Update: March, 2020 - Well, it looks like the recession has arrived suddenly! With the Coronavirus/COVID19 pandemic currently sweeping the world, I put together a FREE Financial Crisis Survival Guide (blog post with available printable PDF) to help those of you either preparing for or responding to a cut in hours, layoff or termination.
Here's the blog post for the guide: Financial Crisis Survival Guide (Version: COVID19) Blog Post Version
Here's the free downloadable PDF version of the guide: Financial Crisis Survival Guide (Version: COVID19) Downloadable PDF version
Alright, so you've decided to get out of debt and you're determined to stop using those credit cards.
How do you do that? Well, one of the first things you want to do is get $1000 in cash together as fast as you can.
We want $1000 to start with because, when you find yourself in a hole (debt), you want to stop digging and put the shovel back in the garage.
$1000 puts the shovel back in the garage where it belongs, hopefully forever!
It keeps you away from using those credit cards that you're getting ready to close and cut up, right?!
As you’ve probably seen by now, the second step of the "8 Steps To Erase Debt" (after step one which is "Build A Budget") is to accumulate what you’ll ultimately refer to as your “starter emergency fund” of $1000.
If you don't have the guide, you can download it for free.
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.
I’ve created a simple, easy to follow guide that you can use as your foundation as you navigate the absolute annihilate of your debt forever.
The idea behind the $1000 emergency fund is that, when you’re in debt, you normally have little to no cash on hand.
As a result, when an emergency arises, it has to go on a credit card because you don't have any margin in your budget to cover it.
We want you to break the cycle of having to use debt for anything at all, and especially not for an emergency.
This step is where we do that. So, the $1000 is earned, saved and guarded against spending for anything but a true emergency.
What’s a true emergency?
Well, that would be something like a flat tire a broken tooth or an air conditioning unit that kicks the bucket in the middle of a blisteringly hot summer.
It would include things that would you would normally just “throw on the card and worry about later”.
You have to make it a priority to stop doing that.
Saving $1000 helps you to do that. Keep in mind that, to achieve zero debt and ultimately some modicum of financial freedom, you MUST stop looking to debt as an option to cover you.
It just has to stop being something that you would even consider turning to EVER again.
Okay, now that you've decided to never borrow money ever again for any reason, you might be asking, “but, if I’m in serious debt, how can I possibly come up with $1000?"
That’s going to take some creativity for sure, but I'm here to tell you it's not impossible.
Budgeting (i.e. giving every dollar that comes in a job and a category) is going to come into play very seriously here.
I cover that in another blog post named How To Start Budgeting (When You're Terrible At It).
Typically, that $1000 comes not only from budgeting, doing some incremental “cutting back” (like, reducing over spending at the grocery store, restaurants, mall, etc.), but also from doing an inventory of your “stuff”, figuring out what you’re not using and selling it for cash as well as side jobs or “side hustles” as they’re called.
Some good examples would be: driving for Uber or Lyft, delivering pizzas, working part-time retail (insert for all of these, “in the evenings or on weekends”).
Whatever you can (legally, of course) do that doesn’t interfere with your 9-5 or your normal means of earning an income, but rather supplements it.
There are many great ideas and maybe you have some you could share in the comments for your fellow debt slayers.
Don't be afraid to slash things from the budget. If you "overslash", you can always course correct.
Cable TV is often the first to go.
When most people sit down to do their budget and are able to see how much they're actually spending on cable (usually over $100 per month), that cord gets cut immediately.
With the proliferation of YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, etc., there are so many free and low-cost options for information and entertainment, why not?
Additionally, what are some things you can start doing for yourself?
Can you cut your own grass for a bit while you're getting out of debt?
What if you start doing your own nails? Is there another cell phone provider that offers a cheaper plan?
Could you start coupon-ing for groceries or find a lower cost provider (like Aldi) in the area?
This really just involves getting creative and being willing to take a second and third look at what you're likely just automatically spending money on without really thinking about it.
This is where you go into the garage, the attic, the living room, the kitchen and look for stuff that you're not using (or haven't used for years maybe) and consider selling it on Craigslist, Ebay, etc.
I did this when I was getting out of debt and it has now become a habit for my wife and me "inventory" all of our possessions about every six months to see what we can get rid of.
You don't have to become that extreme, but while you're trying to get this first $1000 into your hands, I'll bet there are some things that you're not using that could free up some cash for you.
Can you pick up some extra hours at work? Could you get a part-time job in the evenings or start a side hustle?
What can you do to generate some extra income at least for a short time? Think about this. Get creative and don't be afraid to get down to business so you can get this $1000 into your pocket.
A great resource I've used over the years to consider side-hustle ideas has been Nick Loper's "Side Hustle Nation" website and podcast.
While many of the ideas presented may take time to develop, you may ultimately find yourself in something so lucrative that it may eventually no longer be a side-hustle, but rather your main gig.
Whatever the case, I highly recommend you check it out!
There can sometimes be push back from clients on number three in particular.
I sometimes hear them say, "but Brad, I’m already so worn out from working my day job. How am I going to muster the energy to find and do a side hustle?”
Just begin. There's plenty of help available for you when you "fail". And remember, failure is not permanent here.
Without being too harsh or confrontational, I simply ask, “how sick and tired of being sick and tired" are you?
How big is your “why” for getting rid of this mess you’ve gotten yourself into?”
If you haven’t reached the tipping point of fear, anxiety and dread about your situation, then you’re not going to be motivated to push through the fatigue of the (temporary) 2nd and 3rd jobs you’ll be taking on to get it done.
Maybe you haven’t hit rock bottom just yet.
I’m typically not harsh with people about this, but as a coach I have to be firm and honest here.
If you’re not in a place where you’re willing to do absolutely everything it takes to get out of this mess, maybe you should hold off on working the steps until you are sick and tired enough to do anything it takes.
And by the way, this extreme hustling is only temporary. For me, I only had to do the “extra stuff” for a couple of years.
And actually, I wound up doing my side hustle for a little longer so that, once I paid off my all my debt ($43,000), I was able to have Step 4 (Emergency Fund of 3-6 months of expenses) knocked out.
So, I extended my "hustle" a few more months to knock out another step.
No matter how much debt you have, we can help you get to debt-freedom. I promise.
This process is really about finding out what your debt number is, checking your “why” and plotting a course to knocking out Steps 2 ($1000 Emergency Fund) and 3 (Paying Off Debt Smallest To Largest) as fast as possible.
Once the debt is destroyed, believe me things look MUCH different.
Can you picture that? Can you imagine for a moment what it will feel like live in debt freedom?
To be sure I had a hard time visualizing it at first, but ultimately the picture started to come into focus as I got hustling and actually LOVED the process.
Because I knew I was buying my freedom, I felt so much joy and peace in the process of expending myself to the extreme.
I grew not to mind having to hustle a little harder for a little while longer because my focus became the bigger "why"
So, how are you going to come up with $1000 as your emergency fund?
We’d love to hear about what you're doing and what some of the creative things you've done (legally) in the comments below.
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)!