How Do I Get Out of Debt?


Aug 8, 2020
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About 20 years ago, I held a lot of debt. Perhaps it wasn't much compared to today's standards, but to me, it was a lot. I owed on student loans from college and I had a huge balance on my credit card. I never actually owned more than one credit card, which was smart, but the one I had was terrible for me. I purchased a used car using its cash advance feature and I think I may have put a semester or two worth of college tuition on it. Needless to say, the balance was in the multiples of thousands. Beyond that and after my used car died, I took a loan to buy a brand new one. You know, I needed a new car because I was just so sick and tired of having to deal with a used one. Classic way of thinking for those who borrow money to live.

Holding this type of debt made me feel very uncomfortable and nervous, as I simply wasn't the type of person to live the way I was living. The money I owed gnawed at me day and night and I can't remember a time when I wasn't thinking about what I had to do to get out from under it. Eventually, I paid everything off and never looked back. The process wasn't easy though, but after getting my head straight, I did what needed to be done.

The question is, what did I do to get rid of the debt that I held all those years ago? I can remember thinking about ways to do it. The first idea I came up with was to make more money. That was the most obvious. If I could only make a few more dollars an hour or a few extra thousand dollars a year, I'd be free and clear. I'd use that money to pay down what I owed and everything would be fine. I actually did make more money through the years, but it did very little to help my situation. What ended up happening was I spent anything extra I made. It was like the more I made, the more that left my pocket. After a while, I realized that my income wasn't the problem.

Some of my other ideas were, I'm ashamed to say, just terrible. I thought about trying to meet someone who was rich to start a relationship with. If I could just get close enough, perhaps they could help me pay off my debt. That was stupid, I know. It didn't work in the least. After that, I wondered if there were any government programs out there that would help someone like me. I began asking around and doing research to see if someone at either the state or federal level would lead me to some free money. I didn't get very far with that either. It was like every time I tried to get something I didn't earn myself, someone would slam a door in my face. It wasn't until I realized that it was me who was the problem that I did something about my issue. Do you want to know what I ultimately used as a solution? Here it is:

I stopped spending money frivolously and every extra cent I had, I put towards what I owed.

I can hear you now. "Well, that's pretty obvious. Anyone can do that!" Oh can they? Would you like to know exactly how I reduced my spending? Yes, paying down the debt is rather simple; it's actually the reducing the spending to get the money to do that that's the trouble. At the time, I was living a great life. I was very social and owned nice things. I looked good, dressed well, and drove a nice car. The problem was, everything I had or did was on the back of what I owed. Simply put, I had to reduce all aspects of my quality of life in order to save the money I needed. I knew that was going to be a massive internal battle because changing one's behavior and entire attitude towards money is never easy.

The most difficult thing I did was sell the car. I knew that needed to be done. I actually still owed money on it after I sold it and needed to pay that off, but once I did that, I was free to purchase a used car with cash. I got over myself. I drove a car that was like the one I owned while I was in college. I didn't look good doing it, but at least it was honest and what I could afford.

I also stopped going out - completely. My social life was over. From that point on, I totally stopped spending money on drinks and food that wasn't consumed inside my apartment. I didn't visit bars, clubs, or restaurants. That was a huge money saver. I had never realized how expensive it was and how much money I wasted on going out. It was ridiculous. In the place of going out with friends to have fun, I read used books I got for free from the library or bought for a few dollars from my local used book store. I read a lot in those days.

I moved out of my apartment when my lease was up and I moved into a less expensive apartment in an area of town that wasn't as nice as the one I had just left. It wasn't fun, but it was what I needed to do. I saved a good amount of money doing that.

I also ate rice, beans, and ketchup for months and months. I lived like a college student. That combination of ingredients and I became best friends. I lost about 30 pounds doing that, but boy did I save a lot of money resisting the temptation of purchasing expensive food at the grocery store. I never quite noticed how expensive grocery store shopping could be. After I calculated my expenses, that was one of the first cuts I made. It was well worth it.

While the steps I took were challenging to execute, they weren't nearly as challenging as they might have been if I were in a relationship and living with someone. I could only imagine the complaining that would have occurred as I sold my car, stopped going out, increased my reading, moved into a lousy apartment, and began eating baked beans every night for dinner. This actually leads me to a final point. I got out of debt fairly quickly after I changed my lifestyle for the better. I felt great when the last dime was paid off, but things wouldn't have gone nearly as smoothly had I been married or in a serious relationship with someone. Spouses and partners don't always see eye to eye when it comes to finances, so if there's trouble getting out of debt while attached to a certain person, you may want to look at what caused your increase in debt in the first place. Perhaps it was them. Yes, you may have come into the relationship with problems, but if who you're with is resistant to change for the better, they likely exacerbated the problem. This is an entirely different type of situation that I'll discuss in a later post. For now, just know that in order to get out of debt, you'll likely need to live like a pauper while you get your life in order.
How Do I Get Out of Debt? was posted on 03-15-2021 by 15Katey in the Finance Forum forum.
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