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Let me begin by stating that there is absolutely no program, hotline, or system that will get rid of your student loan as much as you want it to disappear. Besides, your loan might be non-dischargeable so not even declaring bankruptcy will do!

So for a moment, come back from your denial and start by realizing that no matter what is happening in the world or politically, you will still have to pay up. And get rid of the idea that you’re just going to default because that’s going to teach you nothing. Put on your big boy/girl pants on and let’s find solutions to your future. You alone are the secret ingredient of success in this endeavor.

Through out the majority of our debt free journey, my wife was the primary contributor making about $34,000, and I was making less than $11,000 – which left us with a combined income of about $45,000 a year.

We do not have any kids and do not own a home, which it did make it easier on us. But emergencies came regardless – like when I needed dental work to fix eight cavities and a broken crown, which came at a price tag of over $3,000. I also stop riding my bicycle to work because the route was too dangerous (my wife wanted me to live past 22). We had to buy a car, and we found one at auction selling for $1,800, and we ended up paying $5,000 just to have it run again and pass inspection.

So regardless of your annual salary, the expenses from the emergencies of life will end up being a critical part of your goals to build wealth and free yourself from your lenders. So start by creating an emergency fund of $500 or $1000 aimed at putting out the fires when they come.

Much of the possibility curve, however, is empowering yourself to begin facing this problem. Because unless you want to be like the rest of the over-educated poor Americans, you have to do something different. Regardless of your current situation, you need to begin thinking with a can do attitude! Here are the five lessons we learned throughout our debt free journey.

Lesson 1: Budget, budget, budget!

No matter how hard, annoying, and scary it might feel to sit down and plan out where and when you will spend your money, you have to do it.  It teaches you to keep your spending habits (or find them for that matter) in check.

How many times did you decide not to log into your bank account because you either thought there was enough money or didn’t want to think about how much you didn’t have?  When you budget correctly, you will never have to worry about that. You all of the sudden begin to take control of the very first thing that motivates you, MONEY.

This lesson will take some time to master, and at the beginning, my wife and I were very inconsistent with sitting down and putting pen to paper.  After realizing the power of the budget, we now make time at least once per month to sit down and work it out.

Like anything else you want, you have to practice.  Through consistent budgeting, you will learn the art of managing money well. Budgeting is the first and only step that will force you to think before you spend. Why do you think those shopping shows have a timer, or they give sales an urgent time frame? They know you are more likely to spend money in those short minutes. I tell my students to think before they speak, and spending money is the same process, just think before you spend.

My wife and I mix pen and paper and an app. This FREE downloadable budget template will show you how we budget our money.

 

Budget

Click on the image to download!

 

If you rather use a mobile app, then Personal Capital is a Great budgeting tool. What I like about PC is the fact that it tracks your net worth. So it will keep an eye out for how much you owe, how much money is in your bank and invested.

 

Lesson 2: Assume things cost more than they do.

If you spend $500 in groceries a month, tell yourself you’ll pay $600, so that if you end up paying less, you just gave yourself a small raise and the ability to put that extra cash somewhere else – towards debt, your rainy day fund, or fun money.  

I have become so stringent that I even put the parking fee in the budget when we travel. Those are things you have to do to stop having surprises and be able to control your money. You are going to want to get crazy and go scorched earth but begin slowly if you need to so, you don’t want to burn out so quickly. You want to see small victories before you get disappointed.

Lesson 3: An emergency fund magically gets rid of emergencies!

Whaddayouknow! Once you have an emergency fund, things are suddenly not an emergency. We have $1,000 at all times in a savings account that is accessible in real emergencies. We are also beefing it up to cover three months f expenses. 

The emergency fund can be a separate account that is easily accessible. Most people have a credit card for emergencies, but if you haven’t caught on my opinion about debt – I would advise you use the money you have because it won’t lead you further into debt.

Force yourself to define what an emergency is. The trip to Cabo can wait, but emergency dental work can’t.

Lesson 4: Minimum payments won’t do the necessary damage.

The goal is to beat that interest rate to death. That said, you have to pay more than the bare minimum because next month the interest rate is going to catch up with you. If you budget well and put as much money on the loan as you can, you’ll be successful.

Take a break from ordering pizza and eating out – count it as money towards the loan. The urgency can’t be understated – you have to start now.

Lesson 5: Do not get desperate.

Your time will come. For now, you just need to begin by telling yourself that it is possible and that you do not have to be like everyone else who has out of control debt. Take it from an immigrant kid whose family of six survived on $30,000 a year.

I make no excuses for myself and never expected anyone to clean up my mess. Yes, I got some help along the way from people that had nothing to gain but a simple thank you, but I respect those people enough to meet them halfway by putting the work in myself.  Don’t give up on yourself or your dreams.  Being debt free IS possible!

Summary:

  1. Have a CAN DO attitude.
  2. Budget every dollar to control it.
  3. Control your spending habits by planning for the worst.
  4. Have an emergency fund to cover your butt.
  5. Start making more than the minimum payment and sprint towards financial freedom.
  6. DO NOT get desperate! You are ready to punch debt in the face.