Life Hacks to Escape Debt

 

For most people, entering adulthood comes with its share of “responsibility sucker punches.” However, when that sucker punch is something as burdensome as debt, the autonomy and freedom that also comes with being an adult quickly vanishes.

 

If you’re sick of debt constricting your lifestyle and impeding your thoughts, consider the following life hacks to escape debt.

 

Increase Your Earning Power

You might be working long hours to make ends meet, but how you spend your spare time is crucial to getting out of debt. If you’re not happy with your income, enhance your skill set. You’d be surprised how many jobs are in reach if you added just one more skill. The best part is that this investment in yourself doesn’t have to eat into your budget. Between resources like the Khan Academy, Coursera and several free online courses from top-tier universities like Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and Harvard, the knowledge is out there if you’re willing to put in the work. Find a skill set that interests you and go from there!

 

Meal Prep with a Slow Cooker

Meal prepping can stretch a food budget much further than even modest meals eaten out. However, meal prepping still takes a substantial chunk of time to pull off, and if you’re someone who doesn’t like to cook, it might feel like agony—worse if you’re having trouble pulling off the cooking part. That’s where a slow or pressure cooker comes in handy. For a mere $15 at the thrift store, you can cook tasty meals without doing anything more than some chopping. You don’t even need to strain yourself thinking of what to buy and throw in the pot, whether you desire simple meal creations or slightly more complex meal options.

 

Build Your Financial Knowledge Base

Just as you should invest in yourself by learning a new skill that could lead to better long-term employment prospects, you should also take this time to get educated on personal finance. Start following insightful financial accounts on Twitter like ConsumerFinance, prominent personal finance blogs like NerdWallet and don’t forget about financial entrepreneurs who contribute advice through different publications like CEO Andrew Housser of Freedom Financial Network.

 

Set a Smart Budget

Budgets are often started, seldom followed, and for a good reason: feeling restricted in our every purchase can quickly turn into self-entrapment, frustration and, ultimately, abandoning your spending plan. Instead, follow a percentage-based budget, such as Elizabeth Warren’s 50/30/20 rule, which divides your after-tax income into three spending slices: needs, wants and savings/ debt repayments. Your needs — housing, groceries, utilities, insurance, transportation and minimum credit card payment(s) — comprise half of your budget. Your wants makeup 30 percent of your overall pie and pertain to any non-essential purchases, no matter how modest they may be. The last 20 percent is devoted to retirement contributions, emergency fund savings, and most importantly, debt payments beyond your minimum statement balance.

 

Get a Balance Transfer

Paying as much as you can afford on your debt and not getting anywhere is frustrating. Transferring your high-APR credit card balance to a lower-interest card could shorten your repayment timeline. Though your options will depend on the state of your credit score, look for a balance transfer with a zero-percent introductory term, typically anywhere from six to 18 months. You’ll initially set back with a balance transfer fee, usually around three percent, but if the introductory period is long enough, you’ll be able to make more headway on your principal instead of paying an additional 15–20 percent per month in interest.

 

Spend with Cash

We don’t get any additional benefits of spending with cash, other than the assurance of not being able to spend more than we have. But when you’re in debt, this is obviously more than enough reason to stick with hard cash.

 

Know When You’re in Too Deep

If you’re doing, or have tried, all of the above, and you’re still not getting anywhere, it might be time for outside assistance. It might be difficult, but before opting for debt relief, consider any family members or close friends who can afford to give you a loan. If not, then debt settlement or bankruptcy are long but straight paths toward a new financial beginning.

 

Debt is vicious. If it’s not proactively addressed, it’ll linger, perhaps grow. Use these life hacks to get yourself out of debt once and for all.

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