The moment you decide that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get out of debt will be the moment that your life has the opportunity to change, forever.  I haven’t met with one client who doesn’t want to get out of debt.  What stops them?  The insurmountable task of how.  Getting out of debt takes clear strategy but MOST importantly, it takes your commitment to stop using credit cards forever.  If you find yourself in the same conversation, and need help getting started, follow these three steps to create your own personal strategy for living debt free.

CLARITY

I have this client, lets call her “Dana”.  Dana has just over twenty thousand dollars in credit card debt, and she just couldn’t seem to figure out how to stop using her cards.  The first thing we had to do was get clear about why she thought she had to use the cards in the first place.  She was making plenty of money with extra money left over each month.  It was her lack of clarity about what she was spending each month that had her over spending time and time again.  In order for her to get out of debt, Dana had to commit to living within her means, which was totally possible once she realized that she had over $1000 each month to work with.  We put together a spending strategy with a “fun account” that she funds each month so she didn’t have to feel bad about spending her money.  She knows exactly where it goes and what she can spend.

Gaining clarity about your money flow, what you make, spend and keep each month will enable you to understand what spending behaviors are moving you in the wrong direction.  You must gain clarity over what spending habits are keeping you in debt and make a commitment to do whatever it takes to renegotiate your life so that the cards are no longer necessary for daily living.

GET ORGANIZED

Do you know what most people do about their debt?  Ignore it.  If you’re still avoiding taking an honest look at your debt you’re destined to stay there forever.  Avoiding your debt seems like the easy thing to do.  I get it, it can be completely overwhelming.  Gaining clarity about your spending will help you move to this next step which is looking at what you have each month that you can use to pay down your debt, even faster than you imagine.  If you’re committed to getting out of debt you have to establish a new relationship with your debt.  One of my clients had her biggest breakthrough when she realized that she IS NOT her debt, she has debt.  Before you get those statements out to fess up, take a look in the mirror, take a deep breath and say to yourself “I am NOT my debt.  I have debt”.  The shame and guilt you have about your debt is killing your confidence, and in order for you to make the necessary shift to tackling it once and for all, you have to realize that your self worth is not attached to your net worth.  Once you make the distinction that you are not your debt it will be easier to look at it and face it head on.

Getting organized takes a bit of time, but I guarantee you it will be worth it.  The first thing you need to do is grab your statements for each debt.  You need to know three things about your debt so that you can begin to create strategy for paying it all off.  The three things you need to know are:  1.  Payoff Amount – how much do you owe each card.  2.  Absolute Minimum Payment (what do you owe each month?)  3.  Payment Due Date.  I highly recommend you get familiar with using excel if you don’t already. Once you have all of your statements, create an excel spreadsheet or write it down in column/list format each of the above items for each of your debt.  It will look something like this:

Debt Name                   Payoff Amount                 Absolute Minimum Payment                         Payment Due Date

DEBT 1                         $4,500                              $50                                                               3rd of each month

You can’t tackle your debt until you know what the real problem is and this exercise is paramount to you being able to see the big picture and exactly how big (or small) the problem really is.

CREATE STRATEGY THAT SETS YOU UP TO WIN

Set yourself up to win!  Bankruptcy isn’t your only solution.  After you gain clarity on how much you actually owe, the MOST important thing you need to do is set yourself up to win.  As I mentioned, the first thing you really need to do is make sure you are ready to do is lye the cards to rest, forever.  Having a strategy in place that helps you see the light at the end of the tunnel will help you stay on track, even on the tough days.  My favorite strategy to teach clients is the SNOWBALL Method.  I didn’t make it up, so I can’t take credit for it’s genius.  That said, it works beautifully provided that you can afford to pay a bit more each month above your minimum payment for all.  If you’re curious about this strategy, you can hop onto my YouTube Channel to watch my tutorial about the Snowball Method.  It’s a GREAT way to get your debt paid off FAST.

Before you start tackling your debt, I highly recommend you meet with someone to discuss all possible strategies that could work for you.  There are many myths about paying down debt that an expert can help you sort through and make sure you’re on the right track.  I don’t recommend you try to pay one card off in full at a time.  It’s better for you to put some money in savings AND pay down debt so that you have an emergency fund in place for those rainy days.  Having a clear strategy is the best start for you to feel like you can do something about the mountain you feel like you’re climbing and having the right people in your corner will help you adjust the plan as life inevitably shifts and moves.

You didn’t get in to debt over night and you won’t get out of debt over night.  Just like losing weight, if you lose it too fast, it’s not likely to stay off for good.  Breaking through your self worth and limiting beliefs about your net worth are great ways to heal emotionally from the damage of your debt.  Having a clear strategy in place will be like going to the gym, it may not feel good at first, but it will definitely set you up for long term success and gets easier over time.

 

Lisa Chastain

Lisa Chastain is a Millennial Money Coach who lives in Las Vegas, NV. With over twenty years of mentoring under her belt she works with clients to seek clarity, purpose and focus with their money so that they can actively pursue their dreams. She is a money expert who has been featured on NBCNews.com, The Street, Blog Talk Radio, and Fundera.com. You can learn more about Lisa and the amazing work she's doing with clients on her website at LisaChastain.com