Let’s Talk About Debt, Baby

Ugh. That’s the one word that always comes to mind when I look at my calendar. I’m one of those people who writes every little thing down, lest I forget (mom brain, anyone?), and it seems like lately there is a bill amount of some sort due almost every day of the month.

Debt…yeah, it’s a four letter word in our household. Did you know the number one cause of divorce is due to finances? Mainly, the stress of managing finances, and all that entails. Accruing bills, talking about bills, working your butt off to pay for bills, blaming each other for having bills or not getting bills paid off before more are accrued (generally due to that exhaustion from the aforementioned “working your butt off” part), etc…they just suck, for lack of a classier word.

My parents did a great job of making sure I graduated college without debt, and the knowledge needed to avoid it, if at all possible. However, as we get older, it seems unavoidable at times. Have a mortgage? You’re in debt. Car payment? Congratulations! Debt. Medical bills, credit cards, random loans? I’m sure I don’t need to continue. With tax season approaching, some get excited about that return, knowing they’ll have a little extra cash flow.

Others dread it, knowing they’ll be paying in because they “make too much money”, which can take away from something fun, like a much needed vacation. No matter your income, chances are, you owe “the man” in some form or another. So why don’t we ever talk about it? In reality, it’s because most of us are depressed by it, and just want a BREAK from it. So why would we want to talk about it? Well, talking about it can help relieve some of that stress, and maybe even give you ideas or options you didn’t even know were available to you. 

So. Let’s talk about it.

Do your research.

While most of us dread the thought of a credit card payment, they can come in handy at times like emergency car or home repairs. However, if you’re going to get a credit card or loan of any kind, always do your research. Sites like Credit Karma are great for offering matches for things like zero interest credit cards for a certain amount of months or for balance transfers (based on your credit score), and checking with your bank or local credit union before financing a vehicle could potentially get you a lower interest rate than using a dealership’s creditor. Checking your options before making a big purchase could save you tons of money in the long run. Also, for things like medical bills, don’t run scared; before you stick it on a credit card, check in to a payment plan with whomever you owe. I’ve yet to be turned down on monthly payments, and not only is our debt being paid each month, but it is INTEREST FREE. 

Use your resources.

I have a friend who has worked in various parts of the mortgage industry for a bazillion years and knows more about all kinds of loans, interest rates, debt consolidation/budgeting, etc. than even Google (disclaimer: not sure if that’s true, but I ALWAYS ask her my questions before I hop online). If you already have a credit card that carries a balance each month, see what it offers you. We don’t generally charge on ours unless it’s an emergency, but when we have had to rack up a high amount, I’ve redeemed points for gift cards to various places such as Amazon and chain restaurants. Maybe not worth the interest rates, but those gift cards sure come in handy when money is tight one week and we need diapers! Also, is it really even cool to buy things at full price anymore? I have no shame in my shopping game: consignment sales and sale racks for the whole fam. Errryday. Good at couponing? You go mama!! Get those 47 bottles of shampoo!

Have a plan.

Whether it’s a monthly budget that needs to get a little tighter, or taking a course that teaches things such as the highly effective Dave Ramsey “snowball” method, you HAVE to have a plan if you want to get out of debt. You can’t just make monthly payments and hope at some point it is all paid off. Sure, it probably will get paid that way, but how many times are you going to cry in frustration about not having the money you need in savings because you haven’t budgeted your grocery bill? If taking a class isn’t for you, there are NUMEROUS online resources available to you, free of charge. Companies like Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Central Oklahoma (cccsok.org) have some amazing online templates for budgeting, FAQ to help guide you on your journey and even real live people (gasp!) in an office to answer questions if you get serious about having them help you organize, manage and settle your debt. CAUTION: there are many companies who will scam you to try and make a profit. Be very leary of any company asking for large amounts of cash up front, or even just to meet with you. 

Have some fun.

Living on a budget can sometimes cause more stress at times than it seems worth. IT IS WORTH IT. Invest in things like a zoo or museum pass when they go on sale, spend a few hours (just me?) on Groupon, take advantage of coupons to local restaurants or “kids eat free” nights or heck, ask for only gift cards for holidays and then hoard those suckers! Chances are, if you have kiddos then you rarely get a date night anyway, so if you have some stashed away, you can have a REALLY nice night out when the time actually comes…FO FREE!

There. We talked about it. I have debt. You (might) have debt. The world is still turning and none of us burst into flames. I’m no pro by any means, but if even one person is made to feel better by me admitting to the world wide web that MY FAMILY HAS DEBT, then this was worth it:)

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