As a young girl, I found many ways to keep myself busy. I loved the outdoors. I’d play outside all day long until my ankles were black with dirt. I’d make forts in the woods, ride cardboard boxes down my favorite bumpy hill and even taught myself to do back handsprings (only giving myself a “mild” concussion).
I never bothered to learn the importance of handling money, nor was I taught. Any loose change I managed to scrounge up, I had it spent as fast as I could count it. Gumballs, candy, Taco Bell burritos… whatever I was in the mood for.
As soon as I turned 15 I got a job. I knew if I wanted money, I had to work (at least I got that principle right). I never saved, only spent. Unfortunately, this carried into my adult years and one day, I got a wake up call. It was debt calling and I was in it way over my head.
Not just any debt… terrible, horrible, no good credit card debt. The good news was I somehow managed to stay current on all my bills. The bad news, I had to repay it.
So how does one start chipping away a mountain of debt? Especially someone who knows little to nothing about managing money to begin with? I figured it was time for me to get an education on the subject.
I did a lot of reading, learning and applying new principles to the way I handled my money. I got real clear about what I wanted to accomplish and I set out to achieve it. My goal was to become debt free.
I began gobbling up money management material like it was my Thanksgiving dinner. I now understand personal finance is 80% behavior. I had to cut out the bad habits I developed.
These are the steps I took to free myself from my financial disaster and gain full control over my money:
1. Lose the credit card debt as fast as you can. Pick up an extra job, sell some stuff. Work those bills out of your life forever. Pay them off, close them and promise yourself to never use them again.
2. Just say “no”… to credit. Do not finance anything. Do not use credit cards. This step is simple, no need to go into further detail.
3. Pay in cash. You know your limits when you only use cash. It’s the only way to buy things that won’t involve high interest rates.
4. Next best thing to cash, your debit card. This will force you to only pay with money you already have. It allows you to purchase things without incurring debt. When using your debit card, make sure you chose CREDIT when you have a choice. This way you won’t be responsible for unauthorized transactions.
5. Get on a budget. Only you can change your behavior. Start telling your money what to do instead of wondering where it all went.
I still very much enjoy keeping myself busy, minus the dirty ankles. I find a great sense of accomplishment in learning how to manage my money. In my journey I’ve also discovered how to live comfortably within my means and ensure my kids are money wise.
Have you felt the pressures of debt? What did you do about it?