The Beginner’s Guide to Living Debt Free

D-day is fast approaching. Debt Day. The way I calculate it, I could very easily be debt free within 12 months, sooner if I drained my 6 month emergency fund, cashed in some brokerage accounts, cut out vacations, and took the kids out of private school. I’ll pass on those and just settle for a little slower debt payoff. Some things are really important to me and when it comes to my kids, I want them to . All our credit card debt will be gone in about 3 weeks and the balance of our consumer debt will be paid off by Christmas. Our “good” debt in student loans should be zeroed out by summer ’09 and if we decide to continue on with our current rate of payoff, our mortgage debt could be retired no later than 2015. We started getting really serious about becoming debt free a few months ago and have paid off over $30,000! These last two months have seen us really cutting back and getting that “gazelle” intensity.

I’ve started thinking about what life will be like once we are debt free (excepting the mortgage). What ever will we spend our money on? Another thing I’ve started thinking about is…specifically…how do I insure I never go back into debt again? I was almost completely debt free after going through Consumer Credit Counseling back in 1998 but I lost my tenacity and fell back into my old habits.

I once considered debt to be liberating, because credit cards and other types of loans allowed me to spend more than I had. It seemed like free money. This is exactly the type of thinking that I need to reverse in order to avoid another debt spiral in the future. I have to keep in mind that:

  • I got into debt by spending more than I actually had, mostly with the help of credit cards. Others have avoided debt by spending only money they DO have AT THE TIME.
  • I also have to make the decision to be happy with what I have. Debt doesn’t help me happy considering the hard work I’m putting in to become debt free.

  • Bad debt is not free money—buying things with credit cards makes everything cost more in the long run. It’s like paying for something twice.
  • I have to insure I know where all money is spent. I do this by daily tracking every dime that comes out of my checking account and assigning a category.
  • I have to stay on budget and avoid those budget busters. Thankfully, my wonderful wife isn’t above clipping coupons and is a very frugal shopper. She keeps our food and household budget under control. Thanks Sweetie! XOXOXO
  • I have to insure that I put my savings into accounts that will work for me and my family to shore up our financial future and to have enough for retirement.

With the skyrocketing cost of basic living necessities, debt seems to be the chief option to get most people through the rough times. But debt is a terrible task master. Debt doesn’t stab you and it’s over, debt kills you in a slow financial death of a thousand cuts.

What ideas, tips, or techniques do YOU have to help someone stay debt free?

[tags]credit, debt, budget, money, credit card[/tags]

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