With the proliferation of credit cards, there is no end to the options available to consumers to defer, stagger, or otherwise put off paying for the things they buy and/or consume. But you would be surprised by the number of people who confuse deferred payments and installment plans with never having to pay at all, forgetting all about their obligations until they get the piece of mail informing them of their debt. Here are 5 ways to be debt-free in 2017!
STOP ADDING TO IT
This isn’t even good financial advice as it is common sense: if you’re in the midst of paying off an existing credit card bill, then the last thing you want to be doing is adding to it. Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar says that “you have to be able to cover all of your monthly expenses from your checking account—and to pay your debt, you’re going to have to do better than that.” So, avoid using your credit card at the time being and pay off what you owe on existing balances before going off and making another big purchase.
KNOW YOUR RUNNING BALANCE
You can’t very well eliminate debt if you aren’t even sure how far along you are in paying it! Online banking is invaluable for this purpose, as you’ll always know how much you owe, as well as how much cash you have access to at any given time, which will help you to work within a budget.
WORK WITHIN A BUDGET
We’ve talked before about the importance of having a feasible budget based on your current resources. As our article on Building a Better Budget shows, a good starting point is the 70-20-10 Rule devised by Morgan McCall and his colleagues at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), which divides your salary or allowance into allocations of 70% to cover expenses, 20% for savings and investments, and 10% as emergency fund. Of course, there may be a better ratio that better suits your needs, so feel free to experiment and see what works. Working out a sustainable ratio of daily expenses to monthly expenses to savings that works within your means will help you on your way to becoming debt-free.
PLOT YOUR PAYMENTS
Most credit cards and utilities bills are paid on the same day every month. Plot out your payment schedule against your current income and running bank balance so you’ll always be on top of your expenses. Paying on time is the best way to avoid incurring extra finance charges, while signing up for online banking services can help in automating the task.
BE A SMARTER CONSUMER
Finally, regularly check online coupon and deal sites for the latest offers and discounts so you can save on things like food and groceries. A good rule of thumb is never to pay full price for something if you don’t have to. Andrew Beattie of Investopedia says, “If you struggle to avoid overspending, shipping with cash is one way to stick to your budge and limit impuslve spending.” Online transactions aside, make it a rule to pay in cash to avoid being shocked when the credit card bill arrives.