It was Sir Henry Taylor who said, “the art of living easily as to money is to pitch your scale of living one degree below your means.”
The financial collapse has resulted in more Americans being wiser, more conservative regarding credit card use. Some of this has been good consumer decision making some has been a result of new banking policies. For example Eighty-eight million accounts and credit lines, representing $751 billion in credit, have been closed since September of 2008.(source: www.cardtrak.com, September 2009)
Either way it is good to have an end date for when one has one’s mortgage paid off, hopefully before retirement. One should never use one’s home as a credit card with lines of credit. One should also have an end date as to when one’s non-mortgage debt is paid off. These dates indicate exactly when one will kiss one’s debt good-bye and balance one’s life-time checkbook. Balancing one’s life-time checkbook is required nest egg protection. After all one never really knows what one has in one’s nest egg if it is tethered by debt. It is also important to recognize what a huge difference it makes in terms of one’s ability to grow one’s nest egg aggressively by eventually applying the money previously spent paying off credit cards to one’s nest egg.
Americans have conflicting attitudes about debt. While 91% believe debt can be controlled by disciplined saving and spending, 72% also believe that debt is a part of modern life and difficult to avoid.(source: www.bankrate.com , Feb 2008) Personally I like using Debt It cards and cash. I often times receive cash discounts for purchases usually around 10%. By counting out my dollars especially on larger purchases it really helps me focus on my needs vs. wants. I also recognize the need to shop patiently (master shopper) sometimes on E-bay or even barter networks. I keep a buying journal and evaluate the strength of my decision making and purchases. When I see purchases on paper first I make better decisions period. I’ve learned the importance of reading online what other consumers say about products, travel costs etc. 66% of Americans say debt is often the result of unfortunate circumstances beyond a person’s control, while 60% say it is usually the result of bad decisions.(source: www.bankrate.com , Feb 2008)
How to Best Pay Off One’s Credit Card Balances
First put dates on the calendar to call one’s credit card companies and request lower rates or restructuring every 60-90 days. Its a bit of a crap shoot but if one gets the right person at the right time it can be beneficial. Next put one’s “Debt Attack Plan” in play and commit to saving first before buying big ticket items once one has eliminated all of ones credit card debt.
Be The Debt Master, Put ones “Debt Attack Plan” in motion.
*Work over-time or an extra job temporality until one has an emergency fund of a minimum of 6 months of bills in the bank
*Sell whatever one can to get the debt attack fund in place aim for $1200 minimum repeat annually until credit card debt is eliminated ($100 a month)
*Scrutinize one’s tax situation, typically most Americans receive an annual tax return of $3,000. Work with one’s tax preparer to ensure the refund is eliminated and use the money to pay down credit card balances ($250 a month)
*Reduce one’s monthly entertainment expenses ($100 a month) see fun free activities guide below
*Combine the current monthly payment one makes on one’s absolute smallest debt (a debt of maybe two thousand dollars) and the $450 from ones “Debt Attack Plan” until the smallest debt is eliminated. Then enjoy a reasonably priced celebration the day one of your debts is eliminated. Then apply all the money that went to pay-off one’s first smallest debt to the next smallest debt and continue the process until all of one’s credit card balances are zero. Then reward oneself with perhaps a vacation paid for with savings not credit cards. Typically the money spent paying off credit cards should now be applied to one’s nest egg.
All of this requires patience after all it took awhile to get into debt and it will take awhile to get out of debt. Have faith in the process outlined here and stick to your guns. It will not be perfect at first. The most important thing is to simply develop one’s “Debt Attack Plan” and put it in play without delay.
Cheap Family Fun Ideas
- Go for a bike ride.
- Hike through nature.
- Go on a picnic and fly kites.
- Run through the sprinklers – grownups included!
- Have a family garage sale and make a little money.
- Plant flower seeds.
- Go camping in your backyard.
- Go to a public library. Check out a book on constellations and go star-gazing.
- Go window-shopping, but leave your wallet at home.
- Go to a thrift store, play dress up, and take photos.
- Make a family album or book, including stories written by each member.
- Keep on the lookout for free museums and festivals.
- Tour a factory. Visit http://factorytoursusa.com/ for ideas.
- Build a snowman.
- Feed bread to the ducks at a local pond.
- Put together a puzzle.
- Wash the car and be sure to get in a water fight.
- Throw a ball around.
- Have a fashion show using unlikely objects from around the house.
- Go bird watching.
- Go somewhere with free live music – farmers markets are great places for this.
- Go on a scavenger hunt.
- Write and perform a play.
- Sing karaoke.