Guest Post by Jacob from Dollar Diligence
Becoming debt free is not easy by any means and if someone tells you it is, he or she likely did not have a lot of debt to eliminate.
When I first looked at my student loan balance statement, I was scared. I mean, truly scared for myself.
I owed a lot of money.
Money, that I thought I would never even have in my hands at any point in time. I owed much more than what even the average student graduates with today, and this was years ago when college was much cheaper.
I freaked out a little bit, cried (yes, really), and then started to think about what I could do to make my situation better.
When I first started to try to find ways to save money, I did not know what to do or where to turn. I was not very wise about it and I did not have the habits I do now. Below, you will find some of the habits I have eventually acquired and formed to help me reach my debt free goals.
Yes, I know, I know. You hear about budgets all of the time and it starts to get old after a while. I can tell you though that a budget SAVED my financial situation. While it may seem time-consuming or a waste for you to do, it is not and it can help you.
When I saw my budget on paper, I knew what I had to do. I cut out a lot of the unnecessary spending I was doing because I quickly realized that most of my money was going to eating out, socializing with friends at the bar, and other similar wasteful things. The money I was throwing towards these fun social events could have been put towards my student loan debt a long time ago and I could have had a nice chunk of it paid down.
One thing I do want to point out to you is when you start to budget, make sure you include ALL of the necessities you need, your bills, food, and similar. If you leave any of these out, it can cause your budget to be off for the month and this may leave you short on funds for one of your obligations.
Budgeting can be tough and you may sometimes go over it, but the more you use it, the better, and it truly can save your financial goals.
Planning Ahead for Expenses – Big and Small
The next thing that I did and still do is I plan ahead for any expenses that I know are coming up. For example, Christmas only happens once a year, so I must budget for it in December. This also means that I cannot wait until December and just expect the money to appear. One of the things I do is I purchase things that I find a good deal on all year long, as long as it is in my budget. This allows me to maintain a healthy budget and keep it in check without going overboard or running out of money.
In addition, if you know that you will need to make a large purchase such as buying a new appliance, you can determine how much you need to save per month until you need to make the purchase. For example, if you will need to replace your fridge in three months and it is $700, then you know you will need to save $233 per month for the next three months.
Finding New Sources of Income
Lastly, I took it upon myself to find new sources of income. I know this may not be what you wanted to hear, but it works. I would not be able to save $700 in three months (based on the example above), so this meant I needed a side hustle or two.
I took on both freelance writing and photography as my new sources of income and I made and still make a nice chunk of change with both of them. Since I am a high school teacher, I cannot work on my side hustles during the day when school is in session, so I work on them on the weekend. When school is out for the summer, I do work full time throughout the day, night, and weekend.
Choose Habits That Will Work for You
While my habits may not work for you, there are habits that will, but you need to choose ones that suit your needs. It is important that once you start the habit, you stick to it, so that you can see the payoff from it. Research shows that it takes around 21 days for something new to become a habit, so hang in there.
I can tell you that paying off student loan debt is not fun and it is not easy, so it will take some dedication, but once you start to see that loan balance fall, you will become much more motivated and you will think of ways to continue making the payments needed to take your debt from $15,000 to $0 as quickly as possible.
Jacob blogs over at Dollar Diligence where he writes about all things personal finance including student loans, credit cards, and building wealth. Follow him for more personal finance advice @DollarDiligence.