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It seems pretty normal to me now but people still drop their jaws when I tell them we’ve paid over $45K on our loans in less than a year.
We still have a year to go and most days I have mixed emotions of accomplishment for what we’ve done vs. annoyance for how far we have to go.
UPDATE: As of August 31, 2017, Travis and I are STUDENT LOAN FREE! We paid off $77,646.54 in 23 months!
We’ve made conscious decisions to hold off on things like buying a house, going on trips, and even getting a couch that’s not covered in stains (all attempts to clean only make it worse.)
I didn’t agree to this at first but over time I’ve learned it’s necessary for our journey to get out of debt as quickly as possible. Don’t feel like you have to go vegan straight from an all McDonald’s diet.
Wade into it with these foundational practices and build your thriftiness over time. Make the commitment and I promise you will reap the rewards, and they will be sweet comfy industrial style brown leather rewards.
Or listen to Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover. Regardless of what you think about Dave’s philosophies the man has the market nailed on the psychology of spending.
Travis and I read this as part of our premarital counseling and it was a game changer.
I was in way too over my head to figure out where my money should go based on interest, investments, credit scores, etc. I needed a simple plan I could follow and he offered that simplicity. The baby steps are the map we’re using and they do work if you commit to them.
I won’t harp too much on budgets but it’s the most important thing to getting out of debt and winning with money. None of these good intentioned suggestions are worth anything without a plan for telling your money where to go.
If budget sounds too negative you can refer to it as something else, like a Monthly Cash Flow Plan. It doesn’t matter what you call it just make one and stick to it.
You won’t be perfect and you’ll never have the perfect budget so make it as easy as possible for yourself by downloading an app like Mint to track card purchases in real time or EveryDollar if you’re a cash-only spender.
3. Buy Secondhand
You know how I feel about the amazing wallet and environmental benefits of buying clothes secondhand, but we buy just about everything else used as well. I love ThredUp for clothes and we’re avid pawn shop browsers. They’re always willing to negotiate on price. We recently got a $100 indestructible Bluetooth speaker for $30!
We got all our furniture from Craigslist and OfferUp and we browse Goodwill whenever we have free time to see what goodies they have.
We even do it with food. My mom works in cafeterias and catering and will offer us leftovers whenever they’re available. This obviously isn’t an option for everyone but if you know someone with extra food don’t be shy to ask and offer to pick it up on site. It prevents waste and cuts down your grocery bill.
4. Eat at Home
We have a $50 grocery budget per week and we live very comfortably off that. I plan my meals, make a strict grocery list, and we switched to shopping at Aldi.
We budget ourselves a few meals per month to eat out with friends. We hate to pay full price anywhere so a few places we use to save on food include:
- Sites like Restaurant.com for dining deals.
- Groupon and LivingSocial for deals on dining and activities.
- Apps like ibotta and Checkout51 to save at grocery stores and other big box retailers.
- Mystery shops at bars and restaurants.
- Shopping through Rakuten when grocery shopping online. (I also never get a Groupon without getting Ebates cash back!)
Spoiler alert: It’s much easier to get to know people at home over a crockpot dinner and a bottle of wine than a crowded restaurant with a live band. Married or single, eating at home is not as time-consuming and boring as I thought it’d be.
These are just a few of the money saving tactics we used. I actually have a list of 200 frugal living tips to spark your imagination on how to live a more frugal life!
5. Side Hustle
Sometimes there’s just nothing left to squeeze out of the budget to pay down debt. The quickest way out of debt is increasing your income. I know that it seems impossible to squeeze more into your already busy life and it is no picnic, it’s exhausting.
But the more you make now, the quicker you go from rice and beans to steak dinners (I’m vegetarian though so I’ll stick with the beans.)
I don’t recommend minimum wage soul-sucking side jobs (unless it’s over the holidays when you can make bank) I mean hustles. Drive Uber during peak hours, deliver pizzas on nights and weekends and rent your house/room out on Airbnb.
Use the talents you already have to freelance some work (try Facebook or fiverr to advertise.) Bringing in an extra $1000 a month now will change the rest of your life.
Jen Smith is a personal finance expert, founder of Modern Frugality and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lifehacker, Money Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider, and more. She’s passionate about helping people gain control of their spending.