Punching a hole in the boat while trying to row to shore is a surefire way to prevent yourself from getting there. In such a situation, you would never do that, but people trying to pay off debt often self-sabotage during the process. Today, instead of telling you what you should do to get out of debt, we’d like to go over some of the things you should not do.
It doesn’t matter if you’re using the snowball method, the avalanche method, or playing the lottery every day hoping for that “big win” to cover your student loans. All of these have one thing in common: the desire to reduce the amount of money you owe. Think of it as a journey. Each day, you want to take a step in a positive direction. The following actions arrest that movement:
1. Delaying Your Debt Payoff Plan
Making a plan to pay off debt is only half the battle. For it to be effective, you need to implement that plan. When you delay, interest payments accumulate and your balances go up, so you’re essentially going backward. There’s no good reason for this to happen. Make the commitment, follow through with action, and start moving forward.
2. Continuing to Spend at the Same Pace
Making an extra payment on your credit card won’t do you any good if you keep using that card for purchases. That’s one step forward, two steps back. Your credit card balance will never go down unless you decide to stop spending. Adopt a “cash only” mentality where you simply don’t buy it if you can’t pay cash for it. You’ll find that you spend less that way.
3. Operating Without a Budget
The best way to describe this is “throwing darts with a blindfold on.” You might hit the target occasionally, but that wall around the dartboard will be filled with holes. There’s no way of knowing how much you owe and spend without first creating a budget. It’s the blueprint for your personal finances. Without it, you’re operating blind.
4. Not Checking Your Credit Report First
Most people want to improve their credit scores. It’s one of the more common reasons for engaging in a debt payoff program. Unfortunately, many of these eager consumers neglect to check their credit reports before they start the process. Some of the information on there could be wrong. You can have it changed without paying a single debt.
5. Putting Debt Payments Before Retirement Savings
Some financial “gurus” will argue that debt costs you money, so pay it first. What they neglect to tell you is that retirement savings make you money. It should never be a choice between the two. If you’ve done the footwork and have a solid budget, you can do both. Pay your debt and save for retirement. You’ll be debt-free with money in the bank during your golden years.
The Bottom Line: Always Move Forward
Your credit report, which you can get for free at FreeCreditReport.com or on a number of other sites, shows you the total amount you owe each month. Check that at the beginning of your debt payoff program and check it monthly after that to make sure the number is going down. If it is, you’re moving forward and you’re doing it right. If you’re going backward, reevaluate your plan.