By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets
Do you feel you have so much debt that you will never pay it off? Do you want to travel more without feeling guilty about going deeper into debt to do it? Teresa* had been in debt most of her life and decided she no longer wanted to live with it. Here is the story of her journey…
I am a single woman and I have a son in college who I support. I have a good job and income, but I couldn’t figure out how to stay out of debt. There were times when I would pay it off, but I would quickly get myself back into debt. About 10 years ago I heard about Dave Ramsey, and I thought “this is what I have to do to pay off debt.” So I created my budget and tried to save the $1,000 for my starter emergency fund, but something always came up financially and I could never do it.
When I was deployed, I managed to pay off all my debt and then I bought a house. That’s when my debt snowballed! Closing costs were more than expected, and then everything after that just seemed like a drop in the bucket. My thinking was “what’s another $5,000?”, so I just kept spending.
Between school loans, two car loans, credit cards and a loan against my 401k, I owed over $40,000.
One day, I decided to seek out a financial advisor to help me. He told me he couldn’t help me until I had some money saved. Since I always owed money, I couldn’t work with a financial advisor to invest money and get ahead. I told him I needed somebody to hold me accountable for my spending, so he referred me to Dr. Budgets.
Deciding to Work with Dr. Budgets
When I retired from the military, it was scary not knowing what my next job would be. On top of that, I owed money which was really scary! I wanted to get out of debt for the security. Also, I learned from Dave Ramsey that I was paying interest on the debt that I would rather have in my savings, where it could earn me money.
I contacted Daniel and he described his services – it sounded exactly like what I needed. It was nice to have been referred to Dr. Budgets.
Working with Dr. Budgets
The first meeting was great. I couldn’t wait to get started! After that meeting, he reviewed my spending and came up with my budget, and then we met to discuss the spending plan. I had my little spreadsheet budget that I had created and I thought I’d get something similar from him, but his was so much better!
When I created my own budget, I had just guessed how much I was spending in each category… “this much on groceries” and “that much on my home,” but it wasn’t based on anything. When he actually looked at my spending, he said I needed to increase my grocery budget – I had no idea! He also added categories so it was a more accurate reflection of what I was spending. I loved that the budget was on track and I wasn’t having to readjust it every month because the numbers were now reflecting reality – Daniel was tracking it and reporting back. When I had created a budget before, I set an amount I thought was correct for each category and then I’d adjust it as I overspent. I learned from Dr. Budgets that is not how budgets work!
My favorite thing was the Goal Tracker! Although, at first it was depressing because the first month the debt number just goes down a little. But as I was putting more toward my debt, it started getting exciting and I looked forward to seeing it; I’d print it out every month and put it up at work where only I could see it.
The two biggest things I got from working with Dr. Budgets were the accountability and the advice. It was a tremendous comfort having somebody review and discuss my spending with me. I was able to use him as a “scapegoat” a few times because I like to consult him before any major purchase. This ended up saving me big when a roofing salesman came to my door once and told me I needed a new roof. He was very high-pressure, but I told him that I had to talk to my budget guy. I had to say it over and over! When I talked to Daniel about it, he encouraged me to look into the firm and it turned out they were not very reputable. They were so high pressure, if I didn’t have Dr. Budgets as an excuse, I might have signed up and that would have probably been a big mistake!
It was hard sometimes to stick with my budget. My friends would tell me I deserved to buy nice things, but I told myself I deserved to be debt free.
I was able to pay off the $40,000 in less than two years! I also took a trip to Japan and it was my first “debt free” trip. In the past, I would charge the airfare and the hotel on my credit card, but this time, it was all paid for.
I recently got into a car accident and realized that before Dr. Budgets something like that would have been a crisis for me. This time, I had money to pay the deductible, so it wasn’t a big deal. Also, I believe a new car payment would have triggered a spending spree for me because my attitude before was always “what’s a few more thousand dollars?” – I know I would have bought new furniture.
And I succeeded in another way: I’m thinking about money totally differently now. As we worked together, something would come up and I would approach Daniel with the solution. Coming up with a solution to a money problem on my own was something I would have never done before – I would just spend, spend, spend. Working with Daniel has inspired me to make my own big financial decisions in a way that doesn’t put me in debt again.
What would you tell someone in a similar situation to yours about Dr. Budgets?
I would tell them that working with a money coach is probably nothing like they imagine it would be. Daniel was so helpful and he worked with me. Some people say they don’t want to be restricted by having a money coach, but I want to say “you’re already restricted!” I don’t feel deprived because I know the money will be there to buy the things I want soon.
I know people who would benefit from working with a money coach, but they say they don’t want to spend the money to get out of debt because they’d rather spend the money on buying something – I want to tell them that’s backward!
Lastly, I’d tell people that my dogs never suffered 🙂 That’s to say, Daniel didn’t come in and say I had to stop doggy day care or spoiling my dogs. He made it work by helping me identify my priorities, which simply meant I spent a little less in other categories. I paid off my debt and built up my savings – and my dogs got to keep up their lifestyle!
Watching someone pay off over $40,000 in debt in less than two years is inspirational to me, and I hope it is to you too…especially if you are in debt and feel you will never get out of it. Thank you for sharing your success story with our readers, Teresa! If Teresa has inspired you to get out of debt and you need some guidance, please contact us or schedule your complimentary consultation.
*For client confidentiality, we changed the name of the person to “Teresa.” Everything else is factual.
- Published in Success Stories
By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets
Debt can help you fulfill your dreams and move you forward in achieving your financial goals. Debt can also turn into your worst nightmare if you aren’t careful. So how do you use debt, rather than letting debt abuse you?
Step one is to get yourself out of credit card debt. If you are in credit card debt, then you need to figure out why you are still in debt, then take the necessary steps to pay it off. You can use a debt payoff calculator (like this one from The Simple Dollar) to get you going.
Step two is to stay out of credit card debt. It can be easy to use debt in a way that does not support your financial goals. Using a credit card to buy the latest gadget, that new pair of shoes, or to take that vacation when you don’t have the money can have harsh long-term financial consequences… this is when the Rule of 72 can work against you! Unfortunately, poor spending habits can be hard to break. As your income increases, you develop more expensive tastes, and your credit card balance continues to rise. It is a cycle that, sadly, isn’t broken by many people. Don’t be a part of those statistics!
So once you are out of credit card debt and are able to stay out of credit card debt, then there are many ways you can use debt to further your financial goals. You could use debt to purchase a property, purchase a car (be reasonable here!) so you can commute to work, or invest in your business. My wife and I have a low-interest rate mortgage that allows us to live in a place we love while keeping our monthly payment relatively low and stable.
Debt can also be used properly for short-term use, such as taking advantage of rewards or cash-back credit cards. The key is to use them wisely and pay them off every month to avoid interest charges. My wife and I use the American Express Blue Cash Preferred credit card for all of our grocery store purchases to receive 6% cash back… and we avoid paying interest by having it set up on automatic payment to pay the full statement balance every month. This way we earn the $360 annual maximum cash-back reward without ever paying a cent in interest! We also use the Target REDcard to receive 5% off at Target and free shipping at Target.com, and the Amazon Store Card to receive 5% off at Amazon.com, which in essence pays for our Amazon Prime membership.
There are definitely ways to work the system and use debt to your advantage. Carrying a credit card balance is not one of them, which is why that is step one. So, if you are still in credit card debt, bookmark this post and come back to it when you are out of credit card debt. If you are ready to get out of debt so you can start using debt to your advantage, contact us or schedule your complimentary consultation today to get started!
- Published in Debt
By Daniel Rodriguez | Dr. Budgets
You have a balance on your credit cards and you have decided to pay them off in two years. That’s great! So you simply take your total balance and divide it by 24 to find out what you should pay each month… then, two years later, you’re out of debt, right? If only it were that easy!
Paying off debt isn’t just about figuring out the numbers. There are a lot of emotional considerations involved that may make it hard to pay off debt, which might explain why the average American household carries $15,762 in credit card debt.
Here are the 5 reasons why you are still in debt…
Lack of Motivation. Maybe you tell yourself you want to get out of debt every year, but at the end of the year you have the same amount (or more) debt than you did when the year began. You have a desire to pay off your debt, but your actions are painting a different picture… your desire to purchase what you can’t afford is stronger than your desire to pay off your debt. The reason why you are still in debt is because your goal to pay off your debt isn’t strong enough (or at least not stronger than your desire to swipe your credit card).
Lack of Knowledge. Maybe your goal to pay off your debt is strong, but you just don’t know how to start paying it off. Do you pay off the credit card with the highest interest rate or the one with the lowest balance? Do you do a balance transfer to a 0% credit card? Do you continue to use your credit cards while you are paying them off or do you cut them all up? You can pay your debt in a variety of ways, but if you don’t start somewhere it won’t pay itself off! My recommendation is you start by putting your credit cards away and stop using them until you are completely out of credit card debt. Once you put your cards away, you can then decide whether to pay off the highest interest rate or the lowest balance card first. If you haven’t started because you feel you don’t have enough knowledge, then this is probably the reason why you are still in debt.
No Budget. You can have the motivation and a plan for how to pay off your debt, but without a realistic budget (healthy spending plan) your progress will be limited. If you don’t know where your money is currently being spent and you don’t have a plan for how to spend it, then you can easily miss opportunities to make a significant dent in your debt balance. So, figure out how you are currently spending your money using a spending tracker like Mint.com, then develop a budget so you can allocate as much as possible toward your debt repayment goal. If you don’t have a budget, that could be the reason why you are still in debt.
Financial Emergency or “Financial Emergency.” Sometimes true financial emergencies happen… unexpected hospitalization, major auto repairs, or having to take a last minute trip to attend a funeral. Most of the time, though, they are probably only a “financial emergency.” Needing new tires or routine maintenance on your car is not a true emergency. Having to pay your car registration is not an emergency. Your annual insurance bill is not an emergency. Taking that last minute trip with your friends is not an emergency. I could go on and on, but the point is that all of these so-called “financial emergencies” are all things you can plan for in your annual budget. If you find yourself constantly encountering “financial emergencies,” that may be the reason why you are still in debt.
No Accountability. So, you have the motivation, knowledge, and a budget that factors in “financial emergencies,” but you are still not making much progress toward paying off your debt? The biggest reason could be a lack of accountability. When you have someone hold you accountable to your goals, something magical often happens… you start achieving those goals! Accountability is often the missing ingredient to achieving your goals because with accountability you have someone to report to about your progress. And it is much more enjoyable to tell that person you are on track with your goals, rather than having the conversation that you are failing miserably. So, have someone hold you accountable, whether it is your spouse, a friend, or a Dr. Budgets money coach. If you find that you have done everything, but you are still in debt, then the lack of accountability is probably the reason why you are still in debt.
- Published in Debt