Get Out of Debt Guy

How to Get Out of Debt. The Real Truth.

Posted May 7, 2013

People ask me questions every single day about how to get out of debt. Problem debt is a chronic problem that faces many at any one time. If you are facing debt, you are not alone.

Normally the worry of debt is hidden by the perception everything this is alright. If there is no stress, fear or worry, there is no concern about being in debt. But debt builds over time until it spills over and impacts our lives at the worst possible times.

Over the years I've helped people to get out of debt from all walks of life, from millionaires to homeless people, and interestingly they all suffer from the same common problems.

Getting Out of Debt Facts

Getting out of debt is actually very easy once you realize that the situation is just a math problem wrapped in emotion.

It's the emotional tangles or off limit actions that leave people boxed in and feeling like they are trapped. They say things like, "I need to get out of debt but bankruptcy is out of the question!"

It's those same emotional issues that make it very easy for people to get scammed and taken advantage of when they are afraid about their debt situation. For some reason, fear seems to make commonsense and logic fly out the window. The reality is people can't believe or even consider most of the debt advice offered out there is just sales B.S. and not really helpful.

So here are some really good commonsense facts to keep in mind when feeling like you need to get out of debt.

The most common mistakes people make when they want to get out of debt are...

Increase Income / Reduce Expenses

If you just don't have enough money at the end of the month to make ends meet, the obvious place to look is if it is possible for you to increase your income, reduce your expenses or a combination of the both.

Like I said before, debt is just a math problem and if you can change the equation then you can change the outcome.

Debt Doesn't Judge You

Stop being afraid of the emotional baggage that comes along with being in debt. Debt is neither moral, emotional, judgmental, or a measurement of your self-worth. It is an out of balance equation, that's all.

Debt is just an imbalance in income and obligations. It's not you, not even close. You are not your debt and being in debt does not make you a broken or bad person.

Most Budgets Are Lies

Don't leap to make a budget to get out of debt. When people do this what they actually create is a page of lies based on memory.

The money leaks come from things that are unconscious or unusual and the best way to get your hands on what your real spending is like is not to try to recall it from memory in a panic but to be a get out of debt debt scientist and record your observations.

To do this just keep a running list of where you spend every penny for the next thirty days. At the end of the time you can categorize your expenses.

By doing this you will be able to gather real data and use that data to then make good educated decisions about cuts or changes you want to make.

Fear is Not Reality

The fear and stress you may be feeling at the moment as you panic about your debt, is not reality. That fear can lead you to make some really stupid decisions that can cost you millions in retirement and cause you to fall for a sales pitch about debt help that sounds great but has no real chance of success.

When seeking debt help most people don't do what they need to do and instead fall for the first magic sounding sales pitch from a for-profit or nonprofit debt relief company. It's understandable why they do this, subconsciously they just want the problem and emotional tide to go away.

Keep in mind, emotion retards the presence of logic and commonsense when dealing with debt.

Education is Your Key to Success

There are a number of debt relief options you can call upon when facing debt. Not all will be appropriate or right for you but if you approach getting out of debt with any preconceived notions or assumptions you will make bad choices.

Before you leap at a solution you need to investigate the most obvious options of bankruptcy, payment strategies, credit counseling, debt consolidation loans, and debt settlement.

One easy way to do that is use the online get out of debt calculator.

Do This, Not That

When that wave of panic hits you just remember the basic of getting out of debt:

  • Breathe.
  • Get the facts.
  • Research all options.
  • Seek independent advice from someone who is not selling a debt solution.
  • Don't assume.
  • Make the best decision that repairs the future instead of focusing on fixing the past.

If you follow this advice, you will be in a better position to deal appropriately with your debt than the vast majority of people do.

And if you get stuck or need some advice, I'm always here to help you for free.

Steve Rhode
WRAL Get Out of Debt Guy

If you have a credit or debt question you'd like to ask, just click here and ask away.

If you'd like to stay posted on all the latest get out of debt news and scam alerts, subscribe to my free newsletter.

I'd love to meet you at the next local meeting of the Get Out of Debt Guy Support Group. Everyone is welcome.



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  • steverhode May 10, 2013

    @cushioncritter Good tip.

    I'm just trying to get people over the initial hurdle of even tracking spending. Hopefully once they do your extra bonus tip will come in handy.

  • cushioncritter May 10, 2013

    Budgets work better if you project the minimum and maximum for each item (utility bills, for example) and then add up the two columns to see what your "disposable" postive cash flow will be in a good and bad month. When I first did this I found even in a good month I was running in the red and covering the shortfall with credit card cash advances.

  • steverhode May 8, 2013

    @albegadeep Exactly! Don't make a budget by guessing. Make a spending plan based on real data.

  • albegadeep May 8, 2013

    When the article says to not leap to a budget, what it seems to mean is don't just jot down how much you think you're spending, but actually track it. Ideally you can look at what you spent last month to build a budget, but without excellent records you'll miss stuff.

    I think what it's saying is track all cash flow for a month *while being careful with your money*. Then you have a good idea of what you spend in a month, and on what, and you can work on a long-term plan.

  • pianoguy May 8, 2013

    I read all of it. And the best way to track the cash is with a proactive budget, where you project income and expense at the beginning of the month and track that throughout the month. And you adjust it each month as necessary. The difference may be one of semantics, but this is my primary beef with programs like Quicken. To my mind, waiting until the end of the month to see what you spent where is closing the door after the horse is already out of the barn:-)

    I'm not trying to be critical. I just view the budget as the foundation for cash flow management. Even if someone doesn't know what all of the numbers should be, I would encourage them to start with what they do know, set targets based upon income that they have available, and make adjustments as they go.

  • steverhode May 8, 2013

    Keep reading. The article says to track the cash and then make informed decisions.

  • pianoguy May 8, 2013

    I would question the advice to not "leap to make a budget". To my mind, if you are deeply in debt and don't know why, then the first thing that you need is a budget. My wife and I have practiced the electronic version of "envelope budgeting" for almost 20 years, and it is the primary reason that we are not deeply in debt. The right tool makes it easy to keep up with (we use YNAB). It's basically just line item budgeting just as every successful business does, and makes it much easier for us to spot trends in our spending and adjust accordingly.

  • Terkel May 7, 2013

    I keep a rolling 18 month record of each penny - yes, even 10 cents to print a page at the library - and have done so for years. I don't try to limit myself as my parents taught me good habits. I just record what I spend, knowing up front I'm not habitually wasteful - not that I haven't been snookered or made some bad choices over my long life.

    I summarize it at the 3, 6, 12, and 18 month levels so I can see whether expenses are going up or down, and to avoid the "pig in the snake" - say, when RE taxes are due.

    I separate necessities from entertainment, charity, and "other". Then it's easy to see where to make cuts and whether I need to. And I always know how much I spend to live on average.

    Knowledge is power.

About this Blog:

Steve Rhode has had careers in opthalmology, real estate and as the head of a nonprofit debt counseling firm. On his blog, he offers hard-won, free advice about getting out of debt, consolidation and making the right choices as you manage your money.