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I think you’ll agree with me when I say - the debt free journey can feel like SUCH a long haul. When you map out your payments and despair when you see the length of time it’s going to take to become debt free... it can be deeply demotivating and disheartening.
In fact - ANY journey that involves spending restrictions is a hard one: saving for a house, a trip, a baby (having a baby!).
I can almost hear you thinking:
How am I going to manage?
That’s so so far away, how will I keep this up?
It’s too long, it’s too hard, why even bother…
And the worst thought:
I’ll wait another few months/til I get a raise/til I get a new job… it’s too hard right now.
Because when something takes a long time, it seems really BIG.
And as mamas, we often find ourselves earning less yet spending more – it's so much harder to get ahead now that we are no longer DINKs (double income no kids) or SINKs (single income no kids). Yes, that means we're DIKs and SIKs but I digress…
But anyway we have to face it, time is both the enemy and the friend of someone on a journey to pay off debt.
Lucky for you, I'm impatient too!
This is how you speed up your debt free journey
That's why I've put together a list of the most impactful actions you can start TODAY, to speed up your debt free journey, and shorten the time you are on it.
I guarantee you that if you complete even half of these steps, you will speed up your debt free journey, and perhaps take months – or years off it’s duration.
You DON'T need to rely on sheer will power – but you can do a few things that will help you immensely along your journey.
Let me explain exactly how…
1. Be honest
No no, I don't suspect you are planning to rob a bank to pay off your debts. In fact I'm fairly sure that the money you are putting towards your debt is hard earned, and you exchanged valuable life-energy for it.
You should feel proud of what you're doing – getting rid of debt so that you and your family can have a more secure and happy future.
But here's the problem – when you start making changes to your spending behaviour and habits, all your loved ones see and feel is restriction.
So the reality is, you will often find yourself experiencing some negative feelings about your situation.
- You feel guilty for spending less on gifts, or for choosing not to buy them at all
- You feel terrible for saying no to your kids repeatedly
- You feel embarrassed for not being able to generously foot that restaurant bill for your poorer family members (perhaps like you've always done)
- You feel ashamed of your clothes/car/home/[insert possession here]
The list goes on…
How would it feel to be honest with your family and friends about your debt free journey, instead of trying to soldier on and keep up appearances?
If they could know and connect with the vision you hold for your futures…
What if they understood your decisions and supported them too?
Their acceptance of the choices you’ve made – to help you get out of debt faster – will make it easier for you to accept and embrace them too.
>> Tell your family and friends about your debt free journey, your goals and your “why”.
2. Know your leaks
Having consumer debt usually means you've been spending more than you earn on a regular basis OR you've been surprised by large (or just frequent) unplanned expenses.
But aaahhh, sometimes you have “leaks” too.
Leaks can drain away your hard earned money at a lightning pace. Depending on how many you have or how large they are, they can be ALL DEFEATING.
If you are on a debt free journey you want to know that you've PLUGGED those leaks.
Common leaks include:
- Buying loads of books and toys for your kids
- Frequently eating out
- Unused gym member memberships
- Visits to the shops in between the main grocery shops
- Wine… frequent wine…
- Coffee (yeah, yeah…)
- NEW! FOMO triggered spending!
Now you might think you know your leaks.
If you analyse your spending (that is – categorise every purchase you make, and understand how much you spend on those categories every month) – then you are probably an authority on this and can say with confidence that you know your leaks.
But if you don't analyse your spending regularly, there might be a few surprises for you.
The trick is to import your last 3-6 months bank transactions into an app like Pocketsmith, then spend some time categorising each of your transactions, so that you can see the bigger picture about where your money is going (verses where you think it is going, or where your budget says it should be going).
Pocketsmith can be used globally and hooks up to most major banks – the premium Pocketsmith version enables live bank feeds. That means future transactions can be automagically categorised and you can keep an eagle eye on your spending.
Here's why that's important…
Being able to see how you're actually spending your money is very powerful, and if you're on a debt free journey with your spouse, it can be a handy way to show them where the money is going, rather than just wondering and theorising.
So, know your leaks and then plug them (or at least reduce the flow)…
>> Import your last 3 to 6 months of bank transactions into a tool like Pocketsmith, categorise your spending and identify your top THREE money leaks.
* If you sign up to PocketSmith using this link, I may receive a small commission. This helps keep this blog alive! I will only recommend tools and services to you that I use myself, and rate highly.
3. Make a real world budget
Once you've completed the previous step – identifying your leaks – you're going to have real data on your actual spending habits.
This means you can make a budget that is both within your means AND considerate of your real life.
For example, if one of your leaks was buying your kids toys and books, be sure to still allow yourself some money to do just that.
It boils down to this: you DON'T want to go cold turkey (discretion needed here). That's not fair on yourself and you could be setting yourself up for failure.
Make a budget that factors in your actual spending habits – reduce your leaks but make allowances for them so that you don't have to go cold turkey. Set yourself up to succeed!
>> Review your budget and makes small allowances for your ‘leaks’, so that you aren’t suffering from going ‘cold turkey’.
4. Remove temptation
So now you know your leaks, and you've made allowances for your actual spending habits, in your real world budget.
This next part is going to really help tie it all in with real life, and real behaviours.
It's time to take a look at your routines.
I don't mean routines like brushing your teeth, or your 6am run.
I mean the fun and/or decadent-oopsie-daisy routines that CAUSE the leaks:
- Driving and paying for parking instead of taking public transport or walking
- Winging it at the grocery store and forgetting stuff, resulting in “in-between shops' that beef up your weekly spend
- Buying more than what is on the shopping list you actually bothered to write
- Grocery shopping while hungry
- Book/toy shop browsing at lunch time
- The cheeky evening vino… every night
- Coffee meetings!
If you know you have a leak, take a look at the routines, or triggers that lead you to overspend and leak your hard earned money. Then figure out a plan to avoid the trigger, or change the conditions that lead to the behaviour.
Warning: you may have quite a few routines and triggers that lead to leaks and think ARGGH. It might be tempting to jump in boots and all, and try to fix everything – this will fail. I promise you it's nothing to do with your abilities or your motivation or your commitment – it's just that change takes time, and if you want to be successful, you need to make changes bit by bit.
We are creatures of habit and need time to adjust to change.
You need to get to the bottom of your over spending – here's one way to do that: the five whys.
I will put aside some time every Thursday to write up a menu for the weekly meals, then write a list of everything I need in the weekly shop
so that there is enough food for the week and we don't have to resort to takeaways (but we're allowed one night! Because this is the real world!)
Again, it's important not to go totally cold turkey on habits like these – if you go extremely in the other direction and stop takeaways altogether, you'll only crave and cave, then feel shite about it. Let alone how your family might feel about it. After all, it's their habits you're changing too.
>> For each of your three top leaks, identify their root causes and commit to ONE action you can take to plug the leak this month.
5 (& 6). Build a cash emergency fund, fast
Fans of Dave Ramsey will be all over this one – but if you're new to the concept, an emergency fund is cash, saved for small unplanned “emergencies”. Some would say it's a crucial first step, especially if you're planning on cutting up your credit cards.
The psychological effect of having some cash in the bank for emergencies is powerful too. If your credit cards have always been your back up for unplanned expenses, then knowing you have cash to turn to will help you ditch the plastic for good.
But how do you build a cash emergency fund when you're living beyond your means and turning to credit as a back up? Well that's why this is not the first hack listed.
Plugging your leaks is going to create cash flow. And that cash you save is going straight to your emergency fund. Because that's how you roll now mama!
But don't just rely on those savings to create your emergency fund: give it everything, have a massive declutter and sell some of the stuff your money has turned into.
>> Work out how much you can save by plugging your leaks, then plan to transfer this money directly into your emergency fund.
But I'm not done yet!
>> Schedule a weekend to have a major declutter, and find FIVE things to sell – and sell them! Transfer this money directly to your emergency fund.
7. Schedule your journey
It's called a debt free journey for a reason. It takes time to get there but on this journey, everyone's path is different.
There are going to be lessons along the way, and you'll need to change direction from time to time as you learn the lay of the land.
So you'll need to stop occasionally, take stock of your progress and replan things.
You'll probably get a little obsessed at some point, especially when you see how fast you can make progress when all your ducks are in a row.
Be sure to schedule in regular time to look at your finances, re-analyse your spending and adjust your budget accordingly. You'll get there a lot faster if you pay attention to what works and what doesn't, and tweak as you go.
If wine is one of your leaks then yeah, set up a weekly wine and money hour!
>> Schedule in your calendar a regular time slot to review your finances, your budget, and adjust as necessary. Make it something to look forward to (wine? coffee?). Bonus tip: invite your spouse!
I know this is a lot to take in, but bear with me – I have two more tips that when applied, will make YOUR journey so much more enjoyable.
8. Learn from your mistakes
No one is perfect. You will make mistakes along the way. It's how you deal with them that matters.
What do I mean? Well, every month you get the opportunity to look back at what you planned to spend (your budget), and what you actually spent (your categorised transactions).
There's GOLD in that information.
You mustn't feel regret and shame when you overspend – instead, try reframing it and feel grateful instead, for the lesson.
What can you learn from it? What can you change to avoid making the same mistake again?
>> Write down ONE mistake you made last month on your debt free journey. Then write down ONE thing you can change to avoid making the same mistake again.
Stay with me for one final tip, that is the BEST one in my opinion…
9. Celebrate your wins
For my final suggestion to speed up your debt free journey, it’s going to be a WHOLE lot more enjoyable if you stop and smell the roses occasionally.
Firstly, create a visual reminder of your debt – and more importantly, how much you have paid off. Put it on the wall where you will see it every day, and update it when you pay off money.
Reward yourself for reaching your goals and milestones! Plan for a little ‘leakage’! If wine with friends is one of your leaks then plan a wine date with friends for your next debt repayment milestone.
Make paying debt off fun. And you’ll stick at it.
Also be sure to celebrate the new skills you learn along the way, and the new great habits you form. These skills and habits will be the foundation from which you build your financial independence, so deserve to be celebrated too.
In short: go you! Become your biggest cheerleader.
>> Create a visual debt reminder and display it where you’ll see it every day. Update it at your scheduled money meeting or when you pay off increments of debt, and schedule a celebration for these milestones!
Isn't it amazing how SO MUCH of what we experience is in our control? Debt doesn't own you, mama, YOU are in charge, and if you take action on these tips, debt is going to quickly become part of your history, not your present – very, very soon.
Thank you so much for coming along for this ride, I had a lot of fun putting these tips together and I hope that you found some new perspectives and feel FIRED UP about speeding up your own debt free journey.
Now it's your turn – what actions are you going to take TODAY to speed up YOUR debt free journey?