Editor’s Note: When I heard that my friends Gina and Josh Masters had recently paid off $66,000 in debt and had made a list of the 33 lifestyle changes they had incorporated to accomplish it, I asked if I could use it as a guest post to teach others how to get out of debt. They humbly agreed. And this is the result:
“Live like no one else now… so that you can live like no one else later!” – Dave Ramsey
Three years ago, my husband and I found ourselves drowning in debt – $80,000.00 to be exact (and that’s not even counting the mortgage). Around that time, coincidentally, our church began offering a financial program called Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. We spent the last $100 from that pay period to sign up. And the rest, they say, is history (or at least, most of our debt is now history).
As I write this, over the past three years, we have paid off $66,000.00 in personal debt. No magic, no quick fixes, no debt consolidation, or bankruptcy filing. Just persistent sacrifice. We have saved ourselves from financial destitution by making a number of simple, small changes in our lives that led to us getting out of debt.
Recently, my husband and I sat down to make a list of every change we had made hoping that it would encourage others. When we finished, we reviewed the list and were surprised at how simple it looked. Yet, all of these ideas—put into practice over a period of time—have nearly completely got us out of debt.
They are tried and true. And best of all, simple enough for anyone.
33 Proven Ideas to Getting Out of Debt:
- Re-shop auto, home, and life insurance to see if you can bring down your payments.
- Downgrade your home television package/services, or get rid of it entirely.
- Disconnect your home phone (for sure). And double-check the rate on your cell plan for a better deal if it’s been awhile since you checked.
- Buy and sell clothes at your local consignment or shop at Goodwill.
- Have a massive garage sale. (If you’d rather be out of debt than have an item, choose to sell it to help you get you there.)
- Advertise higher quality items on Craigslist, Facebook, or your local newspaper to get better prices.
- Focus on buying mostly sale items at grocery store or generic brands to reduce your cost.
- Use a grocery store awards program to earn money off gas.
- Cancel unnecessary expenses like magazine subscriptions, newspapers, manicures, pedicures etc. Anything that could be considered a “want” instead of a “need” should go until you are out of debt or greatly decrease your debt.
- Go to the matinee movies instead of paying full price (and skip the concessions).
- Or better yet, use at-home movie entertainment.
- Get temporary work or seasonal part time work to boost your income.
- Read books from the library.
- Buy your most expensive groceries in bulk at Costco: meats, breads, cheese, produce, paper products. Establish a monthly grocery budget for the additional needs at regular grocery stores.
- When eating out, skip the soft drinks and stick with water. Skip the extras too (dessert, etc.).
- When eating out, share a large entrée or have small appetizers instead of the costly meal.
- Plan your errands more efficiently to conserve gas.
- Find friends that you can trade services with…hair-cutting, handyman, photography, babysitting, pet-sitting.
- Give home-made gifts, baked goods, or service IOU’s rather than expensive presents.
- Boxed cereals are expensive; switch to oatmeal, eggs or fruit for more nutritional and financial bang.
- Call the utility companies and get on a budget plan to give you more consistency with expenses each month.
- Set a spending limit with family at Christmas and/or draw names.
- Use exercise videos, walking or hiking instead of paying for the gym.
- If your haircut is too expensive, find a less expensive stylist or see if your hairdresser will cut you a break on price temporarily—ours did.
- Say “no” to hosting and/or attending in-home parties where you feel pressure to purchase.
- Does your family live nearby? Once a week dinners with mom or dad saved us a meal out of our shopping budget. Additionally, it usually led to leftovers and our parents looked forward to our visit each week.
- Make your coffee at home instead of buying it each day.
- Pack your lunch—not once a week, but regularly.
- Make extra dinner servings on purpose to have leftovers for lunch.
- Our dentist advised us we could skip the fluoride treatments if we were using a daily dental rinse—which we did… and bought on sale.
- Program your thermostat for savings on heating/cooling when you’re not at home.
- Tempted by certain retail stores? While digging out of debt, avoid window shopping these places where you’ve failed to control your impulses before.
Many may say, “What? I need my manicure!” or “My kids will only eat box cereals!” But trust me. If you are serious about getting out of debt and changing your life, the only thing you need is a roof over your head, clothes on your back and gas to get to work to bust your way out of this.
Plus, take comfort in knowing that you don’t need to eliminate these things forever. Personally, I look forward to hiring back our housekeeper and treating myself to a few pedicures next summer. But until we are debt-free and have a fully-funded emergency fund, we’ll be focusing on using the dollars we bring into our home to set us up for a lifetime of success.
**Many wonder about Number 33 (Give) because it seems counter-intuitive to most of us. One thing we never stopped doing – even in the worst of times—was giving. We always gave money to our church, our favorite charities, and foundations that we believe in. It’s easy to say “I can’t give. It’s not in my budget.”
But if we’re looking for a lifetime of success and influence—not just the latest gadget or status symbol—how can we afford not to give? Giving reminds us that we can live for a purpose greater than this world and all the temporary treasures it offers.
It helps keep everything else in perspective. So pick and choose from our list above – do one or two or everything on the list to get yourself out of debt – but don’t leave out number 33. We can attest from firsthand experience, it will radically transform your life!
Image: The Cleveland Kid
Another way to save $ and the environment is to move toward a plant based diet. Full protein is easily obtained, also better for weight control. Consider growing some of your own foods in a garden or containers, very cost effective over supermarket shoppibg. Trading goods and services also can save money and make you friends. When purchasing anything, stop and think, “Do I need it? Is there packaging I can recycle or use? How many uses will I get out of this item vs. the initial cost. Sharing ideas that I find useful
Joey @ the green gazelle says
I love, love, love this list! I would add to #13 that most public libraries have an excellent interlibrary loan program where you can get any book, DVD, or cd from the entire regional system of libraries delivered to your branch and held for you. And if they don’t have something you want, you can make a request that they purchase it. I find that, especially with interlibrary loan, there is rarely a book I’m looking for that I cannot get through my public library!
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I like how you listed some simple things that can be done. Often the small, simple things are overlooked, but it is through small means that great things are brought about. Following these steps form financial momentum and can move us toward the goal of ridding ourselves of the burden of debt. I have seen this momentum develop and grow and has helped me. I am not debt free yet but I am well on my way. I got some good ideas at http://www.121550.ultramortgagesolutions.com. Once we formulate a plan, it takes determination and sacrifice to stick with it, but over time, the results will come. I know it. Thank you for your great tips.
Great tips except the read an entire book at B&N. As someone who lives in a town where the bookstores all closed, I don’t agree with that one. It just feels wrong. I do skim mags in the coffee shop of bookstores occasionally but I also buy a coffee or dessert and a book. I don’t see it the same as a library. There are many offerrings at the library, friends of the library bookstores have stuff for $1 and free e-books available. You could also start a mag/book swap with friends.
I’d hesitate to ask my hairstylist for a discount too, he works so hard and has bills too but I did start to spread my appointments out a bit more.
Really great list, thank you! I like the point about the gym and movies. If someone really can’t spare a penny to give, we can always give our time instead. I totally agree it is important for your pysche and good for karma too!
It’s a decent list. I say decent because I live in Hawaii where the cost of living is not compensated by appropriate salary. I’m a stay-at-home mom & must return to work because one income is not enough. And, we do a lot of the 33 listed, still not enough. I would also mention to purchase used items where quality is the same if it were bought new, such as a sit-n-stand stroller. We bought one at one of our local sell and buy shops that cater to babies & toddlers. Also, adding to the list, use coupons and look for deals on-line. By the way Barnes & Nobles charges way more in-store compared to their on-line prices. Needless to say, we used to frequent used book fairs where you can find lots of bargains. Thanks for the article. It’s all about making sacrifices.
Rebekah @ The Golden Gleam says
Fantastic list! We practice almost all these tips and it has put us into a very good financial position. So much so, that my husband is getting ready to start a business with our savings; I have been able to be a stay at home mom, and we just went from 1 to 4 children, and it doesn’t feel like we are taking a big financial hit by doubling our family since we are so frugal to begin with. I will make one caveat that my husband does make a decent income but there are plenty of people who make his income and can’t afford to have a stay at home parent and are in lots of debt.
I have no debt at all but yet I live by most of the ideas on the list above anyway. I dont feel frugal to myself. It’s just my life style and i feel good about it.
Dave Ramsey’s Teaching is simple and extremely easy to understand. If you are in debt go to your library right now and get his books-Total Money Makeover and Financial Peace. These books will change your life. My husband and I payed off $54,000 in 10 months. It was very difficult. We did not eat out at all. No shopping. No spending over our budget at all. It was rough. This was over 2 years ago and our life has forever changed. We recently sold our home and put our equity in the bank. Sold almost all of our possessions and are living in an apartment half the size of our house so we can save aggressively toward buying a home in cash in a different city. Live like no one else now – so later you can live like no one else! Thanks for this article I pray it inspires many others to change their family tree for future generations!
Fran Watson says
Thanks for sharing these great tips. I was looking at the date of the first post and realized that these types of tips never go out of date. They are just as relevant today as they were when initially posted.