Woman’s World magazine featured my family’s story of how we got out of $51,000 in debt in less than three years in their March 22 issue, which is pictured above. The vignette about our family (page 12) includes three things we did that changed our financial situation:
9 Realistic and Proven Ways To Help You Get Out Of Debt Fast
1. Opened an account at a credit union.
I was notorious for moving money into savings to set aside for things like car repair and Christmas gifts, just to move it right back out into our checking. To combat my impulsiveness, we opened a new checking account at a different financial institution. We made it difficult for us to access the money, but auto-transferred into it every month. It felt good to start saving for those non-routine expenses. (Side note, this was in addition to the auto-savings we did in an ING account for our 3-6 month emergency fund).
2. Planned for surprise expenses.
If you’re like me, you often flounder in your financial planning because of the unexpected things that pop up in a month. That could be new shoes for your kids, a worn out air conditioner and new brakes. Let’s be honest. Is it really a surprise that your kid’s feet grow? Is it a surprise that your 15-year old air conditioner needs maintenance? Is it a surprise that your brakes eventually wear out? Of course not. These aren’t true surprises. They come as one though, because we pretend they won’t happen and don’t set aside money in advance to pay for them when the time comes. Denying that Christmas won’t come is not going to change the fact that it comes 365 days after the last Christmas. You can count on it. When Marco and I began to set aside a prorated amount of money every single month for these non-routine expenses, we could buffer life without running to the credit card.
I’ll give you a warning. The first time you sit down to include a prorated monthly amount for all of life’s “surprise” expenses into your budget, expect a surprise. You’re bottom line will probably be in the red and much further in the red than you would have believed. Instead of getting depressed about it, realize that not planning for these expenses is a huge part of how you got into and why you stay in debt. Your life costs more than what you make.
To help with these unnecessary expenses, ideas 3-9 can help you to reduce expenses (and Pocket Your Dollars will help with that) and/or increase income.
3. Drive with Uber/Lyft
There are many things you can do to increase income. The obvious ones are Uber and Lyft (Uber’s slogan has been “Get Your Side Hustle On” for some time now). With there being more drivers than are needed, wages have gone down in recent years, but there is still a smart way to make substantial amount of income using either Lyft, Uber, or both.
To do this, and I did this myself, is to drive during high demand times, such as Friday and Saturday as anytime from 10pm-4am, 6am–8am and 4:30pm-6:00pm during the week (when people need rides to work), and special occasions, like New Years, Halloween, sporting and concert events, etc. During the high times when people need rides, fares go up betwee 2-10x normal price. When I was inbetween jobs, driving Friday and Saturday nights brought me in $30/hour and higher.
4. Join TopCashBack
Cashback sites are great ways to earn money back on things you were already going to buy anyways. Before I get into the details of how cashback sites work, I want to make it clear that cashback sites are fantastic when used appropriately. However, often times, people see savings and think it’s an excuse to spend more, which defeats the whole purpose of using it to save money.
So how do cashback sites work? In simple terms, you go to the cashback site of your liking, and find the stores that you would normally purchase items at, such as amazon. By clicking through the cashback site, you can anywhere from 1-20% back on things you would normally buy. For example, if you are anything like me, you make a ton of purchases from Amazon.
One of my favorite cashback sites, www.topcashback.com, has Amazon on its site. Currently, Amazon is offering 8% cashback on Amazon Echos. Amazon Echos are currently $45, so by clicking the link on TopCashBack, I will be earning 8% of $45, or $3.60. Pretty cool, right? Over time, this can add up, and you can take in hundreds of extra dollars a year.
TopCashBack is super easy to join and is 100% free. If a cashback site ever makes you pay, it is a red flag, and you should look elsewhere.
5. Limit unnecessary spending on clothes
Too often times, our “therapy” can be quite expensive, and mindless shopping to de-stress can rack up our credit card bills. Going to shop for clothes and other accessories for you and your family is often necessary, so if you do, choose discount stores like TJ Maxx, Ross, Marshalls, and others.
These stores are great because they have name brand stuff like the department stores, but for a fraction of the cost. Interested in how they can charge so little for name brand stuff? Check out the Pocket Your Dollars article: The Truth About Tj Maxx and Marshalls.
6. Use Mypoints
One of the best things you can do to save money is to limit your purchases. But when you do make purchases, for example, on household items on Amazon, you can be earning money back with MyPoints. MyPoints is a great way to earn money on purchases you already make everyday.
MyPoints lets you earn rewards by shopping online and printing coupons, and is an instant way to save. For example, you can get greater than 4% cashback on purchases made in certain categories on Amazon.
Additionally, they have a pretty cool promotion right now to get a free $10 Amazon gift card. All you have to do is sign up for MyPoints here using your email or Facebook (it’s 100% free).
The next time you shop online, use the MyPoints portal, which you can use to shop at thousands of stores, like Walmart, Amazon, and Target. Once you spend $10 at any of these stores, you will receive 1,750 bonus points which you can redeem for a free $10 Amazon gift card. You can sign up here.
7. Use The SpentApp
One of my favorite apps for tracking expenses is the SpentApp. It works on both desktop and as a mobile app on IOS or Android, and is amazing at helping to monitor expenses, to see where your money is going. For me, I simply could not believe how much I was spending at restaurants (that part of the pie chart was way too big when I monitored my expenses).
What separates the SpentApp is that you also get cashback on your purchases. I got $423 the in 2016 from it – love that! Here is how it works:
- Link your bank account and credit cards to the app and all linked account purchases get automatically uploaded to the SPENT downloads section.
- After making purchases you have the option to swipe left for personal expense and right for business expense, and you put those expenses in specific folders, like groceries, eating out, or utilities
- After you create categories and swipe each purchase to the specific category, the app breaks down your expenses so you can see where money is going. This is fantastic for figuring out where your money is going and how to reduce expenses. Be prepared to have your stomach drop when you see your expense chart.
- Get cashback. What separates the SpentAPP from other expense tracking apps is its cashback program. When you purchase from selected retailers, which include Groupon, Walmart, Best Buy, Target, Macy’s, Booking.com, Amazon, Uber, Starbucks, and way more. The app claims that 90% of the U.S. shopping market is on the app with cashback offers.
- What’s even better is that it is completely free to install and use. Simply download the app and start tracking and earning cashback. Download it here at the Itunes store (if you have an Apple phone) or here via the Google Store (Android)
8. Use Debt Services
I don’t advise this for everyone, because they are not for everyone. For some people, however, specifically those with multiple loans and high amounts of debt (such as credit card debt and student loans) it can be an amazing way to get a chunk of debt gone. Sound too good to be true? Using debt consolidation and debt settlement services partners you with financial experts than can help you combine all your loans into one manageable loan with lower rates. They will also help you to negotiate with creditors. Creditors want to get paid, so they will take a part of the loan you owe versus nothing, so they are willing to settle on a lower price, which can save you a lot of money. For more in-depth article on the benefits of debt services, check out our Pocket Your Dollar article here.
Speaking with a debt expert is 100% free to try, and it can help you save 1000’s of dollars. There are tons of debt services to choose from, so it is important to do your research first. If you would rather spend your time doing other things (I don’t blame you), at Pocket Your Dollars, we have researched tons of different debt service providers, and have found that the debt relief hotline to be one of the best. They are 100% free to call at 877-301-0447 with no strings attached and are a service provided by the government as a way to help hard-working Americans get out of debt. And because they are such a unique service, they won’t be around for long, and have a limited amount of people they are able to help. They can be reached at 877-301-0447.
9 Give up one luxury for a month.
After realizing that we got into debt and were staying in debt because our life cost too much (it was a “duh” moment that changed our life) we got radical about reducing expense. We looked across every area of our expenditures. We found ways to continue enjoying life while paying less. One area was really hard for us to get under control, though eating out. As two people without kids, we were spending $300, $400, and sometimes $500 per month eating out. The worse part, we could not seem to get it under control no matter what we did. That led us to something radical that nipped our eating out addiction in the bud.
For one month my husband and I gave up eating out (except for work-required functions). We put a firm boundary in place since soft boundaries, like “we’ll only go out to eat once per week” didn’t get the job done. In that one month we learned where our pressure points were, how to overcome them and really rooted out the underlying issues that caused us to excessively eat out. When the month was up we went back to eating out in moderation and have done so ever since. The point is simple. If something is controlling you, then get radical and figure out how to get control of it.
Your turn: What is thing change your family has made, whether in attitude or action, that has made a positive impact on your financial situation?