Part of changing your life and getting out of debt is changing your rules. If you develop and stick to a set of rules and maxims, you will greatly increase your chances of success. Much can (and will) be written about each one, but they are pretty self explanatory.
These rules are important, though. For example, if you can’t live on less than you earn, you will never be out of debt. Period – end of story.
These are not in any particular order:
10 Personal Finance Rules to End Your Debt and Change Your Life
1. Combine Incomes, Finances and Efforts – If you are married or a serious, cohabitating couple who are in it for the long-term, it is probably time to join bank accounts and develop a cohesive strategy for debt elimination and retirement. Being married with debt is about sharing the sacrifice and the reward.
2. Live on Less than You Make – This is the most simple to understand, yet the hardest to follow. It is the cornerstone to debt freedom and financial Independence. Everything starts here.
3. Pay Off Debts Smallest to Largest, Regardless of Interest Rates – This goes counter to math (if you pay off highest interest rate, you will pay off debt faster), but as Dave Ramsey says, if this were about math, you wouldn’t be in debt in the first place. Paying off small balances gives you quick wins that inspire you to keep going.
4. Save Monthly for Large, Anticipated Expenses – If you have an annual expense that is more than $1000, start saving a little each month so you are not left scrambling to come up with the money. Bonus points for doing this with an automatic transfer to a dedicated savings account like SmartyPig or ING Direct Orange.
5. Pay Yourself First – When you are in debt repayment mode, you should be putting almost every free penny towards your debt. But it does feel good to save a small amount by putting it somewhere it can’t be touched, like a piggy bank, or in silver coins. This can help to battle those eventual feelings of renting your lifestyle, resentment towards lenders.
6. Make Big Changes for Big Results – Experts like Ramit Sethi urge you to forget about cutting out $2 coffees and focus spending cuts in large areas. For most families, this would be car payments and groceries. Other big changes include selling your new car, canceling cable, etc.
7. If You Don’t Need It, Sell It – The things we waste money on keep us from retirement. If you don’t need it, sell it, even if you bought it recently. If you are deep in debt, sell your cars, if possible. Have a garage sale or post items on Craigslist.
8. Stop Buying on Credit – This goes hand in hand with living on less than you earn. Forego the reward points and frequent flier miles – they aren’t working for you. Until you have the discipline to avoid carrying a balance, use cash or a debit card.
9. The Goal of Work is Retirement – If you don’t agree with this statement, then chances are you aren’t too concerned about debt or your financial future. Work should not be viewed as a tool to get more Stuff, but as a means to an end.
10. Pay Off Debts Before Investing – Having debt is like having a negative investment. With interest rates of return so low, you’d be better off investing in yourself by paying off debt.