Last year the Federal Reserve released statistics indicating that the average U.S. household carries $15,611 in credit card debt, $155,192 in mortgage debt, and $32,264 in student loan debt. That’s a lot of debt!
If you don’t have a mortgage or any outstanding student loans, along with absolutely no credit card debt, consider yourself at an advantage over thousands of other Americans. But if you do have some form of debt, I’m sure there are times when you feel ‘stuck’ and unable to make any progress.
Getting out of debt is tough, but not impossible. If you’re struggling to pay off your debt, be sure to let go of these common financial habits that could be holding you back.
Continuing to Spend More than You Earn
If you are continuing to live above your means by spending more than you earn, there is logically no way you’ll be able to pay off your debt. Becoming debt free it not just a dream, it can be a reality. It just takes determination, willpower, and a plan.
Using credit cards to make purchases and carrying a balance will simply cancel out your debt payments. Don’t psyche yourself out by believing you are getting closer to paying off your debt if you are adding to your credit card balance each month. Stick to an all cash budget it you have to and reduce your expenses. Start living the life that you can afford to live and make the best of it.
The people who can’t seem to get out of debt are often the ones who can’t stop buying and ordering more stuff. If you’re serious about eliminating your debt you’ll need to cut your spending and control it. Try to focus on necessities primarily and put your wants on hold for the moment.
As a former shopaholic, I’ve realized that clothes and household goods will always be there, and the ‘sale of the year’ or the ‘deal of a lifetime’ often occurs more than once. Avoid certain stores if you have to, and unsubscribe from receiving promotional emails so you won’t be tempted to shop and overspend.
When you do go to the store and pick up an item you really want, give yourself 24-48 hours to think about the purchase. Ask yourself if it’s a want or a necessity and how will it affect you (if at all) if you didn’t purchase it. Once you start to control and reduce impulse purchases, you’ll avoid accumulating more debt and free up money to pay on your current principal balance.
No Savings Plan
Developing a realistic savings plan is essential when paying off debt. If you don’t have any savings, it’s important to start building an emergency fund ASAP to protect yourself from any unexpected expenses.
If you’re making large payments on your debt each month that’s great, but if your car breaks down and the repairs cost $800 you’re going to be relying on credit cards if you don’t have any savings set aside.
Don’t put yourself in that position. Establishing a savings plan and setting some money aside will help you stay on track with your debt payments and avoid getting into deeper debt when unexpected expenses pop up.
Paying Only the Minimum
When you receive your credit card or student loan statement each month there’s usually a section that says minimum payment and a due date. A lot of people see that amount and think it’s okay to just pay the minimum amount required that month and leave the rest of their balance for next time.
This is a common trap that you shouldn’t fall for. Paying only the minimum payment required on your debt each month has several drawbacks, including the most important one: accumulating interest! Banks and lenders want you to pay interest in addition to the debt you already have so they will offer you the option to make small payments instead of just paying your balance off.
Don’t fall for this trick because you’ll end up paying more and it will take you longer to become debt free.
Even if you don’t have much to put toward your debt to begin with, it’s important to always try to pay more than the minimum payment so it can be paid off earlier. I only pay $60 more than the minimum on my student loans each month and while it’s not much, every little bit truly does count. The extra money I put toward my student loan takes care of interest for the month so that more of my regular payment can go toward the principal balance.
Not Making Your Debt a Financial Priority
When you get paid every month what is the first thing you do with your money? Do you pay bills? Or do you run to the store to pick up that new item for your living room that you’ve been eyeing? When you get paid the first thing you should do before you forget is pay yourself.
Transfer money to your savings account and make a payment toward your debt. This prioritizes your specific financial goals over other areas of your budget. If you end up having extra money at the end of the month, add it to your emergency fund or make another debt payment.
How do you make your debt a financial priority? Have you ever had any of these habits?