February 20, 2015

Debt Counseling

Debt counseling covers a multitude of different areas.  The most important things in your debt repayment process are paying down the big debts:  car loans, and credit cards, and mortgages…but have you thought about how a few little things can make a big difference in your debt repayment process?

Track your Spending

If you’re in the habit of just keeping track of how much you have left in your account in your head or only writing down amounts, not where you’ve spent the money, take one week and write down where you are actually spending your money.  For example:  if you’re stopping for coffee every morning on your way to work, you may not realize how much that’s adding up.  It’s just a three or four dollar purchase, right?  Until you realize that $4 a day, five days a week is $20 a week…which is around $80 a month.  That’s enough to make a pretty substantial dent in your budget.

Are you in the habit of a regular weekly date night?  How much are you spending on that date?  What may seem insignificant for one evening suddenly starts to add up over the course of the month.  It’s not about the single expense (though those can add up, too).  It’s about the regular expense that multiplies over time.

Avoid Restaurant Food

Still tracking your spending?  How much are you spending on restaurant food, whether it’s for a quick lunch to get you out of the office or a way to avoid having to cook dinner?  There are plenty of easy meals that can be prepared ahead of time, whether you’re pulling a casserole out of the fridge for dinner, coming home to a slow cooker meal that’s ready to eat, or throwing together leftovers or a wrap and salad for your lunch.  It takes a little bit more effort, but once you’re in a routine, you’ll be surprised by how much you’re saving–and how much you can put toward paying off those debts.

Cut the cable bill.

How much time do you really spend watching cable, anyway?  You could well be paying $100 or more per month for something that you never actually use.  If the tv is mostly on for background noise or all you’re watching is reruns, it might make more sense to invest in a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon Prime, which allow you to choose what you want to watch (commercial free!), when you want to watch it, and charge a much lower fee than your favorite service.  Worried about missing your favorite show?  Take another look at it.  How often are you actually watching a brand new episode as it airs?  If it’s just a show or two, it might be more practical to purchase that single episode through a streaming service the next day (Amazon usually has episodes shortly after they air).

Ditch the bad Habits

Smoking and drinking are both very expensive habits that can be a serious drain on your budget–but everyone knows about those.  What about your junk food habit?  Your habit of driving around aimlessly and wasting gas when you don’t want to go home?  Your tendency to spend way too much time on your cell phone, even when you’ve run out of data for the month?  All of those things add up, too, some in ways that you won’t even notice taking slices out of your budget because they’re part of your “regular” bills.  Cut them out, and you might be surprised by how much breathing room it gives you.

All of these are little things that can make a big difference.  If you’re looking for a way to get out of debt, the little things won’t do it overnight–but they will start to chip away at it a little bit at a time.

Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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