ensure you’re making as much money as possible.
1. Sell on eBay
Selling tat from the house is on eBay is one of my favourite ways to make money, as you can have a de-clutter and make money at the same time- which ticks off two boxes I’m interested in.
2. Work When You Can
Are you able to pick up more shifts or hours at your job? If not, are you able to work in the evenings or the weekends to earn some extra money? The best paying option would be if you had a skill that you could tutor someone in. In your 9-5 day job, if you feel you’re valued, there’s also no harm in asking for a raise.
3. Sell on the High Street
Take your physical media and tech down to CeX who give you the best price on the high-street. Their prices change daily but they’re all on the website so you can see if it’s worth it before you go. Also, if you have any designer items from before your ‘debt-free’ days, I can recommend Designer Exchange as selling on eBay always poses risks – especially for the high value items like a watch or handbag.
4. Create and Sell
If you have a skill that you’re proficient at – such as knitting or drawing – you might want to consider setting up an Etsy shop or a website where you can sell your items. It’s worth looking into, just a couple of sales a week all add up.
5. Side Hustle
In this modern internet-driven world there are lots of ways to find side hustles – such as mystery shopping. So find something that suits you and your hours and brings in enough money a month to be worth it.
I hope this article helps you reach your goals sooner. Remember, spend as little as possible and make as much extra money as possible. With those two rules at the foundation of your new lifestyle, you’ll be hitting your goal in no time.
This article was written by Luci Olivia, founder of TheFrugalFox.org – a lifestyle blog dedicated to proving that you can still have the life experiences you want on a budget.