credit card to using two, three, four, and then five, and never paying off the balances.
In this article we will focus on the elementary methods you can use to get out of debt. In their book Get Out of Debt: Smart Solutions to Your Money Problems (Myvesta.org, $19.95), authors Kidwell and Steve Rhode, who co-founded Myvesta.org with Kidwell, offer consumers five simple ways to get out of debt: (1) stop incurring debt; (2) track your cash; (3) plan for the future; (4) don’t expect instant miracles; and (5) seek professional help. We look at each of these and show you how you can apply them to your financial plan.
Stop incurring debt. This keeps you from going further into debt. “Going into debt rarely happens overnight. It usually creeps up over a period of time,” says Kidwell. “It starts out innocently with one credit card. Then a large home mortgage, vacations, and student loans. Before we know it, we are living from month-to-month and paycheck-to-paycheck.”
Tony and Triscilla Weaver of Stone Mountain, Georgia, know the feeling of living from paycheck to paycheck. Both were raised in single-parent, female-led households where money was always an issue and being debt free was a fantasy. “It showed us both things that we knew we would not want to go through,” says Triscilla, 33. “We decided, early on in planning our future together, that we would be debt free.”
When the couple married in 1986, their debt consisted of a new $60,000 home, two car loans (Triscilla’s monthly payment was $300 and Tony’s, $350), and six credit cards between them that included Zales Jewelers, Kay’s Jewelers, Goodyear, J.C. Penney, and two separate Rich’s department store cards. Although Triscilla’s charge cards did not carry any balances, Tony’s cards, combined, carried a balance of several hundred dollars.
“We sat down with our bills and made a budget. At that time, Tony was making nearly $30,000 per year and I was making less than $15,000,” recalls Triscilla. “We decided to pay off all of his credit cards first, and that left us with the two car notes and our house note. It was an uncomfortable feeling having to pay two car notes at the same time, and we said that after that, we would never do it again.”
Over the past 14 years, Tony, 37, and Triscilla have alternated getting new cars. She now drives a 1992 Toyota Camry that was paid off in 1995. Tony’s 1996 Ford Explorer was paid off this September. During their marriage, they have remained virtually debt free. Their yearly income has more than doubled. As a route manager for the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, where he has been employed for 18 years, his salary is $55,000. Triscilla makes $55,000 as the assistant principal of Stephenson Middle School in Stone Mountain.
Track your cash. You should be able to identify your spending pattern in order to achieve financial success. Budgeting monthly and tracking your debts are ways to track your cash and expenses. This step is key