This is the year that we, fingers crossed, find the right place and purchase a home. Since it’s taking us a lot of time looking we decided that we really needed to start this year off by tackling some of the debt that we already have before we take on an immense amount with a mortgage. We have a down payment saved, and want to continue to grow that, but we have student loans, two car payments and some credit card debt already racked up.
I borrowed a copy of Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover from my sister and started doing some research.
Dave breaks his process down into “baby steps” which makes them easier to attain. As you get the sense of accomplishment from each step, you are more likely to build your momentum and keep going.
We are not following his method to the T, but are using many of his suggestions. The first “Baby step” is to put aside an emergency fund of $1,000. Fortunately this was something we had already completed, so we were able to move on to step 2.
Step 2 can last for months, even years. This is where the debt snowball comes into play. You make a list of all of your debts from smallest to largest. Don’t pay attention to interest rates or anything other than total pay off amount. Then, you tackle the smallest debt first. You make the minimum payment on everything except for that smallest debt. On the smallest debt you scrounge around and scrub your budget, every extra dollar gets put onto that debt, until it is paid off in full. Once you have tackled one, then you move on to the second smallest debt.
Here is where the snowball starts to grow. Now on your second debt you are paying what you normally would, plus what you would have been paying monthly on the debt that you just paid off, as well as any extra left over in the budget. As each debt is paid down, you combine what you would have been paying onto the next loan.
One suggestion Dave does make, which we are not using, is to take all of your savings, minus the $1,000 emergency fund, and apply it to debt. Since we have been saving for a house, and are actively on the hunt, we will not be doing that part. But each month we are scrubbing our budget and applying all of the extra to our smallest debt. I can already see it working!
As of January 1st, the debt we started with was a student loan with a balance of $2,993.52 The monthly payments are $127.28. This month we were able to pay a total of $1,520 bringing the balance down to $1,485.16 (this included the interest that was accrued). We tackled more than half of it in one month! I can’t believe it. Nothing has changed with our income, so this is all money that was there, we just had to find it. Here are some of the tips that we found worked.
- List all reoccurring monthly payments, by the date they are due.
- After receiving each paycheck, use the list of payments and pay every bill, upfront, that will be due before the next check comes in. This avoids all late fees, and over spending.
- Really use a budget, account for every dollar!
- Make a weekly meal plan and stick to it!
- Limit the need for “Take out” or restaurant meals
- Pack lunches.
- Limit “extras” (coffee stops, etc.) for the use of gift cards only!
- Eliminate credit card charges
- Only use our bank ATM’s, eliminating service charges.
By following these few steps were were able to come up with a ton of extra $$ to really get our debt snowball rolling. I can’t guarantee that it will always be that much each month, but the satisfaction is already there as I see our debt lower. I can’t wait to cross this first one off the list!
Having the emergency fund is also important. This month we did end up with an unexpected $275 vet charge, but it wasn’t too stressed since I knew the $1,000 was there. Now we will replenish that fund prior to adding extra into the snowball.
We definitely won’t be able to pay our debt off prior to settling on a house, but I think we are off to a great start and I’m excited to see where it takes us. I’ll keep you all updated at the end of each month!
1 month = $1,520 in debt paid off