A whopping 77% of American households are in some kind of debt. Wouldn’t you love to pay off your debt and feel free? Imagine not having the stress of debt hanging over your head! To guide you through the process of paying off your debt, we talked to Jackie Beck. Jackie is a personal finance blogger and expert. Here, you will learn ways to be debt-free and cope with the challenges of the journey. If you are highly in debt and don’t know how to get on top of it, you are in the right place!
Q1) Could you please give us a little background about yourself and let people know who you are and what you do?
My name is Jackie Beck, and I’m a personal finance blogger at The Debt Myth. My husband and I recently moved to beautiful West Michigan from Arizona.
We were “normal” Americans with payments coming out of our ears. Eventually, we paid off over $147,000 in debt, including our house. And it was so worth it!
Q2) When did you think it was high time to pay off your debt, and why?
Getting to the stage where we actually focused hard on paying off our debt was a long process. Basically, it took getting more and more sick and tired of the stress of being in debt. We hated never being able to get ahead.
Eventually, during a long period where I had trouble finding a job, I decided I would only spend the money I already had. That set us on the path to freedom. And we stuck with it through thick and thin, keeping our goal of freedom in mind the whole time.
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Q3) You mentioned on your website that getting out of debt is about changing your mindset. What kind of mindset are you referring to here?
Basically, breaking free of the prevailing mindset that you need debt to get ahead and buy and do the things you want. Because that’s not true, it means changing from looking at debt as a solution to seeing it as a problem to be solved. And then commit to only spending money you already have.
For example, suppose you need a car. Most people assume that the way to get one is to go down to the car dealer or bank, see if you are approved for the cost of the car, and drive home with a car payment trailing behind you. That’s the prevailing mindset.
However, you could pay cash for a car instead. You could save up for an inexpensive one by making car payments to yourself first for a while. Then you could continue doing that until you had enough for a better one, etc.
Q4) Can you explain a little about the debt snowball method?
Sure, the debt snowball method is where you put your debts in order from smallest to largest balance and make minimum payments on all of them except the first debt on your list. You send as much extra to that first debt as possible until it’s gone. Then you repeat as you make your way down the list.
Over time the amount you can send to debt repayment snowballs (aka, it gets larger like a snowball rolling downhill) because you have fewer debts.
It works well for people with multiple debts – especially if some are relatively small – because it’s extremely motivating to make progress. And when you make progress, you want to keep going.
Q5) What do you think are the top 5 tips and tricks for someone who is knee-deep in debt and has a low-paying job?
First, know that struggling today doesn’t mean you’ll struggle forever. You can take steps that will help to improve your life.
If you can’t make at least minimum payments on all your debts, your priority should be to make sure you can eat and that you have somewhere safe to stay. Reach out for help to community organizations, churches, and government agencies. Speak with people you know to see if they have suggestions on resources that can help.
Everyone goes through hard times, and they shouldn’t think less of you for that.
If you can make at least minimum payments on all your debts, using these basic tips can make a huge difference:
- Track your spending daily and reduce spending where it’s not benefiting you
- Try to make more money (ask for a raise, get a different job, get an additional job, or do a side hustle).
- Build an emergency fund (because you WILL have emergencies) and use the debt snowball method to pay down one debt at a time
- Create a budget and adjust it monthly so that you gradually home in on one that works for you
- Don’t give up!
Q6) On your website are stories of people who were highly in debt but paid it off as a whole. What do you learn from these stories that can be helpful to everyone?
That I’ve never met anyone who regrets getting out of debt. (And if by chance, you do, you can always go back in.)
I think rather than reading the stories and thinking, “well, but I can’t do that because ____”, people can benefit by reading them, getting inspired, and taking action on the things they can do.
And everyone can do something to change their situation, even if it’s just a little bit at a time. Persistence is one trait those who successfully pay off debt all have in comment.
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Q7) What challenges did you face in your financial journey, especially when you started out?
I always have a tough time answering this because it doesn’t feel like we had challenges once we committed to sticking with it til we reached freedom.
The truth is that while we were getting out of debt, we had to contend with job losses, surgeries, expensive pet illnesses & car problems, etc. I came to terms with the idea that no one lives a charmed life and setbacks are just part of life.
But during the setbacks, of course, it was hard. Both emotionally and financially. The financial part was difficult, but the frustration, exhaustion, and feeling down were harder.
Q8) How did you stay disciplined throughout the process of paying down your debt?
I focused on celebrating every single success, no matter how small. For example, when the bank tellers would laugh at my $3 survey check deposits, I would think, “Laugh if you want to, but we are GETTING OUT OF DEBT! Every little bit helps, and this is $3 closer to FREEDOM!”.
Q9) Before we wind up, is there any final wisdom you want to share about financial journeys and financial health?
Know that it takes time to get out of debt, but it is absolutely worth it. And life is a whole lot easier when you don’t have that anchor dragging you down. Once the stress of debt is over, you feel a lot more free and satisfied with your life. It just takes courage to take the first step. And I believe everyone has the power to gather that courage! There might be some challenges on the way, but the end goal will be exemplary.
It’s hard to get out of debt. You know the feeling—you’re so overwhelmed with the task that you can’t even think about it. You need to make sure you take steps every day towards getting out of debt and improving your finances.
That’s why we are here, helping you through your journey. We understand how difficult it is to get out of debt, and we want to help you do it.
Our goal is to provide you with the inspiration and information you need to make your personal finance journey easy and enjoyable.
Need more information and inspiration on getting out of debt, money management, and credit. Check out The Debt Myth at JackieBeck.com
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