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5 Key Strategies For Getting Out Of Debt

by The Happy Rock on August 12, 2007

Being debt free has been more amazing than I thought, and I want others to be able to share in a similar joy. For those who are trying to get out of debt or entertaining the thought, here is some ammunition. As my wife and I and slowly hacked our way out of $70,000 in debt, there were a few key strategies that were extremely helpful:

1. Find Your Passion – Finding your passion is my number tip for anything that requires a large amount of energy and commitment. I started thinking about being debt free, because I realized that I wanted more in life. I wanted freedom to change careers, financial freedom for my family and children(and for their children), security for my family, freedom to pursue my dreams, and to be able to give abundantly. Those are the types of things that get my juices flowing, and the real goals that propelled me to being debt free. What are the things that resonate with you and how does being debt free help you achieve them? Figure that out, and you will be able to harness a powerful motivating force and a set yourself up for some strong endurance.

2. Change Your Behavior – If you are like me, you were in debt because your beliefs and actions towards money got you there. Becoming debt free will require you to change those behaviors and belief structures. Cut up or cancel those credit cards, change how you handle stress or depression, cancel the cable, cut down on your golf, change your ideas on how many toys your kids need. These are the types of things that will heal the financial bleeding. I mention this mainly because people can get caught up in the math of getting out of debt and lose sight of actually changing their behavior. Debt is a behavior problem, not a math problem. We need to stop spending money we don’t have; you won’t get out of debt unless you do.

montain and mole hill molehill3. Simplify and Focus – This one is paramount for changing you behavior. Just like multi-tasking isn’t the most efficient way to get things done, spreading yourself/money thin doesn’t work for getting out of debt either. Use your passion to develop a plan that divides your debt up into small steps, and conquer them one at a time. We had $70,000 in debt, so this step was extremely important. $70,000 in debt is a mountain, but we chose to focus on climbing several mole hills.

We focused all of our extra money on debt. And when I say ALL, I mean all. We stopped our monthly savings, 401K, everything. We usually focused the extra money on the smallest debt, unless a higher interest debt made more sense. The reason we started with the smallest debt, was for focus. Each debt you eliminate helps you focus more on the next. Just as the focus on small conquerable pieces gives you more energy and encourages the ever elusive change in behavior.

4. Believe You Can Do It – If you can believe that you will be debt free, you will probably make it. But for those of us who lack self-confidence or have a mountain of debt, dividing the overwhelming task into small manageable tasks helps to breed confidence. With each victory, you can begin to picture yourself debt free. Picturing yourself debt free gets you closer to passion and breeds more energy which creates better focus. Creating such a positive cycle will only help to increase your results.

5. Have An Emergency Fund – Before you start paying down your debt, save a small cushion that shields you from the ups and downs of everyday life. One financial expert, Dave Ramsey, suggests $1,000, and this is a reasonable number. I know that we dipped into the emergency fund a couple times over the three and a half years it took to get out of debt. Things like unexpected car repairs that might have gone on your credit card can come from the emergency fund. The emergency serves as your shield so that you can stay focused.

For those of you in debt, I hope that these tips are helpful. I know they helped me. For those of you feeling beat down: step back, regroup, and come out with your guns blazing. If you need some support, feel free to drop me an email.

If you liked this post, I highly recommend our benefits of getting out of debt and our personal debt story.

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If you haven’t found a solution to your credit card debt, maybe its time you did some research. Consider looking into debt consolidation. Even if you have tax debt, we may be able to help.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

wisp August 14, 2007 at 1:42 pm

I thought this post was very helpful. I have a hard time valuing the money I do have. So I tend to burn through it quickly, and without much thought. It really is a behavioral problem.

Thanks WB

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The Happy Rock August 15, 2007 at 11:26 am

Burning through the money you have quickly isn’t as bad as burning through money you don’t have! Thanks for the comment.

As a side note, I would prefer if you leave a name instead of SEO keywords.

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Steve "The Credit Card Debt Man" B September 27, 2007 at 7:22 pm

The main thing is to change your behavior that is the root of pretty much all debt problems. No matter whether you do it yourself or hire a company for debt relief if you do not change the behavior of impulse buying then you will end right back into debt if you even get out in the first place

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The Happy Rock September 28, 2007 at 5:25 pm

@Steve – I agree totally. Dave Ramsey always says personal finance is 80% behavior.

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Jerry January 17, 2008 at 10:02 pm

Happy Rock,

Thanks again for the insight. We’re in the middle of the trenches of getting out of our debt. We have a LARGE amount of student loan debt. An amount I find too staggering to even write and we’ve paid down our consumer debt by by nearly half. That has felt really REALLY good. We’ve changed our behaviour quite a bit and it’s given us peace of mind. Our behaviour changes have been insurance for our family that we won’t put it in financial jeopardy. We only hope that it will lead to bigger and better things for us.

Jerry
http://www.leads4insurance.com

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Debt Free Christian February 17, 2008 at 7:25 pm

Great article! I agree with you wholeheartedly on having a passion to have the freedom to make a job change or be able to work less by being out of debt. The debt snowball method works well for us in paying off one debt at a time and then applying the extra onto the next bill. Thanks for getting the info out there!

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justin @ freebie forum July 17, 2008 at 6:03 am

This is great advice. Have a small emergency fund is smart. Changing your behavior can be hard especially in todays world where everyone thinks debt is normal and it is required if you want to have nice things.

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Astonio July 17, 2008 at 4:33 pm

The information is very useful indeed. Thank you!

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The First Creditor August 30, 2008 at 8:09 pm

THR, thanks for the inspiration. I found this site a few weeks back and slowly as I have read some posts and made some comments, the bigger picture is starting to come into focus. My wife and I are in debt, nothing too original for the society we find ourselves in. 10k in credit card debt, 20+k in student loans, a mortgage, etc, etc. She has always taken care of the finances, until recently. We are now expecting our second child and she just doesn’t have the energy to take care of the finances, so we decided, as I am frequently on the computer anyway, I should play a more pivotal role with the finances. So I have, and it is going well so far. This post helps put things into perspective. It gives hope. Thanks.

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Online Saving September 2, 2008 at 12:33 pm

First of all.thanks for the Post.It’s really weird how we all seem to always be in thesame predicament. My wife and I work in the financial sector and even with a great deal of knowledge about investment, we still fall short in this topic “debt” “debt” “debt”. I have read a couple of your post as I have never resorted to help regarding debt online. I believe its very unethical as situations differ as debt status does. Your blog, not just this particular post but also “My Get Out Of Debt Success Story – $70,000 In Four Years” have been a topic of discussion at home now.

Thanks -THR-

Hope I can get to read your post often..Thanks for having a RSS.

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Glory September 9, 2008 at 4:06 am

You know belief in the ability to do it is the one thing I can’t achieve. I always doubt if I can do this or that, achieve my goals and desires.

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Yamajesty September 26, 2008 at 2:18 am

@Glory
The real battle actually start in our mind. When we feel that we can’t do it, we’ve been 95% loose. Change your mind and build your faith. Believe that you can do it.

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Stephen McFarlane September 27, 2008 at 1:15 am

Great list! I think number 1 and 2 are best approaches to make debt paying procedure painless. Thanks for sharing these 5 key strategies for getting out of debt.

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Sam from DebtCC November 13, 2008 at 11:48 am

Flawless tips without a doubt. I still remember what i had to go through last year when i had huge debts. I had almost decided to declare bankruptcy! I am glad i found the right advice from online forums and articles like these which helped me to lessen my debts at the right time.

And i have to agree to this, “Dave Ramsey always says personal finance is 80% behavior.”

Another thing that i think is quite important as well is teaching our kids the right and effective ways to manage finance properly from an early age. When they know the right steps they need to take, it becomes a part of them and they wont have to think for hours before taking a financial decision.

Thanks once again.

God bless.

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Debt Consolidation November 20, 2008 at 5:45 am

What you were saying about visualisations and visualising your self debt free is a very good place to start and probably the hardest thing to overcome .

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sasha December 5, 2008 at 8:22 am

You know belief in the ability to do it is the one thing I can’t achieve. I always doubt if I can do this or that, achieve my goals and desires.

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john camuda January 6, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Excellent resource here! Thank you for the posting. I think it is definitely important to try have a positive mindset when it comes to solving debt problems.

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Joe May 19, 2009 at 4:52 am

Great article which provides some invaluable advice. In many of the cases that we have seen if there is no change in behavior then the debt returns in the majority of the cases, and many times even worse.

Making that decision to give up the unnecessary luxury items seems to be the most difficult for most. In a recent meeting with someone, they thought that the cable was a basic need as they would miss their fav shows, incredible.

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Annie July 9, 2009 at 9:58 am

Keep your credit cards locked up after you have paid off your debt. You are developing a pay-as-you-go strategy. You can then use debt to add value to your life as the need arises rather than using debt to just consume.

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bill September 16, 2009 at 6:59 am

Getting out of debt require not just a lifestyle change, but a mindset change as well.

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