If only I could receive $1000 from everyone that’s asked me for money management tips…I wouldn’t need to work anymore.
Nowadays, I’m becoming stingy with my attention. I’ll give it to people who consistently improve themselves because I find it personally rewarding, and I know they won’t waste my time.
I don’t have finance credentials. Zero diplomas. Zero certifications. Zero titles. So, naturally, people want to know how I can afford to live the way I do.
I’ll tell you now. There’s no secret sauce.
My lifestyle of freedom relies on systems. And whatever I put in place has to meet the K.I.S.S. criteria. Popular versions of this acronym are “Keep it simple, stupid” and “Keep it stupid simple”.
I like the provocative tone of K.I.S.S. because it helps me to evaluate whatever the hell I’m doing. Whenever I forget this principle, I end up wasting time with busy work and communication issues, and I don’t achieve my objectives because of complexity.
With the K.I.S.S. principle in mind, let’s check out 4 ways to slay the debt monster:
1. Know why being debt-free is right for you
Answering these questions beforehand will provide clarity to the objective:
● How does being debt-free benefit you?
● Is being debt-free compatible with your ideal lifestyle?
● What decisions do you need to make?
There aren’t any wrong answers to these questions, and your perspective may change as you learn more about yourself over time. But if you’re still basking in the glow from a motivation seminar or the latest self-help book, that in itself won’t solve anything. These questions add a dose of realism into the mix so we’re ready to execute.
Excitement with no action solves nothing.
2. The Financial Checkup is Your Friend
In this case, we consider debt to be a problem, so how much are we dealing with? The figure I focus on is net worth. This number is calculated by taking the (sum of everything you own) – (sum of everything you owe).
My definition of debt-free is positive net worth.
You may decide to exclude debt obtained to purchase assets like real estate or investments. Do as you like, but remember to keep it simple and that it’s not a competition.
I’ve tested a bunch of ways to track my finances over the last 5 years. Throughout this process, I learned that I prefer to leverage technology, so I use a “set it and forget it approach”.
I want to view my financial standing in a dashboard and have the option to dig into transactional details if I spot something odd.
Personal Capital is a free financial tracking service that uses real-time data to tell me what I need to know and meets my requirements.
The net worth calculation tells us the extent of our debt. A $5000 debt requires a different Course of Action than a $50,000 or $500,000 debt.
Can you survive a no-frills lifestyle to pay off debt faster, or will a disciplined approach over a longer period of time be more sustainable?
Discomfort is normal at the beginning, but I wouldn’t recommend a strategy that’ll leave you miserable throughout the process. Crawl, walk, THEN RUN is a respectable approach so set yourself up for success with realistic expectations.
3. Little Costs Add Up
Finance gurus commonly point to Starbucks coffee and dining out as wasteful expenses when the homemade versions cost a fraction of the price and can be healthier.
I won’t tell you what to do, but you can save thousands of dollars per year by limiting similar purchases or choosing lower-priced alternatives that meet your needs.
A simple activity is to create a list of all your expenses—if you have Personal Capital, all your information is readily available—and assign all purchases into two buckets: “must haves” and “live without”.
We care about the “must haves”.
Next, switch to cheaper priced alternatives for everything listed in this category. The benefit of doing this is that all of the leftover money can help pay off debt quicker.
4. Observe & Adjust
Expect plans to change as your financial habits evolve. You may become motivated to pursue an aggressive repayment schedule or pull back because the impact is negatively affecting your life too much.
For me, watching a 5-figure negative net worth drop to 4-figures and so on was encouraging. Money management has become a game I truly enjoy.
Before I sign off, I leave you with some parting words.
Life happens whether we’re prepared or not. Be flexible. Understand the goal. Lean on your systems. And most importantly, keep it stupid simple.
Freedom is a Choice,