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The 5 Non-Negotiables Of Debt-Elimination

Here are the 5 things you MUST do if you REALLY want to get out of debt.
1. Have a strong, passionate, emotional “why”.
2. Be willing to examine your beliefs about money and how they’ve lead you to where you are.
3. Get on a written budget.
4. Track every penny of expenses.
5. Get encouragement, accountability, community and coaching.
Here's an infographic to help you to visualize:
Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re completely fed up with your debt (hopefully).
The mere thought of it may even make you want to vomit (hopefully).
That’s pretty much where I ended up a little over 10 years ago. I had wandered into $43k worth of consumer debt over the course of about 3 years and the weight of it started to absolutely crush me.
A recent career change relegated me to a subsistence lifestyle. I went from being a corporate advertising sales guy to a dead-broke working musician in about a  half a heartbeat. 
So, my bills, expenses and debts were piling up at a faster rate than I could pay them. The “dread-snowball” grew larger every day, to the point that I was besieged by anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks and well… dread.

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About the time I hit rock bottom, someone turned me on to Dave Ramsey’s material.
To say that is was a game-changer would be a gross understatement. For the first time in years, I could feel a sprouting sense of hope inside of me.
Finally, I had a plan and a (virtual) coach speaking truths in my ear. “Debt is dumb, cash is king and the paid off home mortgage has taken the place of the BMW as the status symbol of choice”. I LOVE that tagline and will remember it forever.
So, with that plan and A TON of blood, sweat and tears I paid off my “dread-snowball” in 2.5 years. 
In the process of my journey, I discovered I had this borderline annoying passion to share this newfound sense of hope 
It’s like hope with legs. Hope is just an emotion without something really to carry it. Financial organization, budgeting, tracking expenses and community were the legs that sheltered, carried and grew my own hope during this process.
So, I almost immediately started “coaching” friends and family, which ultimately turned into a life-long passion project to help free as many people from the broke, paycheck to paycheck, debt-ridden lifestyle as I can.
So, that’s how Zero Debt Coach was born.

The 5 Non-Negotiables Of Debt-Elimination

Again, here are the 5 things you MUST do if you REALLY want to get out of debt. We'll next unpack them in greater detail.
1. Have a strong, passionate, emotional “why”.
2. Be willing to examine your beliefs about money and how they’ve lead you to where you are.
3. Get on a written budget.
4. Track every penny of expenses.
5. Get encouragement, accountability, community and coaching.
Now, after 10+ years as a financial coach and thousands of debt-eliminators served, I see that there are 5 things that are absolutely non-negotiable if you want to successfully eliminate your debt.
In fact, all of my students, bar none would tell you that, if you’re not willing to do all 5 of these, you’re going to fail. 
Tough message I know, but I’m here to help you not to coddle you.
So again, if you REALLY want to get out of debt, you MUST do these 5 things.

1. Have a strong, passionate, emotional “why”. 

One thing I can promise you is that getting out of debt is HARD. For some it’s REALLY hard. I can just about guarantee you that you’re going to want to quit at some point in the process.
It’s tough to change behaviors. It’s tough to completely change direction with how you relate to money and to our culture.
You’re going to have to dig deep, especially in the moments when you’re tempted to just “go along to get along” when friends, family, colleagues want you to do an activity (restaurant, shopping trip, vacation) that you can’t afford.
That’s why your “why” is THE most important piece of your debt-elimination equation. Your “why” will be the friend that pulls you through the process and helps to encourage you through the low moments.
In fact, I would go as far as to say that if you don’t have a strong, passionate, emotional “why”, then you’re probably not really serious about getting out of debt. It’s likely still more of a vague, aspirational “nice to have”.
That won’t work. I promise you. You’re going to have to dig deep here.
In fact, I believe this step is so important, I actually dedicated an entire post to it: The Inestimable Importance Of Your "Why".

2. Be willing to examine your beliefs about money and how they’ve lead you to where you are. 

If you’re reading this, you’ve come into some consciousness that your ways of thinking about and managing money are broken.
Debt, in my humble opinion, is essentially a willingness to divorce one’s income from reality (just look at the deficit spending of governments for example). 
You don’t have the money, yet you spend it anyway? How does that make senes.
So, this process of debt-elimination is going to necessarily challenge your dysfunctional beliefs that guide your dysfunctional behaviors around money. Done correctly, it’s going to reconnect your consumption patterns with your actual income.
The teeth of this examination is your budget. You MUST get to the point that, if there is no money in the budget for something that you want (or even “need”) to buy, you just simply can’t do it.
Think about that for a minute and let’s talk about your new “external financial brain” and conscience, your budget. 

3. Get on a written budget. 

You’ll never get out of debt if you don’t get on a written budget. If you think you can, you’re deceived.
It’s a cold, harsh truth. As one of my most successful student’s said, “If you think you know where your money is going without having it in a written budget, you’re fooling yourself”. I couldn’t agree more.
If you’re still doubtful about this point, just look at your current money situation. Can you tell me where every penny is going right now? Spoiler alert, the answer is “no” you can’t. The ONLY mechanism that could possibly remember all that is your budget (i.e. your external brain).

By the way, if you want a downloadable PDF of this blog post, you can get that by clicking here: The Forgotten Budgeting Step (aka "Budget Insurance") Downloadable PDF

OR by clicking the image below:

The Forgotten Budgeting Step


Also, check out my totally free 30-day YouTube video course that goes along with this material:

A budget is nothing more than a written plan that tells the currency that’s flowing into your household what it’s job is. 
As a technical point, you may want to start with what I call the pivotally important “pre-budgeting step”, which is centralizing all of your bills, expenses and debts into one document so that you can THEN put them into a written budget. 
This is important because, I’ll be totally honest with you, you’re going to get overwhelmed if you’ve never successfully budgeted before and part of my job as a coach is to help you to eliminate that overwhelm. 

4. Track every penny of expenses.

I coach my students to start doing this immediately. 
This is going to look like I’m yelling at you. I’m not. It’s just to drive the point home. YOU MUST TRACK EVERY SINGLE PENNY YOU SPEND EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY IF YOU EVER WANT TO WIN WITH MONEY.
It’s not an easy habit to get into, but it’s absolutely PIVOTAL if you want to get control of your money, budget successfully and get out of debt.
Here’s a form to help you do that. Track every single dollar you spend using this Expense Tracking PDF Form.

Whether it’s a pen and paper, a smartphone app or a fancy form you download, resolve that every penny that gets spent, gets logged


5. Get encouragement, accountability, community and coaching. 

Like I said in #1, this is going to be hard, even when you do have a strong, passionate, emotional “why”.
That’s why you’re going to need some “peeps” to share your burdens, triumphs, setbacks, wins, devastations and frustrations with.
All of these things: encouragement, accountability, community and coaching are also PIVOTAL to your success.
And any true accountability partner, community and/or coach is also going to serve (inasmuch as you give them permission to) as a prosecutor sometimes.
Yes, encouragement, skill-building and accountability are all important, but sometimes you’re going to need your “peeps” to be the prosecutor that convicts you (hopefully gently) when you miss the mark.

The Hard Truth

The hard truth is that if you’re not willing to do ALL 5 of these things, you’re probably fooling yourself about how serious you are about debt-elimination. So many of my successful students would tell you the same thing.
If you’re not willing to do all 5 of these, then it’s likely that all of this personal finance content you consume like, mine, Davey Ramsey’s, Suze Orman’s (hopefully not) is just “infotainment”.
If you like information entertainment, that’s fine, consume away. But, if your REALLY want to get out of debt, then you really need to do a fearless moral inventory of yourself and ask which one of these are you not (yet) doing and correct course.
So, tell me in the comments section below: Am I wrong? Did I miss anything that you would have added? Which one do you need  the most help with!

Also, as an ongoing means of supporting your personal finance goals, I want to encourage you to: 

1) subscribe to our YouTube channel for ongoing strategies and encouragement and 

2) go ahead and join Zero Debt Tribe, our private Facebook community  aiming at helping you to connect with others, to get your questions answered and to stay the course.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at: [email protected] when you have questions, need help or just need someone to talk to during this difficult time. We love you, want the best for you and are here for you during this time.


Next: The 8 Steps To Obliterate Your Debt

This is the blog post that outlines the 8 steps I followed to eliminated $43,000 in debt in 2.5 years.
And whether this is your first or thousandth time on the blog, I want to make sure you have this “8 Steps” framework that ALL of our content is centered around. 
These are the steps I personally followed to obliterate $43,000+ of debt in 2.5 years
Maybe your number is bigger, maybe it’s smaller. Either way the principles are the same and I want you to have them.
0. Stop All Retirement Investing (Until Step 4)
2. Starter Emergency Fund of $1000
3. Eliminate Debts Smallest To Largest (a.k.a The Debt Snowball)
4. Full Emergency Fund of 3-6+ Months’ Expenses
5. 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 Mortgage
8. Build Wealth, Serve, Be Ridiculously Generous And Go FI (Financial Independence)!
I’ve created a simple, easy to follow guide that you can use as your foundation as you navigate the absolute annihilation of your debt forever.

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When You Need More Help

And again, if you’re looking for some resources to get started, you can download our free budgeting forms. Also, if you’re in a place where you’re ready to kick your debt in the teeth, here's the link to our free “8 Steps To Erase Debt” guide for you to use as your foundation.
To your freedom,
This post may contain affiliate links. If you click & make a purchase, I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) that helps keep Zero Debt Coach up and running. Read my full disclosure policy.

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