One of the big wins you'll see when you engage in the process of getting out of debt is the increased awareness about everything you spend money on.
As you engage ever more intently, the whole process gets you laser focused on refining your budget. You especially get intense when you start looking at that thing at least once a week.
Increased awareness is a place my wife and I have been in for years. It's pretty much a game at this point. For the past two years, our savings rate has been above 70%.
Yes, you're reading that right, we lived on 30% of our income and saved/invested the rest.
Your brain naturally starts to try to figure out how you can “cut corners” and save money.
It starts to be a game and can actually be a lot of fun.
You also begin to see all the little places where you’re “leaking” money and, when you add it up, it can be frightening and sometimes even infuriating. “I spent WHAT on cable TV last year?!"
We've been there. We've made all the mistakes and then some. Dave Ramsey lovingly calls it "stupid tax" and we've paid it in full on many occasions.
And believe me, in working with our coaching clients, I’ve seen just about everything you can imagine.
But remember, it's all part of the learning process of getting control of your money and it happens incrementally, just like your budgeting skills.
I don't know about you, but I usually need some coffee to go along with my "great awakening".
So, this is our's. It isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, rather, it’s meant to get the wheels of your brain turning.
It's meant to get you to think about what you’re spending your hard earned money on and maybe shine some light on some areas where you could either cut back or eliminate completely.
There may be just one or two things that you’re spending money on right now that, after reading this, you might begin to question, discuss and either cut back or eliminate altogether.
Also, I feel like it's important to mention that this is not meant to be an episode of “moralizing”. In other words, just because my wife and I don’t spend money in one area, doesn’t mean that it’s morally wrong for you to spend your money there (although it might be, so just check with your conscience:)).
Again, this is just meant to be an exercise to shift your thinking and help you to assess the wisdom by which your monthly budget is being structured.
That’s right, we cut that bill years ago and haven’t missed it one little bit. In fact, we even got rid of our TV about the same time and haven’t missed that either.
When we look at what we were spending (honestly, I can’t even remember what it was since it’s been so long ago) and multiplied it by twelve, we were astonished at how much it was and at what else that money could have been used for.
And besides, with the internet and YouTube in particular, we ALWAYS find free stuff to watch that is both informative and entertaining.
So ask yourself, what are you actually getting for all that money you're spending on cable? If you're looking for it, you have our permission to cut the cord!
Even though we live in an apartment right now (for the purposes of stacking cash for the "100% down" plan), this was something that we decided long ago to NEVER spend money on.
It’s expensive and doing it yourself give you some time to listen to your favorite podcasts as well as get some great exercise.
We rarely if ever buy books and never any of the latter. If we do buy books, we can usually find them used on Amazon for a fraction. We think the public library is one of the best ideas ever. Thanks Benjamin Franklin!
We never pay for credit report. You can always go to: annualcreditreport.com to get your free credit report once a year. Also, a lot of credit card companies are offering this as part of their normal card member services now (not that we recommend you use credit cards, mind you).
Fortunately for me, my wife grew up learning how to take care of her own hair so she’s never spent money on that.
I was spending $20-ish per month until we decided to buy a $20 set of clippers and let me be my wife’s first and only hair client (so far).
It was rough the first couple of times, but I can say I’m proud of the job she does as well as the $240+ we save on haircuts every year.
I’m blessed to have a wife who can’t fathom why women (or men) would ever consider spending money on this (apart from the sparsely occasional reward perhaps).
If you're in debt, you should really look at this one if it’s one of your expenses. You could "DIY" it for the time being and maybe reconsider once the debt is paid off.
New to budgeting and debt elimination? Go grab our free forms and get the process started.
These are actually pretty easy to avoid these days. Most banks require a $1500 balance to avoid fees and if you use your bank’s ATM or an “in network” ATM, you should never have to pay fees. So maybe pad that "starter emergency fund" of $1000 with an extra $500 if this a challenge for you.
My wife and I have the Otterbox protectors for our smart phones and love them.
Wireless providers and phone manufacturers profit hundreds of millions of dollars per year selling cell phone insurance. And sometimes people don't even realize they're paying for it.
So, check your bill and make sure you're not. If you’re particularly adept at breaking your phone, maybe insurance makes sense, but otherwise I'd scrap it.
Admittedly, there have been a few critical ones that I’ve purchased over the years (maybe to the tune of about $5 total), but as a normal rule of operation, we don’t spend money on this.
I know for some families, particularly with "app-happy" kids, this can be an area of significant budget leakage.
I would put some eyes on it and see if there is and clamp down on it.
There are so many free apps out there that are amazing, even if you have to put up with the annoying ads.
Do you "get down" with Pinterest? Would you consider pinning this image to your favorite board?
My first and only new car was also a leased car. I bought it after I graduated from college because I felt like I "deserved it".
Oh, I "deserved it" alright. Suffice it to say, I paid an abundance of stupid tax in this category.
After I added up all the extra money I spent leasing (or being "fleeced" by) that vehicle I determined only to buy used cars and only with cash.
My wife and I are totally convinced that paying cash (i.e. avoiding financing/debt) is the only way to really win when purchasing such a rapidly depreciating liability (and yes, it is a liability because, apart from the transportation function, it’s just about all expense).
I've been offered them on my previously owned homes. I always though, "nah".
Clark Howard says they are, "not worth the paper they're printed on." So we’ve always avoided them.
I also remember going to some consumer review sites to read the comments. If you’re considering it, that might be a good place to start.
This one hadn’t occurred to me until I saw it on someone else’s list.
My wife and I are Apple/Mac users, which I know doesn’t necessarily make us immune, but we’ve never had the occasion to make us feel that this was a justified purchase.
Additionally, my "work" computer is a Windows machine and my company pays for that antivirus software (#winning).
So what did I miss? What's missing? What's on your list that's not on mine?
Go ahead and write your list in the comments below and let's keep this thing growing.
0. Stop All Retirement Investing (Until Step 4)2. Starter Emergency Fund of $10003. Eliminate Debts Smallest To Largest (a.k.a The Debt Snowball)4. Full Emergency Fund of 3-6+ Months’ Expenses5. Invest A Minimum of 15% Income Into Retirement Accounts (and increase savings rate to 50%+ if possible)6. College Funding (if applicable)7. Pay Off The Home Mortgage8. Build Wealth, Serve, Be Ridiculously Generous And Go FI (Financial Independence)!