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11 Reasons Why You Stay In Debt

11 Reasons Why You Stay In Debt

According to the Federal Reserve, 43% of Americans exceed their income with their spending habits. This means that 43% of people are going further and further into debt each year and racking up interest charges at an alarming rate. They might as well be burning their money.

Many people never even plan on paying all of that money back, citing bankruptcy as their way out.

Here are 11 ways you are staying in debt, and what do do about it.

1. Your expenses are too high

This one is obvious. If you have backed yourself into a corner by amassing a huge house payment, huge car payments, large insurance premiums, and other gigantic fixed costs, then you are never going to have any money to pay down your debt.

If you want to pay your debt, you must reduce your expenses. Get a used car. Downsize to a smaller house. Shop around for insurance. Cancel recurring subscriptions. Question everything. Do anything you can to lower your expenses so you can begin to put that saved money towards your debt.

2. You have no additional income

If you only have one source of income, odds are that you base all of your expenses on that.

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The secret to being able to save money and pay down debt is doing things on the side that you enjoy that will also make you extra money. Pick up freelance work that can make you an extra few hundred a month.

You can then leverage this money to build a side business, which can turn into an enjoyable way to get extra cash flow to begin paying down your debt.

3. You have no picture of your money

Do you know where your money goes each month? If you look at your bank account and just sit there wondering, “What did I spend all of that on?” then you have an issue.

Sign up for an automated financial tracking site, like Mint.com, to get a better idea of what you’re spending where without having to do all of the manual work of balancing your income and expenses. This can help you perform a detailed analysis of where your money goes, and make changes based on the results.

4. You don’t take advantage of technology

The technology that exists today is incredible. You can literally pay your debt on autopilot. All it takes is a few minutes to set up an automated transaction to your creditors each month. You’ll find ways to adjust.

Couple that with a little bit of extra money on the side towards your debt, and you’ll have it paid off in no time.

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5. You use your time poorly

How many hours a week do you work? 40? Do you do anything after work to make extra money? Are you furthering your education to increase your worth? Are you networking to increase your level of influence?

Expenses, if left alone, will almost always increase over time. If you’re not using your time wisely, you’ll never increase your ability to earn more to keep up with those expenses, keeping you at the same level of income and plunging you further into debt as your expenses increase over time.

Always be improving your ability to earn more.

6. You run a balance on your credit cards

Credit card debt is the absolute worst type of debt you can have, because the interest rates are so high. You can literally rack up tens of thousands of dollars in interest alone in just a few years. Yet so many people just view them as a way to pay for things without actually having to pay for them.

But the fact is, that minimum payment is going to grow and grow over time as you spend more, and you eventually won’t be able to get any more credit. At that point, you’re going to have to pay before you can buy anything else. That’s no way to live.

Use credit cards wisely. Only put items on them that you can pay off each month. The day you start to run a balance on your credit card is the day you start racking up hundreds of dollars in interest, and it’s hard to escape from the high rates of credit cards.

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7. You worry about everyone else

The quickest way to get into debt and stay there is to start worrying about what everyone else thinks of you. The fact is, not everyone makes the same amount of money, but everyone likes to try to act like they do.

Stop worrying about what the image your car, house, clothes, and whatever else says about you and just live the life you are able to without going into debt. At the end of the day, those things are just liabilities on your balance sheet, nothing more.

8. You don’t have a spending plan

Money is made to be spent, but if you do not have a plan for what you are allowed to spend it on, then you’re going to be throwing it around everywhere.

Sit down and think about what brings you the most joy to spend your money on, and allow yourself a guilt-free spending fund each month. Spend it on one or two things that bring you joy and cut it off there.

9. You afford things

“Affording” things is a very quick way to get into debt. Because when you afford things, you are only thinking about how you can leverage all you own to buy them. Unless it’s your house, only buy things you can pay off completely in less than two years.

Otherwise you’ll spend your whole life with monthly payments towards things that are probably worth less than you owe on them.

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10. You buy too many little things

10 bucks here, 20 bucks there, $8.50 there—it all adds up. It’s very easy to tell yourself that “It’s only $10. Go ahead and spend it.” But the problem with that is when you keep saying that day after day, eventually you’ve spent $300 on nothing but a bunch of little trinkets, snacks, and things you ultimately don’t need that will just end up in a yard sale.

Resist the urge to spend money on little things. You’ll be a lot happier with one high-quality, large purchase.

11. Your money is not working for you

With a boatload of debt, you’ll never be able to invest in anything.

At some point in your life, your money must make money for you, not the other way around. Instead of spending all of your money, save some of it to invest in assets that will make you money over time.

Learn about high yield savings accounts, stocks, real estate (that you quickly profit from), building businesses, and other forms of wealth creation. Eventually you’ll get to the point where all you have to do to collect money is sit back and watch the birds.

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Cody Wheeler

Cody is a self-improvement blogger at Academy Success, the place to learn life skills you don't learn in school.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Definitive Guide to Get out of Debt Fast (and Forever)

The Definitive Guide to Get out of Debt Fast (and Forever)

Debt can feel crushing, like a weight that is always weighing you down. Looking at those numbers, it can feel as if you’ll never get out from under it. However, if you really want to learn how to get out of debt, it is possible with a great deal of focus and self-control.

Getting out of debt isn’t impossible. Like any big goal, all that it takes is an action plan to identify where you are and creating a plan to zero out your debt.

Identifying All of Your Debts

The first part of paying off your debt is getting a complete picture of what you owe. When you have everything written out in front of you, it makes it much easier to create an action plan. Depending on how much you owe, it might also help you realize it’s not as bad you might have originally thought.

Here’s how you can get started identifying your debts:

1. Own Your Debt

Before you start identifying all of your debts, take a moment to process that you have debt but want to get out of it.

Forgive yourself for any past mistakes, missed payments, or overspending. It might be painful to accept how much debt you have at first, but you must own it.

2. Make a Debt Tracker

It’s astonishing how few people ever created a tracker to understand their total debts. Most likely, it comes from not wanting to accept the guilt of having debt, but, if avoided, it can make it nearly impossible to get out of debt.

Open up a new Google or Microsoft Excel sheet and list out all of your debts. Start with the name of the creditor, interest rates, total balance, loan term length (if any), and the minimum amount due each payment. This will include student loans, credit cards, and any other type of debt owed.

3. Get Your Debt Number

Once you’ve made your debt tracker and taken the other steps, identify your total payoff number. This is crucial, as you will have a starting point and a clear goal that you are trying to achieve.

Prioritizing Your Debts

All debt is not created equal. It’s imperative to understand that there are different types of debt.

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1. Understand Bad and Good Debts

Bad debts are usually paying for things you want instead of always need. While there might be some emergencies that max out your credit cards, often times it’s excessive spending[1].

There are three main types of bad debt:

  • Credit Card Debt: The average American household owes over $16,000 in credit card debt!
  • Auto Loan Debt: According to CNBC , the average auto loan in the US is $30,032!
  • Consumer Loan Debt: Consumer loan debt isn’t as common as credit card and auto loan debt, but it’s still considered bad as interest rates are usually between 10-28%.

Good debt is identified as investments in your future. Here are three common types of good debt:

  • Student Loan Debt
  • Mortgage Loan
  • Business Loans

2. Decide Which Debt to Pay off First

Once you know each type of debt and their interest rates, you can begin to pay off debt quickly.

Focus on paying off bad debt first, regardless of if it is a credit card or auto loan. Start by paying off the loan with the highest interest rate first.

If you have several credit cards with different interest rates, you want to focus on the one with a higher APR. You will actually save more money by eliminating the card with the highest interest rate.

3. Don’t Pay the Minimum Amount

Paying the minimum amount digs you into a hole as interest rates will offset your payment. Even a small amount more than the minimum can help you pay off debt much faster.

Removing Obstacles to Pay off Debt Quickly

Creating a debt tracker and prioritizing a plan is simple, but avoiding temptation can be difficult.

1. Set a Reminder to Track Your Debt

“If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” -Peter Drucker

It’s so important to track your debt to ensure that you get it paid off quickly. Similar to working out and measuring your results, you need to track your debt constantly. Start with a weekly reminder, where you sign on and log your updated number. Did you increase, decrease, or stay the same?

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Regularly tracking your student loan balance can be incredibly motivating, as well. You will get a huge confidence boost each time you see your total debt amount decreases.

Set weekly and monthly goals so you can have short term wins and keep the momentum going.

2. Hide Your Credit Cards

If your biggest debt is credit cards, you need to eliminate temptation and remove them from your wallet.

Some people have gone to extreme measures by freezing their credit cards. Why? This would create an ice block around your card, which would require you to chip away at it slowly. This will give you time to think if it’s the best idea to buy that thing you’re about to buy.

3. Automate Everything

Willpower can be a huge downfall to paying off your debt. By automating your bills each month, you will ensure that willpower isn’t involved.

4. Plan Ahead

Getting out of debt will require some sacrifices, but with enough planning, you can make it work.

For example, if you know that you have a friend’s birthday or family dinner coming up, plan ahead for the costs. Whether you need to cut back on spending the week before, pick up a side job, or meet them after dinner, do what is needed.

5. Live Cheaply

The only way to get out of debt is to make some sacrifices on your spending habits. Find ways to save money each month so you can apply that amount to your outstanding debts. Here are some ways to save money each month:

  • Live with roommates
  • Cook dinners and prepare lunches for work instead of eating out
  • Cut cable and choose Netflix or Amazon Prime
  • Take public transit or bike to work

Finding the Lowest Interest Rates

The higher your interest rates, the harder (and longer) it will take you to pay off any debt.

If possible, you want to find ways to lower your interest rates to help get out of debt quickly. Here’s how you can get started:

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1. Maintain a High Credit Score

Your credit score will have a large impact on your ability to refinance your loans and receive a lower interest rate. If you have a low credit score, it’s unlikely you will be able to refinance your loans. Use these credit tips to increase and maintain an excellent score:

  • Never miss a payment
  • Don’t exceed 30% of your credit limit
  • Don’t sign up for more than one card at once
  • Limit hard inquires, like auto-loans and new credit cards
  • Monitor frequently with free credit-tracking software

2. Find Balance Transfer Offers

Start by opening a free account on credit.com. Credit.com offers you the chance to open a free account and see what type of balance transfer offers you can receive. Some of your existing credit cards might already have 0% or lower APR balance transfer offers available.

Contact each of your credit card providers to ask about lowering your rate for a one-time balance transfer offer[2].

If you do take advantage of this option, make sure that you use a balance transfer and not a cash advance. Cash advances have a ton of high interest fees (15-25%, depending on your credit card) and will only compound your debt problem.

How to Get Rid of Debt Forever

Setting up a plan, removing temptations, and getting the lowest interest rates is the first step to get out of debt.

1. Keep Monitoring and Adjusting

Once you have a plan, don’t get comfortable. Track your debt payoff plan and make the necessary adjustments when needed.

Monitor your credit scores with a free site like CreditKarma. The higher your credit score climbs, the more likely you will be to secure a new, lower-interest loan.

2. Earn More Money

There are only so many ways to save money. Instead of clipping another coupon or making sacrifices for your morning coffee, find ways to earn more money!

Think about it…it is much easier to find ways to earn an extra $1,000 per month than find $1,000 to cut from your budget.

Here are some examples of ways to earn more money:

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Talk to Your Boss

Have a conversation with your boss about current salary and/or commission rates. If you’re not satisfied or want a change, don’t be afraid to look around at other positions. Some of them might even have a student loan debt reimbursement plan!

Start a Side Hustle

This could be coaching students on the weekends, driving for Uber, or taking paid online surveys. There are tons of ways to make money outside your 9-5. Now that you have a clear plan to pay off your debts, you’ll be more motivated than ever to figure out creative new ways to earn money.

Build an Online Business

There are so many websites and blogs that earn money from ads, affiliates, and other online products. Find your niche and get started.

3. Celebrate Your Wins

As you progress in your debt payoff journey, don’t forget to celebrate your wins. You need to always reward yourself for the hard work and discipline that is required to get out of debt.

While you shouldn’t celebrate so big that it increases debt, make sure to factor in little rewards to keep you motivated.

4. Set New Financial Goals

Eventually, with a plan and these steps, you can rid yourself of your debt. Once you do, make sure to celebrate your monumental achievement, but don’t stop there.

Now, you can focus on acquiring wealth and increasing your net worth. Set new financial goals so you have a new target to aim toward. Here’s how to set financial goals and actually meet them.

These could be anything now that you are debt free! Think about where you want to travel, buying your first home, or saving for your future retirement. Just like before, make sure that your goals are specific, measurable, and achievable.

Conclusion

Congrats, you can now set a plan in motion to finally pay off your debt quickly (and hopefully forever)!

Remember, if you want to get out of debt quickly, it’s not always easy. Just like any big goal, there will be sacrifices, challenges, and problems to overcome.

More Tips on Getting out of Debt

Featured photo credit: Pepi Stojanovski via unsplash.com

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