The Road to Debt Freedom
- Stop spending on anything that is not needed.
- Pour a cuppa and sit down with a notebook and pen, then count up exactly what you have coming in each week/month/year
- Count up every penny you are spending each week/month/year
- Take a deep breath and pour another cuppa
- Make a start on a statement of your financial affairs.
- Set yourself a budget and stick to it
- Let your bank/building society/creditors know your full financial situation if there are any arrears involved
- Liquidate any assets you may have that could pay off any arrears. Declutter and sell your surplus, for example.
- Start tackling the debts, highest interest rates are best to be cleared first.
- If it makes you feel better (keeps you sane), clear off the smallest debt as soon as you possibly can so you can experience achievement as quickly as possible.
Be realistic about your situation. Be honest in setting your priorities and talking with your creditors.
Be kind to yourself, you are where you are, so there is no point in beating yourself up over it. (Thanks for this addition, Tad)
For the purposes of frugal living, we are aiming to spend less than we earn at all times or, at the very least, afford to pay everything on what income we have, even if this means making some drastic changes to future spending and earning plans.
However, many people (and companies, banks and Governments) end up spending more than they actually have, which results in debt.
Here are a couple of examples from 2007 (taxes, interest rates and benefits have changed since then):
Couple with 2 of a family, husband works full time on a salary of £30,000 and wife is a full time mother/homemaker (not sure what the politically correct term for this category is any more!) Total income is approximately £452 per week including Child Benefit.
Mortgage & Buildings insurance - £740 per month = £170 per week
Council Tax/Water - £125 per month = £24 per week
2 cars, both on HP - £300 per month = £70 week
2 x road tax, insurance, servicing, petrol/diesel etc = £270 per month = £62 week
Credit cards - £100 per month = £23 week
Loans - £100 per month = £23 week
Total expenditure before actual living expenses - £372 per week
Balance remaining = £80 for everything else
Equivalent to £4,171.00 for a full year
Couple with 2 of a family, husband works full time, wife part time, joint salary of £18,000 plus Child Benefit, total income approximately £300 per week
Mortgage & Buildings insurance - £303 per month = £70 week
Council Tax/Water - £100 per month = £23 week
Home Improvement loan - £266 per month = £61 week
Credit Cards - £100 per month = £23 week
Other debts - £100 per month = £23 week
Car - road tax, insurance, servicing, fuel etc - £100 per month = £23 week
Total expenditure before actual living expenses - £223
Balance remaining = £77.00 for everything else
Equivalent to £4,015.00 for a full year
It didn't really matter what the annual income was, there always seemed to be a significant difference in the way that income got spent. Attitude to debt differs from person to person, depending on how easy they can access it and then pay it all back.
As another example, a single professional person earning £52,000 a year may well only have a household budget of £4,000 after paying commuting costs, the mortgage and upkeep of a grander house in a more expensive area, a sportier car, regular entertaining, foreign holidays, the gym and other luxuries they think are affordable, such as beauty treatments, designer clothing, a gardener and/or cleaner.
No matter what your income bracket, we could all be in the exact same boat. Fortunately, we each have the freedom to choose how we stay afloat. The £4,000 is a figure that has stuck with me for many years and seems as relevant now as then.
No matter what you do or how you do it, you are always going to have to pay the cost of living. If you can reduce the cost of living and clear off ALL debts, then think of the fun you can have from thereon in - that is the good life.
Budget to within an inch of your life and see just how much it costs you to live. You can see by the above how I arrived at £4,000 and hopefully this will make things a little clearer for our newest readers and challengers on the www.frugalforums.co.uk, rather than having to search through years' worth of posts and pages only to find themselves in even older archives.
Edited in - Part 2 can be found HERE