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.
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.
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.
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.
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.