How We Got Out of Debt

by Patti Hutterli

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I noticed an article about someone in debt who wanted some tips to get out. This person is already doing the #1 thing he should start out with:

  1. Ask for help and seek advice about your situation. Consumer Credit Counseling Services is a good place to start.
  2. Make a plan to pay off your debts and write it down. My husband is fond of saying, "If it isn't in writing, it doesn't exist." If you put your plans in writing, you are more likely to follow through on your debt management.
  3. As you pay off smaller debts, don't start paying less each month on your overall debt. Put that money towards another bill.
  4. Keep track of all expenses for at least a month. You may discover some "holes" in your budget than can be plugged up.
  5. Avoid further credit and debt while you are paying off your bills.
  6. Keep track of your progress. Progress may seem very slow at first, especially if the debt load is very large. But it's a great feeling to whittle away at that list of creditors!
  7. Be patient. You probably didn't get yourself into this situation overnight, so you won't get out of it that quick, either.
  8. Be aware of your spending habits. Stick to the lessons you have learned about how you got into debt and how you're living to get out of it. You will probably discover along the way the things that are really important to you, and what is not so important to have anymore. Develop an awareness of the difference between "wants" and "needs."
  9. Visit your local library. There are many resources available to give you the particulars on frugal and simple living. It's a great place to check out (for free at our library) magazines, compact discs, cassettes, etc. - one of the little holes that was in our budget before. We also can get computer programs to check out for three weeks at a time.
  10. Make plans for life after debt. Don't go crazy and run up charge cards as soon as everything is paid off. The last thing you want to do is get yourself into deep debt again. You will probably find that you need to do some things that had to be deferred while you were paying off debts - for us it was catching up on dental work, and replacing some appliances. Stick to a spending plan; have a list of needs for everyone and for your house, so that you don't find yourself buying "wants" and not have money for the things you truly need. Put some of your new-found "extra money" into savings, college, or retirement funds. Create an emergency fund of at least three months take- home pay(more if you are self-employed).

I would enjoy hearing from anyone if this has been useful to you. Thanks.

We were once a family deeply in debt - not a lot due to charge cards, although that certainly contributed to the total. We still had part of a huge law school loan (3 years of law school + living expenses were borrowed), and medical bills not completely covered by insurance (we since have enrolled in an HMO which is wonderful on the pocketbook). Then our youngest child was diagnosed with autism, so I needed to leave a job; this meant around $1400.00 less per month to work with between salary and medical benefits. The hard part was family and friends who couldn't understand (and some still don't). They didn't know or ask how huge the medical bills, etc. were.

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