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Getting Out of Debt in 4 Simple Steps

Getting Out of Debt in 4 Simple Steps

Being in debt and out of cash is not fun. It is also not relaxing, not peaceful and not confidence-building. Yet a recent Pew Research report estimated that around 80 percent of American adults today are in debt, and some are in debt sufficiently that that it even follows them into retirement.

This is really not fun. It is also something that doesn’t have to happen to you. While there are fewer folks each year who get out of debt compared to the many who go into debt, all it takes to start the process of whittling down your debt is a decision.

In this post, learn the simple steps you can start to take today to get out of debt.

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Step 1: Stop buying on credit.

Credit is so easy to misuse. After all, it is totally legal to buy things even when you don’t have the cash on hand to pay for them. One swipe and whatever-it-is it’s yours.

So the first step to getting out of debt is to stop using credit. You can think of it this way: every time you use credit, you create more debt. But what you want is less debt, not more!

If you are not comfortable carrying cash around (which is probably wise in many circumstances) you can still convert to a cash-based spending system by using a debit card or secured credit card (where you load the card with funds and reload when those are spent).

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Step 2: Start working your way towards the 50-30-20 rule.

The 50-30-20 rule is simple to master:

– Use 50 percent of your income for fixed expenses like rent, car loan, student loan, internet, et al.

– Use 30 percent of your income for variable expenses like utilities, groceries, fun.

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– Use 20 percent of your income for savings.

Here, your debt repayment is balanced with saving for a reason. If you wake up one morning and find life has handed you an unpleasant or simply expensive surprise, you don’t want to dive back into debt. So you want to begin building an emergency fund ($1,000 is a good initial goal) to cover such emergencies. While you are at it, you can also do your homework by reading Cashnetusa Reviews to find out about affordable sources of emergency funding if the need arises.

Step 3: Start a budget and stick to it.

Ah….budgeting – it is not the fun part about getting out of debt. Budgeting implies real, grown-up accountability to your get-out-of-debt goals. But of course, before you can dig yourself out of debt, you have to understand how you got in there in the first place.

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The best way to start budgeting is to tally up your last six months worth of expenses and income and then divide that by six. This gives you your average of what you have been spending per category as well as an average income.

Next, highlight items that are not essential (here, think Netflix subscriptions, eating out, clothes shopping). The nonessential items are where you can stop spending beyond your means.

Now it is time to create your go-forward working budget (you can use the 50-30-20 rule from Step 2 here as a guide when your finances permit).

Step 4: Make a “goodbye debt” chart.

This is the fun part of getting out of debt. You want to pay down your worst (i.e. highest interest rate or soonest due) debt first. So list out each debt source in order from worst to best on your chart. Then cross each debt off the list as you pay it off.
By taking the time to follow these steps and make a plan to pay your debt in full, you regain your own trust, self-respect, and confidence that you can be a good manager of your own finances.

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Kevin Faber

CEO Silver Summit

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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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