But if you're already drowning in massive monthly credit card payments, student loans, car payments, or a mortgage, just knowing when to stop spending may not be the problem. You could stop spending today & still feel depressed & overwhelmed by your mountain of debt. It's never to late to get back on top however. So if your New Year's resolution was to stop spending & start saving, while also eliminating your current debt, here are some tips to help you along:
- Cut expenses. Now's the time to be honest with yourself. Do you really need 15 pairs of jeans? Would it be cheaper to have a few beers at home than it would to go out to the bars? Do you eat out more than you eat in? Maybe you can learn to love simpler foods & in the process write a best selling cookbook titled "A hundred and one fun things to do with Ramen Noodle"...
- Budget, budget and re-budget. Sit down with a pen & paper and be more honest with yourself than you are with the IRS. How much are you truly making, what are your monthly expenses (which should not include a massive budget for GTL situations), and where can you afford to trim, cut corners, & pull some extra funds.
- Identify and change bad habits. If you are quicker than a cowboy in a duel to whip that credit card out of its holster, maybe you should leave the plastic at home. Or even better, cut up the credit cards & dump them in the trash. At first you might wonder how to live without them, but over time you will move on.
- Adjust expectations for your lifestyle. Yes, we would all love to live the high life like Beyonce & Jay Z, but unfortunately that type of Champagne Wishes & Caviar Dreams lifestyle may not be possible when you're working the night shift at Walmart or waiting tables at the Texas Roadhouse (cue sad self-pitying music here). Someday, when you're debt free & not spending nearly half of your monthly income sending loan & credit card payments, you might be surprised at how much fancier your lifestyle can become. In the meantime, live within your means.
- Take in a roommate. This was suggested on the Internet. However, if this is something you decide to do, be very careful with your selection process. Warning signs: Anyone with the following pets- bats, snakes, spiders, or ants. It's all fun & games until the pet gets loose, People who refuse to give references because it's a "violation of their privacy & the privacy of their victims", People with Crazy Eyes (you know who you are). Also, steer clear of Craig's List, which after watching enough Lifetime movies & episodes of Law & Order SVU you can clearly see is a breeding ground for crazies & serial killers.
- Move. As in back in with your parents. Yes, it's a little embarrassing & it may drive you crazy, but there is something to be said for living rent free. And mom's meatloaf.
- Triple and quadruple your minimum credit card payments. Stop paying the minimum. It gets you nowhere. Even sending an extra $20 a month will lower the principle a lot faster.
- Save a cushion for emergencies. When an emergency arises, you will be even more likely to use your cards, which will drive up the balance & you will end up paying interest. Keep some savings on hand. If you can't be trusted, get one of those mechanical banks that cuts your hand off if you try to remove money for a late-night Taco Bell run.
- Rely on automatic payments. You won't miss a payment & therefore you won't be charged late fees.
- Find ways to earn more money. Like invent a mechanical bank that cuts your hand off if you try to remove money for a late-night Taco Bell run.
- Get honest with friends, family and ourselves about this priority. While big Christmas gifts are always appreciated and family vacations are super fun (sometimes...), while you're trying to become debt free, they just might not be possible. Ditto on your friends wanting to go out all the time. You may have a moment of weakness (every time) when they ask. Let people who are close to you know what you're working towards. Their support could really help you stick to your goals.
Now who's down for a shopping spree??? Kidding, kidding...