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*** Hey Run The Money fans, I want to share a guest post with you today from our buddy Jacob over at DollarDiligence.com. He's giving us some great insight on lifestyle changes he made while paying off his debt.
Fun fact about Jacob: Aside from his teaching career, he likes to learn & write about managing money and going on road trips to new locations. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @DollarDiligence! Take it away, Jacob! ***
If you are like many Americans, you may find yourself in debt. Whether you owe money on a mortgage, a car loan, student loans or have crushing credit card debt, finding yourself “in the red” can cause tremendous stress and anxiety. Yet it is possible to work your way out of debt — with smart planning and changes to your lifestyle and finances to slowly by surely dig your way out of your financial hole.
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When I graduated from college, I had $25,000 in student loans. I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of debt that I was in, and I knew that I had to take drastic action. While I made a steady salary as a high school math teacher, it was not enough to put a real dent in my student loans. If I wanted to pay them off quickly and move forward with my other financial goals, such as buying a house and retiring early, I had to make bigger changes in my life.
I started by sitting down with my loan documents and determining just how much debt I was in, and what the interest rates on my loans were. With this information, I was able to come up with a game plan, which included refinancing my loans to obtain a lower interest rate and a shorter repayment term. By doing this, I saved thousands of dollars on interest — and ended up paying off all $25,000 in just 15 months.
Of course, I didn’t just do that by refinancing; I picked up side gigs, moved in with family, and slashed my budget significantly. If you are looking to pay down debt of your own, read on to pick up some of my best tips for some of the changes that you can make to your life to make it happen.
Recommended financial tools to get out of debt:
One of the biggest lifestyle changes that you can make is to your living situation. While it may not be possible for everyone, moving in with my aunt and uncle saved me thousands of dollars — and allowed me to put every spare dollar towards my student loan debt.
If you have family living nearby with extra space, consider moving in with them as a way to save money on housing costs. It is a temporary arrangement that can be a major advantage in your quest to pay off debt.
If moving in with family is not an option, you could consider other living arrangements to save money. That may include moving to a less expensive area, getting roommates, or even renting out part of your house on Airbnb to earn some extra cash. Because housing can be one of your largest monthly expenses, anything that you can do to reduce this cost can be put towards your debt payments.
Another major monthly expense for many people is transportation. If you currently have a car, consider getting rid of it in favor of a less expensive form of transportation. Walking or biking to work can save you money and help keep you in shape — and has less of an impact on the environment, too. If you don’t live in an area where walking or biking to work would be possible, take public transportation. Otherwise, think about getting rid of your expensive car for a used vehicle. Your monthly car payment could be put towards your debt instead — getting you that much closer to financial freedom.
Of course, not all lifestyle changes have to be so drastic in order to be effective. You can get rid of cable to save $100 (or more!) a month, and cut back on how often you eat out or go out to bars. When I was paying off my student loans, I rarely went out to eat or out with friends. It may have been less fun — but I had quite a celebration once I paid off my student loans in 15 short months.
Finally, you can make a financial change by picking up some side gigs. Although I have a full-time job, I work on the side as a freelance writer and photographer. These jobs helped me put extra money towards my student loan payments each month, and get out of debt more quickly. Think about something you are good at, and consider if you can make it a side hustle. If so, start doing it on the evenings and weekends — and put those extra checks towards your debt.
Though debt can seem overwhelming, and sometimes impossible to pay off, you really can do it. Simply make some mental and lifestyle changes, come up with a plan, and get going. You’ll soon find yourself in the black, and working towards your next financial goal.
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