Since my last post about paying off over $20,000 worth of debt in 6 months brought a lot of interest and tons of questions, I wanted to lay out the exact ways we were able to achieve this goal through less spending and frugal living. For the last half of 2018, our goal was to pay off as much of our debt as we possibly could. I am happy to say, it was over $20,000 since July 2018. I read Dave Ramsey’s book the Total Money Makeover, and it lit a fire in us to pay off our debt.
I see SO MANY posts about paying off debt, but when I get deep into reading those posts, I rarely find tangible advice. Meaning, the post is very broad and doesn’t give me clarity as to how I can do the same. So today I wanted to get down and dirty with healthy finances and ways that you can earn extra income or live more frugally in order to pay off that pesky debt. Some of these are actual steps you can take to pay off more debt and avoid expenses, some is tips to get into a healthy mindset.
EXACT ways to Live More Frugally
Cut the cable
Yes, I totally said it. We have NOT had cable for about a year and a half, nor could I see us ever having it again. If you have a Roku, 9 times out of 10 the reality series you’re super into will be on Hulu, Netflix, or whatever other network that’s available. A Roku is $50 and you get a lifetime supply out of it! (Given the apps you are using are free.)
We actually have a Fire Stick ($24 on Amazon) and get TONS of free shows and movies on there. My husband’s biggest worry is that he wouldn’t be able to stream his sports without cable. Well, we still don’t have it and he has watched just about every game that he did when we did have cable – LIVE! There are ways to get around these expenses, y’all. You just have to find them! (Hello, Google search bar.)
Cut the cable guys, it’s not worth the extra $80, $90, or even $100 every month. Think about it – that’s $1,200 per year! We were spending $95 per month on cable for roughly 3 years – that’s $3,600 we could have saved and been less in debt, if we knew sooner!
If we got a dollar for every time we said no because we knew it would save us money, we’d be rich. No joke.
We’ve said no to friends, family members, and even each other and it has paid off! A few examples of things we’ve said no to are: going out to eat with other couples (generally over $60 for the two of us to eat, not including a tip; expensive trips like sports outings, bar outings, parties, trips, and other entertainment activities; not getting a hotel room at weddings (I happily offer to be the dd so we can come home the same night and save over $200); not buying a product simply because some person on Instagram told me I NEEDED it; and not giving into the pressure of feeling like I need everything I see that I really like.
Be intentional about grocery shopping and gas station stops
You guys – before we started budgeting, I didn’t realize we were spending upwards of $400-$500 EVERY MONTH on food. That was between buying groceries, dining out, ordering take out, AND stopping at gas stations for a quick pick-me-up. Now that I look back, I can’t even believe how much was spent just on food.
Now, before we step into the grocery store, we make a list and stick to it! Make your own lunch, brew your own coffee. Our budget between dining out, ordering take out, and purchasing snacks at gas stations/coffee shops/etc. is $50. We do not spend over that per month EVER for those three things. Set your budget, and be committed to sticking to it.
Ask yourself: need versus want
This kind of goes along with the previous bullet point, but before I spend my hard earned money on something, I ask myself whether it is a need or a want. Do I really need new running shoes or will the 6 sitting in the closet suffice? Do I really need that $6 morning coffee or can I brew one at home, add creamer, and have it taste just about the same?
Ask yourself these questions when you get into the mindset of spend, spend, spend. Another question I ask myself is this: Will I get good use out of it? Am I buying it to make my life easier, or just to make it look prettier? These are REAL reasons for spending. Be honest with yourself the next time you’re about to check out.
Do NOT compare your life to theirs
This is a big one. Your financial goals HAVE to be bigger than the prettiest $50 top you see that instagram blogger wearing. Paying off your debt has to be more important than driving around a brand spanking new 2019 SUV. How much shopping/spending foolishly is it going to take to realize you are BROKE? I hate to get all “rip your head off about shopping” right now, but the need to show pretty, decorated, and luxury right now is so real.
True story: I unfollowed about 30 fashion blogger accounts because every time I opened up my Instagram app, that’s all I saw. At one point, I remember thinking, “Wow, am I not good enough because I put paying off my debt AHEAD of buying all the cute and trendy fashion/luxury items?”
I had to get really intentional about who I was following and how those accounts made me feel. Now, this isn’t to say that all fashion accounts are terrible. Please don’t think that is my point here. What I AM saying is: take note of how you are feeling about seeing those pretty, styled photos when you have a big financial goal in mind. Would those items be awesome to have? Of course. But, again, as Dave Ramsey says, “live like no one else (live frugally now), so later, you can live like no one else (pay off that debt babe, so you can buy whatever the hell you want when that debt is finally gone and you are FREE of the draining monthly payments!)
Seems weird to think about when talking about saving money, right? Actually, think about it this way: every time you fill up your tank, I’m going to guess it’s at LEAST $40. That’s being pretty conservative, too. We spend less of our weekends driving here or there and more time at home to 1. be more intentional about the time we have with our kids since both my husband and I work full-time and 2. spend less money on fuel. Before we started getting VERY intentional about our spending, we were making plans constantly and most of the time that meant driving to and fro every weekend, all weekend. You can save a TON of money just by re-evaluating how much you are doing and how often you are driving.
Fix it yourself, or DIY
When I see something I really like, I ask myself if I could do that exact same thing. Google and Pinterest will be your best friends. As Rachel Hollis says, “You can learn anything for free with a Google search bar.” I wholeheartedly agree with this.
Just last week, the oversized drawer in our kitchen broke. At first, I thought, “SERIOUSLY? Just another expense that will push us back… before even looking at the thing. Once I finally took a peek at it, I realized only a screw was missing. BAM. Turned an additional expense into a 5-minute expense.
A month ago, our refrigerator door started squeaking and we literally thought our door was bending off its hinge. Now, it wasn’t just a small squeak, it was waking up our baby from her nap – it was that loud. We started looking online and mapping out our budget for a brand new $1,800 fridge. At second look, the hinge was not breaking. We took WD-40 to it – magic. Our fridge is back to normal. Keep this in mind BEFORE thinking you HAVE to purchase something new, or replace something.
I had a closet full of clothes; 3/4 of which I rarely touched. I took photos, added them to a Buy/Sell/Trade page and made $230 in 3 days. Y’all, if you have good quality products/items that are barely being used, sell them and make extra cash!
There are many resources you can use to sell your new and gently used stuff: Craigslist, Buy/Sell/Trade pages, list on Poshmark/Facebook/Instagram, take to a resale shop, or have a garage sale.
If you cannot afford your vehicle – sell that too. We swapped out our 2014 Jeep Cherokee for a family owned, $1,500 valued (roughly) 2005 Pontiac G6 so that we were car debt free. We paid off $15,000 of our debt by selling our new (to us) vehicle right then and there. And we never looked back and we’ve never been happier to have “downgraded.” It feels SO GOOD not to have a $400 vehicle payment ever again. How would you feel if you never had another car payment…EVER?! What could you do with an extra $300-500 (average monthly car payment these days) per month?!
That “old” vehicle is worth the savings on driving that brand spankin’ new vehicle. Trust me. I’ve been there, I’ve done that. Get ahold of your debt! Drive like no one else, so eventually, you can drive like no one else! – Dave Ramsey.
Share/Swap Clothes with Friends/Family
Might sound silly, but I’ve saved a lot of money by simply asking my close friends or my sisters if I can borrow an item of clothing before going to the mall and purchasing it myself… just to wear the once. We switch with each other and it’s a win-win for both of us. There’s no need to go out and by something yourself if you won’t be wearing it daily. Plus, I’m sure your friends will appreciate this act of kindness just as much as you do.
Make your own products
My husband thought I was crazy for wanting to make my own counter cleaner out of white vinegar, water, and essential oil… until he realized how cheap it was and how much simple DIY measures to many products we were using, would save us in the long run. You can do this with counter cleaner, laundry detergent, fabric softener, carpet cleaner, lotion, face wash, makeup cleaner, makeup remover, etc. If you made all this yourself, how much would you save over the course of one year? I can tell you – it’s quite a bit.
This is equivalent to hundreds of dollars, which could be the difference in keeping your credit card debt, or paying it off.
Once you train your mind to put paying off debt slowly but surely ABOVE having the perfect life from the lens of others, you will see results. Guys, I like cute trendy fashion items just as much as the next woman. But, I know that I most likely won’t wear them consistently and it won’t get me to where I want to be financially. It’s the idea of having the perfect everything that I have left behind.
If you want to pay off your debt and live a life of financial freedom, stop with the excuses. YOU can do this!
How have you been more frugal in order to pay off debt/live financially free?