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Contrary to popular belief, debt does not have to be the norm. Not EVERYONE is in the hole. I’m certainly not, and you don’t have to be either. When I got married almost four years ago, my husband and I owed roughly $50,000 on credit, a truck, and student loans. With discipline and a budget, we were debt-free in less than two years, and with low-paying jobs, I might add.

I’m going to give you some tips on how to get out of debt. If you’re serious about it, you can crush your debt much sooner than you realize., and you’ll feel a wonderful relief.

1. STOP SPENDING MONEY!

You most likely don’t NEED a new wardrobe every month, just like you don’t NEED to go out to dinner every other night just to keep up with appearances. Put off buying your dream car until you are out of debt. There’s no sense in piling more on top; that’s just stressful. For some, saying “no” is the hardest thing to do. Some people convince themselves that money can buy happiness. Had a bad day? Go shopping, treat yourself to a drink, think of that one purchase that will reduce your problems. But it won’t. I have people tell me that they are frugal with their money, but then they spend hundreds of dollars each month on things they don’t really need. Does this sound like you? If so, and if you’re already in debt and thinking you’ll never get out, here’s what I recommend: Look at your credit card activity, and figure out where most of your money (besides bills) is going. Then, set a realistic goal for yourself. Instead of eating out multiple times a week, reduce it to just once a week, for starters. Make your own food. If you don’t have time during the week, make it all on the weekend and portion it out for the next week’s meals. Freeze left-overs.

2. BUDGET!

You don’t have to live pay check to pay check, and you don’t have to let your finances control you. You control your finances. Give a name to every dollar, as Dave Ramsey would say (P.S. I’ve provided a link at the bottom for Dave Ramsey’s website). When you Budget, prioritize your bills from most important to the least. After you have determined your monthly income and your most important bills, dedicate some of the left-overs, if there are any, to paying off debt. As you look at your budget, on which items could you reduce your spending or give up altogether? Netflix? Internet? (I know, I know; it’s the 21st century, but there are plenty of fast food restaurants and coffee shops that provide free wifi.) Here’s an example of how we (I) do our monthly budget. You can save it and make adjustments as you see fit. Each month I predict our income and expenditures so I have an idea of what our savings will look like and how often I’ll have to tell hubs “no” at the store. As the month goes along, I update the budget with the actual costs. With time, you’ll be able to predict with greater accuracy. Why do this? Control. Your money is yours, not the other way around.

3. Don’t tempt yourself.

If you know you’ll want to buy something every time you visit a particular store or log into Amazon, then make it a point to avoid them at all costs. Take a detour from work so that you don’t even have to see it. Erase Amazon from your browser history, make sure you are logged out, and make a real effort to avoid the site. Are vending machines a problem? Purposely leave your cash and coins at home. Do your friends like to eat out and go to movies or Top Golf often? Get some new broke friends. Just kidding. Maybe you could offer to make dinner and then play games or watch a movie you own. Or eat before you go out so that you’re not as hungry and tempted when you get to the restaurant. I know what it’s like to turn down friends, and I don’t like it either, but sometimes you may just need to say “I just can’t this time.” They will probably understand, and this won’t last long anyway.

I remember the first time an unexpected bill popped up after we became debt-free. The relief in knowing that we could just pay it and not worry about debt was liberating. Now we invest and save and still make room for some fun. Real fun.

There are so many other tricks and hacks and loop holes to reduce debt, but these are the three most important in my opinion. If you have any questions or comments or need suggestions or elaborations, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below. I love money management because of how simple it is now that we are out of debt. You can know this feeling too; I promise.

Here’s Dave Ramsey’s link.I recommend starting with his Get Started tab at the top, then go from there.

Good luck!