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Hey guys! Firstly, I’d like to say thank you for this podcast, it’s been so informative for me. My question is, how do you resist impulse to buy! I work retail and I don’t make much, which is almost embarrassing to say because I’m 25 years old and should have a, “grown up” job by now, but I’ve had done trouble finding my career focus. Anyways, I’ve gotten myself into a bit of credit card debt that I can’t seem to get out of. I can’t seem to muster the discipline to stick to a budget, even when I write it out. And even with the budget it seems like it would take me forever to get out of the hole because there isn’t much extra money to go toward the credit cards. I have cut them up, all but one I pay a bill a month with, but the interest is getting pretty high. Any advice?
Know Why You Want to Budget
If you’re having trouble sticking to your goals, which it sounds like you are, then you may need to find an emotional motivator to keep you going. Ask yourself, “What does being debt free mean for me?” How will it feel to be debt free?
If you’re more pragmatic and you need some evidence-based motivation, try using a debt free calculator to see exactly how much money you’re wasting each year on interest that could be going towards, well, anything besides credit card interest. This feeling of regret when you’re paying off your debts is why you should really pay attention to interest rates when choosing a credit card. The key is to find something other than “I need to budget because budgeting is the right thing to do.” That is true, but let’s be honest, it’s not very exciting.
Try writing down at least three, and up to five, personal motivators that will keep you going when temptation strikes. Put these in your phone, hang them on your fridge, or keep them in your office as a constant reminder as you move closer to your debt free goal. Your debt freedom journey may be long, but the payoff is worth it.
Pick a Simple Budget Starter Plan Like “80/20”
If you’re having trouble sticking to any budget, the easiest is the “80/20 rule.” Just save 20% and do whatever you want with the remaining 80%. If you don’t think you can start at 20%, try starting with 5 or 10% savings/debt payments and add 1/2% every few months until you reach 20%.
As you pay down your debt, your credit utilization lowers and your credit score goes up. Paying down your debt creates its own benefits cycle: the lower your debt and the better your credit score, the better credit card and consolidation loan offers you will receive. Eventually, you can use these improved offers to refinance and further lower your interest rates until you reach zero debt. Put another way, positive personal finance habits result in better financial products and more available income.
Cheating on Your Budget Is Ok
When it comes to your budget, fidelity is optional, so cheat in moderation. The ends justify the means! If you’ve been faithful to your debt so long you’ve forgotten how to cheat, try some of these pro-cheater tips from Mixed Up Money, Cheat Days, But Like, For Money.
Sticking to a budget is difficult and accepting that is part of the journey. These tricks can help you stick to your budget longer periods of time until you’re completely debt free. PB Readers, have you tried some tools or tips we missed that help you stick to your budget or resist impulse shopping? Share your advice in the comments below!
Marcus Garrett is one-half of the Paychecks and Balances podcast, a certified internal auditor, and author of Debt Free or Die Trying: How I Buried Myself in Over $30,000 in Debt and Dug My Way Out By Age 30. You can find him on Twitter @PayBalances and Facebook: PaychecksAndBalances.
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