One of the most important steps in Christian Credit Counseling is developing a plan for getting and staying out of debt. Obviously, your current income isn’t enough to support your lifestyle. You’ve borrowed money to make up the difference, but paying it back has become a big problem. The first step to getting out of debt is cutting your current expenses and making paying creditors a priority. Once you’re used to living on a more restricted budget, you might be surprised by how many things you can live without.
Step One: Look for Expensive “Extras”
There are plenty of bills that many people take for granted that might not be absolutely necessary. For example, do you have an expensive cable bill each month? How often are you really using your cable package? If the bulk of your television watching is mindless, “I don’t really care what’s on, but I want to watch something,” you can get Netflix or Amazon Prime for a much lower monthly cost than paying for cable every month. What about your cell phone bill? Do you and your kids really need those expensive smart phones with all the bells and whistles? Consider reducing your data package to a minimum amount and only using your apps or browsing the internet when you’re connected to WiFi. You’ll be surprised by how many locations make it available to their customers! Then, there’s your gym membership. If you don’t go to the gym several times a week, you’re probably better off working out at home. Look to see when your contract is up or if you can reduce to a lower-cost membership.
Step Two: Reduce Your Bills
Look for ways to conserve water and electricity in your home. Try contacting your utility companies and asking them about ways to reduce your bill. Some places will be willing to offer you a better plan, especially if you have multiple providers in your area.
Next, take a hard look at your food budget. Food is definitely a necessity, not a luxury, but you may be surprised by some ways that you’re spending far more than necessary on food. Eating out is the obvious example: if you eat out two or three times a week, you’re draining your food budget fast. The biggest food budget buster, however, might already be in your fridge: waste. Take a hard look at what is actually being consumed in your home. Are you throwing out more fruit than your kids actually eat? Do you have great plans for all those fresh vegetables, but find yourself tossing them out at the end of the month uneaten? Cutting back your food budget in this area is simple: don’t buy what your family won’t actually consume. Set your hopes for healthier eating aside and focus on a more realistic view of your family’s consumption.
Step Three: “Need” vs “Want”
Your daughter grew three inches over the summer. She needs new clothes for school. She wants all the name brand clothes that the kids at school are currently wearing. Your son needs a new pair of shoes because his are tattered. He wants the expensive ones with all the bells and whistles. It’s easy to identify the difference in your kids, but it might be harder to identify it in yourself. You need new work clothes, but that doesn’t mean that you have to shop at the most expensive store in town. Checking out sales and discount stores might take a little longer, but it will be a lot easier on your wallet in the long run. You need to take care of expensive car repairs in order to keep your vehicle running, but you might be able to wait on some cosmetic issues or some concerns that don’t actually affect the vehicle’s ability to get you from one place to another. Make it a habit to avoid giving in to wants until you have taken the time to save up for them and carefully consider what you really need out of your purchase. In the end, your choice might surprise you.
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