Become A Debt Killing Machine In Five Steps

I’ve written about the subject of getting out of debt in the past, but because I frequently receive emails from people struggling with massive amounts of debt, I thought I would put together five steps for getting out of debt. These steps are more “big picture”-less procedural and more emotional. After all, until you get motivated to change you will simply spin your wheels.

1. Get angry

We go out of our way to repress anger in our society, but anger is a perfectly normal human emotion. An emotion that when harnessed properly can lead to powerful changes.

Find a way to personalize debt, and then get mad as hell at it. I hate debt for a lot of reasons, but a big one for me was the fact that debt limited my opportunities, and those of my family. My kids have missed out on opportunities to make lasting memories because we’ve had to skip family vacations. I had to stick it out in a soul-sucking career because we were too in the hole to consider moving. I spent many weekends mowing lawns a couple summers ago trying to generate extra income to pay down debt, all the while missing my family dearly.

At some point I said enough. I went from being indifferent, to depressed, to downright mad. That debt was not going to beat me. I would no longer ignore it while it festered, eating away at my future income and robbing my family of opportunity.

2. Stop spending money, cold turkey

When deep in debt you don’t have the luxury of saying things like, “I’ll try to spend less next month.” No, you WILL spend less next month. With the zeal of a heart attack survivor starting a new diet, prioritize your household expenses. Anything not contributing to food, shelter, transportation, health and basic clothing gets cut. Period. No excuses.

  • Drop the cable
  • Cancel home phone
  • Cut out the gym membership
  • Get rid of the yard service, the exterminator, and Netflix
  • Turn up the thermostat
  • Brown bag lunch
  • Have a no-spend weekend
  • Ride your bike to work
  • Eat rice and beans

Get drastic. Get creative. The deeper you can cut spending the more money you can direct towards paying off debt. And the more money you can throw at debt the faster it gets out of your life.

3. Eliminate opportunities to go back into debt

Got a problem with credit cards? Cut them up. Order too much crap online? Erase all profiles storing order information and destroy anything with a credit card number on it. Have a thing for cars? Sell the one you owe $20,000 on, and buy a $1,500 piece of junk to get back and forth to work. You’ll discover true friends couldn’t care less what you drive.

Have trouble in stores? Stay out of them. Shop every other week as much as possible, and only enter the store with a physical list of things to buy. Exit store with only things from that list. No excuses. It doesn’t matter what’s on sale, what’s on clearance, and what you just “have to have!”

4. Focus income towards your debt like sunlight through a magnifying glass.

I recall from my youth that light from the sun when filtered through the lens of a magnifying glass and focused on a particular spot is strong enough to ignite a flame. That’s exactly how you should approach paying off debt.

Focus as much of your income as possible on the next debt in your snowball. That debt should be sweating like a guilty criminal under the bright lights of an interrogator. Work overtime, pick up a second job, start a side hustle. Do whatever it takes to get your income up and direct all additional income towards repaying your debt.

5. Do not backslide, do no retreat, do not give up.

At times, following through on your financial goals will seem like an uphill battle. For instance, sustaining momentum when paying off debt is very difficult. Quick wins give way to long battles with high-balance debt, and it might seem like you are getting no where fast. However, as long as you are making progress, keep chopping away.

Another danger presents when things start to go well. Complacency begins to creep in. You have paid off 75% of your debt, increased your income, and decreased your spending. Suddenly that $1,500 a month you are sending to pay off student loans starts to look pretty good on a television, or on that vacation you skipped the last two summers.

This is a dangerous place to be, because the more comfortable you feel, the more risk there is you will give up and live with that remaining 25% of debt for the rest of your life. Keep your head down, your legs driving and sprint all the way through the finish line. And no matter what, do not quit until all balances reach zero.

Comments

  1. Great suggestions. The 2 most important are probably #1 & #5. Get angry & see it through until the bitter end. When I began my financial turnaround I was angry and had intensity as much as anyone has ever seen, but as time went on and my debt lessened I lost that intensity and became complacent.

    I am definately in a better financial position as I was before I started my quest to eliminate my debt and if I hadn’t made those huge payments to get myself out of credit card debt I would be in rough shape today.

    I lost my job a little over 2 months ago & instead of worrying how I will survive I am embracing the freedom I have been blessed with and will be attending school in the fall as a full-time student. This wouldn’t have been possible without reducing my debt drastically.

    I only wish I would have stuck with it a little longer before I lost my job. I continued to pay down my debts, I just lost the intensity.

  2. “Get angry over debt” is great advice. We all know that we need to manage our money effectively. The problem is that most of us make it Priority Five in a world in which there is only enough time and energy for three or four priorities. We need to get emotional about what we do to ourselves when we fail to manage our money effectively.

    Rob

  3. Hi

    Excellent advice. I feel guilty about the time/opportunities my family missed because of my debt problem. But anger is a much better emotion, guilt is too passive.

    Just one comment on the lis of expenses to cut. You must be living somewhere warmer than the UK, the tip here would be to turn the thermostat down :)

  4. When you decide to decide, means you take back control of your life and you take responsibility for YOUR choices….i started back in October 2004. I spend paper , save change (i can afford to)Dave Ramseys program which i tweaked to work for us. I don’t even work! I could! We are getting out of debt, and we are also paying cash or paying off any cc purchase we make, with out paying interest! I just keep our credit record good this way. I do buy 0% financing, but i figure out all the paychecks till it comes due and each payday, that is what i send the creditor for a payment, thereby not paying interest at all. I will write a $4500 check in August to pay off the last 3 windows we had installed in our house, including a $3,000 garden window! Paying them off $100 a week for 52 weeks. It just takes understanding and control. I refuse to work for big business (let them pick my pockets like they used to, with all the interest) and i am teaching my only child about this too.

  5. When you do spend money, you should know exactly where it is going as well. You’d be surprised to see how much is spent on sale items, and “have to haves”

  6. Thanks for the advice. I’m looking at a lot of debt when I get out of school, and I think this sort of mentality will really help me focus on it.

  7. Truly fantastic steps.

    My problem…as much as i would like to cut everything out (I can’t stand the cell or the cable bill), but the other members in my family, like my DH. Don’t want to ‘stop living’ in order to pay down debt.

    Still trying to deal with that. And I’ve tried compromising, too. Well, I got them to participate in a No Spend Week and we did save over $200. So, its a start!

  8. No surprise….this is another post that gets a “10″ in my book.

    I have found that if I get the right motivation behind my goal, I will find a way to get ‘er done.

    I am blessed with having no debt at this time but your ideas are fantastic for any challenge.

    You got me fired up and now I’m going out to kick some butt on my current challenge – those 20 extra pounds I’ve been slingin’ around.

  9. My wife and I just talked about what Dave Ramsey calls Gazelle Intensity and my wife has it. She gets mad and frustrated with our current situation and she channels that toward working on our goals. I think your article is dead one and look forward to reading more.

  10. Going cold turkey is always a tough one. I think I’d get angry if I had to suddenly deprive myself of all the pleasures. I’d probably go overboard the other way and make things up!

    Rgds

    RB

  11. 2. Stop spending money, cold turkey–

    That’s the single best piece of advice. It’s also the least comfortable, which is why it’s the best. If you’re deep in debt, you have to move out of your comfort zone. The problem with debt begins (and worsens) when we get comfortable with it. Debt goes from slave to master in short order.

    If you’re serious about reducing debt, building savings, or virtually any area of financial management, you have to make tough choices, ie, A or B, but not both. So cell phone OR landline, but not both.

    The interesting thing is that when you get rid of entire expense items you soon come to realize that you didn’t really ever need them in the first place.

  12. #1 is actually more important than it looks in theory. When you get bogged down by debt you tend to sink into despair, depression and fatalism. You get to the point where you think, it’s such a big amount of debt nothing I can do will dent it, and lapse into apathy.

    Getting angry at least means you take action, it’s a positive emotion rather than a negative one.

  13. This was some tough love that I really needed! Thanks for the post, very helpful to realize I needed to get smart about my debt and to start making changes immediately, not when my next paycheck rolls around.

  14. I honestly agree i beleive that credit cards and advertisement were created by the devil to crush and destroy families. Never has it looked so good to spend money when we’re in the death situation we get in when we are way over out head with debt. You really don’t realize the hole your in until you take a big red marker and write down the totals of your cc and write down how much money your bringing in. When I did that it was like a train hitting me. Get angry pick up your cross and push suffer and scrape until blood comes out your nails. I’ts easy getting into debt but hell getting out. But i’ts 100% possible with Gods help and a goog plan.

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