The Best Way to Pay Off Your Debt Is By Building Your Savings First!
THE BIG THING I WANT YOU TO KNOW:
However well intentioned your plan of paying off your debt may be, your efforts will be better spent accepting the monthly minimum payments and focusing first on a fully stocked emergency fund. Credit cards won’t be a way of life or the first thing you reach for when you get handed an expected bill if you have a savings that allows you to escape those 18 percent interest rates that haunt you.
I Met with barbara, and her debt mountain kept growing! What Happened after we met? Well…
Listen, credit card debt knows no boundaries; it crosses all ages, income levels, genders and every other demographic.
And like all new commitments and relationships, we start out on our best behavior. When that new credit card first find its home in your wallet, we pay the balance in full every month. We’re proud (maybe even boastful) of our new healthy relationship. It’s then we buy something we can’t afford (either out of necessity or splurge) and the next thing you know, the credit card companies got us where they want us because we’re stuck in their web of 18 percent interest.
Months ago I met with a client, we’ll call her Barbara, and life dealt Barbara some rough (and expensive hands) that resulted in tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt.
When I met with Barbara in our team’s office, we were able to devise a plan. Thankfully, she had some tax free investments that we were able to cash out. After she was able to make a considerable dent in her debt, we essentially doubled her income because her discretionary income wasn’t going directly to the credit card companies every month.
The plan focused on building her emergency fund FIRST!
For the first time in her life, barbara built an emergency fund, or what I like to call the foundation of financial freedom.
Whatever it costs you to live like you do for a month multiply that by three and that’s how much I want to put in a regular, boring, nothing special about it savings account. Let it sit there until...well...an emergency. Without an emergency fund, you’ll continue to reach for the Amex (or Chase or Visa) to bridge you from emergency to emergency.
Barbara left my office armed with a plan and ready to take control of her finances! rather than Throwing an extra $100 or even extra $500 on top of your payment strategy isn’t going to make a dent because that 18 percent interest is eating your lunch.
I wish barbara’s story ended there… but her past-spending habits sunk her great new plan.
Fast-forward to last week and my touch base meeting with Barbara. Without me even asking, I knew something was off because she looked guilty and defeated.
My advice from months prior was neither well received nor implemented. Instead of building an emergency fund, Barbara took her discretionary income and continued to throw money at the credit cards. Her actions came with the best of intentions, so I took no offense. But when I asked how that strategy was working out for her, she was honest and said:
“I’m in more debt than the last time I saw you.”
Financial surprises — not unique to Barbara — like doctor bills, car maintenance and a home repair popped up that left Barbara reaching for her credit card. That $0 balance was now $3,600.
There’s no “I told you so” moment because I honestly hurt for Barbara.
She had come so far with our plan that I was so sad to see her back in the hole she was climbing out of.
Don’t misplace anger and frustration on the stock market, your salary, your credit cards. The only thing you can change is your behavior.
yes, it’s not a natural habit, but if you trust the emergency fund you will be in a better position
I was so proud of Barbara for her honesty and admission to say she was willing to revisit the advice I gave her months prior.
Once back on the saddle, she was able to build her emergency fund in about five months while paying the minimums on her credit cards that carried the beastly 18 percent interest. As terrible as it may feel to suspend momentum and only pay the minimums on your credit card balances, believe me, building an emergency fund is the only way.
After her emergency fund was stocked, I knew her situation was ripe for the tried and true snowball method. We played offensive and aggressively attacked her debt head-on starting with the account that carried the highest interest rate. BOOM! PAID IN FULL!
We then moved on to account with the second highest interest rate and aggressively threw money at that account. BOOM! PAID IN FULL!
I take it that you see where this is going but that’s because IT. WORKS.
What’s Your story?
Do you have an emergency fund?
Do you recognize your natural tendencies that may be hurting you?
Do you make enough money to get out of debt?
there are cases when debt is not an issue of budgeting or exercising self-control, but a need to make more money.
the taboo truth is, maybe you need more money
It’s taboo and a bit of a hot take but I’m putting it out there: the simple fact may be that you’re not making enough money.
I defy anyone who says I’m not honest about my life and many shortcomings. Think I’m bluffing? Many years ago, my wife and I were told by a debt counselor that we “might as well declare bankruptcy” because that’s where we were headed.
At the time, life wasn’t rosy. My address was my in-laws’ basement because my salary as a youth pastor wasn’t cutting it when it came to supporting two little ones and a wife who was very ill. I held my breath with each check I wrote and debit card swiped because I didn’t want to endure the embarrassment of another cashier telling me that my account was overdrawn. That’s when I heard the feedback that changed the trajectory of my life:
“Chris, you gotta make more money.”
OUCH. In the best way possible, it hit me like a ton of bricks when I heard it. I share because maybe you’re in the same boat. I guarantee that a boost to your income changes your outlook towards that mountain of debt you’re under.
But, the reality was the person was right. It lead to me finding a way to grow our family income and then 1. building my emergency fund! (See Above.)
have a seat and welcome to the no-shame zone
If you have the intellectual humility to know that you and your finances need an overhaul, now’s not the time for crushing guilt, fear, anxiety and shame. Me and our team at Dynamic Money are the very last people on the earth who will judge you.
I’ve been there. Believe me, I’ve been there.
Freeing yourself from the financial burden of credit card debt will do wonders for your life, your confidence, your financial outlook and even the arguments you have with your spouse.
Take us up on our offer for a free consultation! I guarantee you’ll walk away with the feeling that value was added and you have a financial plan for your future.
Don’t lose hope for what your future could look like.