Earlier this week I read something that literally left me speechless. I didn’t know what to say and was in total disbelief. A few things came to mind but I decided to keep quiet. Many did not and made their distaste apparent. I thought about posting something about this a while ago but thought it too private. In light of recent events I’d like to take the opportunity to share because I see where it could benefit quite a few people.
What I read was someone asking for people to make donations to help them pay off their student loan debt. While I don’t think this is the way to approach getting a handle on your financial situation I think we should all keep in mind that everyone comes from a different background and you never know what is going on in someones life that could push them to such a point of desperation. What I want to do is share how Eric and I got out of debt.
Yep, I said it. Debt free. We have no more student loan payments, no more car payments, and no huge credit card payments. At 25 and in our first year of marriage we are starting with a clean slate. That slate, however, didn’t start that way. I’m sharing this not to brag but to show you that it CAN be done. It’s something we are very proud of but paying off more than $30,000 is no easy feat. It takes discipline and sacrifice. I also understand that every financial situation is different and some people are facing much more debt than others. It may take more time, but everyone can get a handle on their financial situation.
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Enter Dave Ramsey. For our wedding we were gifted the Financial Peace University – Home Study Kit. Hint: You can actually read the first chapter of Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money for FREE on Amazon.
The biggest takeaway from the course is “The Baby Steps”. He outlines 7 steps you should take to get a handle on your debt, save, and get in a position to give. That’s the ultimate goal. I like that he includes all kinds of examples and quotes from people who have used his resources and how they have helped them.
We are still working our way through the baby steps (and through the book for that matter). This is a great resource with a lot of information that is helping us now and will continue to help us in the future when we are ready to buy a house, save for retirement, etc. My hope is that if you are struggling with debt that this resource will help you like it helped us.
A few tips:
We cut cable (over $100/MONTH!) and use Hulu and Netflix (less than $20/month for BOTH)
We waited to get a pet. This one was really hard for me! I’ve wanted a dog for the past few years. We knew that getting a dog is an investment and a long commitment so we waited until we were in a financial position to adopt a dog.
We created a budget. One of my favorite websites is Mint. I should do a whole post about Mint and my love affair with that site. Mint does all the work of organizing and categorizing your spending for you. Simply add your bank accounts and use the site to have one place to view all the transactions from your accounts. You can set budgets for each category and get a great visual of where your money is going. I’m a visual person, so I love that they create graphs and charts so you can compare spending, etc. I really can’t say enough about this site. Try it; it’s free! (Also, it’s safe – coming from your fav IT girl)
We use public transportation. For the past 2 years I’ve used the METROrail to get to work. Parking downtown is EXPENSIVE. By riding the train I save $175 a month! Eric is now working downtown and riding the train as well. We save a lot of gas money this way. We are also helping the planet 🙂 It’s not always so great though – have you been to Houston in the summer? It’s HOT! It also rains a lot here. But those are small sacrifices we can make. Not everyone lives in a metropolitan area where public transport is as accessible as it is here. But I encourage you to look into carpooling or finding different ways to cut down your transportation expenses. My guess is you spend a lot of money in that category.
We curbed our “eating out” expenses. We tried really hard not to go out to dinner so often. This was an area that was hard to cut out. We made wise decisions when going out to eat- I hardly ever order soda at a restaurant for example, or we try to share an entree. Eric ate PB&J’s everyday for lunch for the better part of a year. Food can be really expensive but it doesn’t mean you have to become a hermit either.
These are just a few of the ways we found to save. I hope this information will prove useful for someone out there. It takes a lot of time and effort but it is doable! I’d love to find out how others our age are getting a handle on debt.
What is your money saving strategy?