It’s no secret that climbing out of debt takes focus, discipline, and sacrifice. You have to literally be able to put on blinders and go full speed ahead towards your goals even if they make no sense to others. When my husband and I started to become more focused on our goals, most people thought that we were cheap or crazy.Because of our professions, friends and family knew that we were not “earning poor” so they could not understand why we would not splurge or spend money on certain things. Despite the comments, we had to have our minds set more on what we needed to accomplish than trying to please or persuade people to understand. We realized that to care more about what people thought than what God was calling us to do would ultimately lead us right back to the same position that we were currently in. Galations 1:10 says “For am I now seeking the approval of man or God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
To create a surplus to apply towards debt, you must be willing to give up something, even if only for a short period of time and that is EXACTLY what we did! The other option is to increase your income to create extra to apply to your debt. It is most optimal to do both…decrease expenses and increase income. This is how we were able to make huge dents in our debt in such a short period of time. As we became better stewards of our finances, God blessed us with incredible opportunities to make more money. Along the way, we realized that there were some things that we could forego to get our money and our mind right so that we could continue on our journey. Here are a few:
1. Traveling regularly! Out of all of the sacrifices, this one was the hardest. I LOVE to travel! PERIOD! But we realized that this one adjustment alone would keep us on track to get out of debt more quickly. Traveling is such an event for us because I don’t like staying at cheap hotels and I don’t like skimping on food. So if we went somewhere I always blew the budget because I either wanted a nice condo or to stay at a Marriott hotel and there were rarely any exceptions to this rule. Then there were the dogs that needed boarding. This usually runs us about $50 per night. So when you add all this up, staying home for a short time just made more sense and gave us more motivation to get out of debt faster.
2. Buying Clothes. I am definitely not a big shopper, but my teenage daughter is! This girl just loves to shop. She is me made over from my young adult years but when we all decided that we were in this together, she gave up shopping for a time to help with the goal. We restricted clothes buying to change of seasons and the start of school (though this was so pared down that I don’t know if it counts as true back to school shopping). My son enjoyed this a little too much as his pants were half way to his knee before he conceded to go shopping…ugghh, boys!
3. Housekeeping. This one and the next one were only given up temporarily but long enough to make a difference. I really enjoy a clean house but as much as we work and are on the go for extracurricular activities, clean is the last word you would use when it came to our house, LOL! By stopping this service, we were able to put hundreds of more dollars towards our debt, BUT after 6 months, my sanity (or lack there of) overruled this decision. And by resuming the housekeepers, I saved more time and was able to concentrate my efforts on increasing our income even more to cover this expense as well as pay more down on the debt. Sometimes you just have to choose the priorities that best fit your lifestyle!
4. Eating Out. Though we only gave this one up temporarily, we did significantly decrease our eating out budget. I learned how to throw some delicious things in the crockpot to get us through. We also started packing a cooler for cross country meets, football games, and cheer competitions. We found that what we packed was healthier, much more satisfying and of course lots cheaper than the concession stand. We decreased our drive thru visits by keeping a case of water and snacks in the car at all times. These items became a regular part of our grocery list. You never think about how much you save by freezing bottled water and bringing it along rather than buying a bottle from the concession stand at $2 per bottle. Speaking of that, in the end we bought refillable S’well bottles and started saving on the bottled water also.
5. Contributing to our retirement. This one is a bit conflicting for folks but we decided that we were going to focus on one thing at a time. It was so difficult to give up the match offered by my husband’s employer but we did. The only thing I regret is messing around so long before really getting serious about paying off debt. If you are NOT focused and ready to be intentional, I do NOT recommend stopping your 401k contributions because that money will just become a part of your discretionary income and you will regret it!!! I can’t stress that enough. I can’t even think about the money we lost when we were just kinda sorta paying off debt. But hey, hindsight is 20/20! In the end, we are now debt free and thus able to play catch up on our retirement savings. Still, only stop yours if you are intentional about getting out of debt. No playing around with this!
These are a few of the things that we gave up on our journey to debt freedom. There are other small changes we made like cutting the cord on cable and getting Youtube TV, cancelling our gym memberships, changing our cell phone plans and not upgrading our phones. All these changes added up to increase our debt snowball and move the needle in a way that caused huge momentum for us. Seeing these wins kept us motivated. Remember, the more you are willing to sacrifice, the faster you will see a decrease in your debt. When you do, you will start to think less and less about what you are losing and more about the freedom you are gaining from becoming debt free!
Here’s your your freeeedommm!! Romans 13:8 (Owe nothing to anyone–except for your obligation to love one another.)