Get paid. Pay the bills. Use the credit card for groceries, because there’s no money left. Count the days until payday. Sound familiar? This money cycle had me trapped for years and years. And with it came stress, anxiety, and arguments with my husband. On the regular.
If this rings true for you, know you are in good company. But you’re in luck! I’ve got a story and some tips and tricks up my sleeve that will help you get out of debt and ultimately make you a happier human being!
First, a little backstory…
It was October 2017. My anxiety was through the roof, we argued all the time (usually about money), and I was miserable and definitely not being the best version of myself.
I knew that our debt was a huge trigger, I just didn’t know how to fix it. When I added it all up, we owed over $65000 on credit cards, student loans, and bank loans. We were playing the game of using our cash to pay the minimum payments on the debts and then using our credit cards to pay for real-life because there was nothing left in our account. I was barely functioning as a mom of our then four-year-old. Everything weighed on me, and I saw very little hope for our financial future. I had tried to fix our finances a handful of times before, but we failed to get any traction and eventually went back to our old habits.
But then, one day, everything changed. I decided to take charge of my anxiety and my money. I had had enough of letting this huge burden control our life. I started reading and listening to everything I could get my hands on related to debt and finance and winning with money.
I dug deep into our numbers. I wrote down the balances of every debt and how much we were paying just in interest each month. It was those numbers – specifically how much we were wasting on interest – that finally made us get intentional with our money.
We made a plan and a budget, started paying attention to our spending, and we used every single extra penny to pay down our debt. My anxiety eased more and more each month that went by. We were finally on the same page about money, so the arguments stopped. I was able to focus my attention on my husband and our son because I wasn’t constantly worrying about the bills.
So now you are probably wondering – HOW?? How do I do the same thing? It wasn’t magic. It wasn’t even that complicated. It just took some new habits and commitment to the life we wanted instead of the life we were living.
Here you go – how you can take control of your finances, be intentional with your money, and live your best life.
Start the conversation
One of the biggest challenges people face with money is not talking openly about it. Time and again, I see situations in my coaching where one partner is the money person, and the other doesn’t have a clue what is coming in or what is going out. It’s really important, as a couple, to be on the same page about your goals, and for both people to be at least aware of the financial situation.
In our house, I am the money gal. I LOVE updating the budget and looking at the numbers and paying the bills. (Clearly – it’s why I run a blog that is all things intentional finance!)
But that doesn’t mean that my husband gets a pass. He still knows our budget limits, the expectations we have around spending, and what our financial situation is. We talk openly about our goals and own our mistakes.
Plus, then there are no secrets. Open honesty is the key here. You can’t spend three hundred dollars on shoes and keep that a secret. They can’t forget to pay the cable bill for three months and not own up to it.
It may take some time to both be on the same page. It took us years. But once you are both heading in the same direction, the feeling is amazing.
Know your why
This is HUGE. In order to stay focused and moving towards your goal of debt-free living and a happier life, you need to know WHY you are doing this work. (And it is work, it’s just worth it!) What is the end game you imagine?
Saying good-bye to money stress and worry is one part of it. But I want you to think bigger.
What will your life look like when you aren’t drowning in debt? How will you feel? What will you be able to do that you can’t now? What will be different?
For us, the why revolved around my anxiety and setting a better example for our son. Teaching him the value of money from a young age, and building the habits into our daily lives to model for him how to manage money and live an exceptional life, within our means, has been huge. We also want to be able to travel more, renovate our house, and afford to do the things we want to do without adding anxiety. (Or interest payments!)
So – what’s YOUR why? Hit us up in the comments – I would love to hear the reason you are taking charge of your finances – and, you never know who you might inspire!
Make a budget
Once we figured out the reasoning behind the work we needed to do, we needed a plan to get there. That plan, and the key to taking charge of your finances, cutting back on the financial anxiety, and building a happier, intentional life – is a budget.
I know for lots of people ‘budget’ is a four-letter word. It conjures up images of boring weekends spent at home, dinners of rice and beans, and saying no when you’d rather say yes.
But hear me out! Your budget isn’t a punishment. And for nearly everyone I have worked with, getting organized with a spending plan has actually made them feel like they have more money! Because when you know what is coming in and going out, and you are intentional with your spending, suddenly, you aren’t wasting money on things you don’t need!
The bare-bones how-to is simple: how much money is coming in? How much money is going out? Make sure there isn’t more going out than coming in and spend money working towards your goals rather than mindlessly buying things (food, clothes, coffee on the way to work every day) and wondering where your money went!
Pay off your debt
If you are anything like I was, struggling with the weight of being a mom and wife, working full-time, organizing our household, trying to be all things to all people…well, you get it – the struggle is real.
Adding the worry of credit card bills to that was crushing.
I didn’t sleep, I wasn’t taking care of myself, and I was certainly not living my best life. The greatest thing I have ever done for my mental health and the happiness of my family is starting the mission to be debt-free.
And I’ve heard all the excuses – you owe too much, you don’t make enough, there’s no money left-over. I get it. Because I lived it.
But. BUT. Each small step you can take adds up, and over time, you can make a real impact. IF you are intentional.
- Get real. Look at all your balances. Don’t skip the student loans because the interest is low, they count. Don’t forget about the thousand bucks you owe your parents, or the car loan, or the line of credit you got to buy your first car and have been making minimum payments on ever since. (Speaking 110% from experience on all of these!)
- Make a list of your debts, from smallest to largest. Everything, except your mortgage. Don’t worry about interest or how much the payment is. We aren’t worried about math right now; we are worried about habits.
- Attack that smallest debt with a vengeance. Decide, right now, that you will pay it off. You can pay it off. Every extra penny you can squeeze from your budget – pay it onto that debt. Don’t wait until the payment is due each month, if you can make extra payments – do it. Sometimes I put as little as $5 on my smallest debt because that extra five bucks is a step in the right direction. And that way I couldn’t accidentally spend it on a coffee!
- Use your budget to find extra money. Cut back on entertainment, restaurants, groceries. Go through your house and sell anything you no longer use or want. Choose to put your birthday money from Grandma onto your debt. Take any extra money that comes your way, and chunk it onto your smallest debt.
Before you know it, that debt is gone.
And the thrill of that feeling? Realizing that you not only can pay off a debt, but you did!? Amazing.
When you focus on the smallest debt first, you get a quick win. You get the thrill of success, and that is what will motivate you to keep going onto the next debt. And then the next one.
Before you know it, you’re making your last debt payment. You will realize that now the money you make each month will be yours to spend on the things you want, rather than disappearing towards payments for trips you already took or cars you’ve already sold, or clothes you’ve already donated.
Decide what you want, and work towards it. You get to control how your money is spent. Decide what matters in your life, and focus your energy on that.
For me, I want to spend time with my boys, going on adventures and making joy-filled memories. I want to sleep at night. I want to go to the grocery store without worrying about how much money is in my bank account. And the key to all of that? Being intentional with my money and committing myself to the goals I have for my life.
Today, debt-free, my anxiety is so much less than it ever was before. Fights with my husband are few and far between. And I am able to spend time making memories with my loved ones without the burden of that debt weighing me down.
That’s a wrap!
This is a snippet of the lessons we have learned about money in the past three years. For more tips and tricks to get started or keep you motivated, check out the article 50 Things We’ve Learned About Money (and Life!)
The key to all of this financial winning is your mindset – believe that you deserve better. Say good-bye to the anxiety of debt. Be intentional and commit to the process. Rely on a community of like-minded people to encourage and support you. Celebrate your successes, and never ever stop working towards your goals. You’ve got this!