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The Debt Diet: Practical Ways to Reduce Spending

The Debt Diet: Practical Ways to Reduce Spending - TaxACT

Do you need to go on a debt diet?

My last son weighed almost eleven pounds and I gained an astonishing fifty pounds while expecting him. When I asked the doctor how to lose that baby fat, his answer was pretty simple: diet and exercise.

Maybe it was simple for him, but it didn’t sound so simple to a military mom who was on the run with kids and constant chaos. But alas, it was true, and after a period of time, I lost most of the weight I gained.

Getting out of debt is like going on a diet—it may sound simple, but it sure isn’t easy. Tweet this

The only thing that really works is to: spend less and save more.

Debit Diet - Ellie Kay - TaxACT

Debt doesn’t benefit a marriage, a family, or your future. Just as being overweight leads to health and emotional concerns, debt has its consequences as well.

On the other hand, those who have a low debt load experience many benefits. There are fewer arguments over money in a household with low debt liability. You can answer your phone and not worry about having to screen calls from creditors.

The anxiety over floating the bills to make the minimum payments will not exist in a home that is fiscally fit.

If you are in the military, for example, a high debt load can mean mandatory counseling, disciplinary action, and possibly even a military discharge.

Stepping on the Scales – How to Know If You’re Financially Overweight

To know if you have a debt problem, you need to step on the scale.

You need to go on a debt diet if you:

  • Use credit card cash advances to pay for living expenses.
  • Use and depend on combat pay/overtime to meet monthly expenses.
  • Use credit to buy things that you used to pay for in cash (i.e., groceries, gasoline, clothing).
  • Use the overdraft protection plan on your checking account to pay monthly bills.
  • Use savings to pay bills.
  • Ask friends or family to borrow money.
  • Use one credit card to pay another.
  • “Float” the bills – you delay paying one bill in order to pay an overdue bill.
  • Pay only the minimum amount due on charge accounts.

Getting out of debt may be easier than you think.

For starters, make an appointment with the a credit counselor or if you’re in the Military, consult with a Military specific counselor for a financial review.

You can also use my free tools at EllieKay.com.

You can also get out of debt sooner if you reduce spending and repurpose those funds. As soon as you save in one area, immediately channel the money you saved toward your debt load.

If you don’t take that saved money and put it toward a credit card or other debt, then it will just get reabsorbed into your spending.

Here are some practical ways to reduce spending and quick start your debt diet:

Retro Clothing Swaps

When my kids were younger, I used to swap clothing with a friend of mine who had children close in age to my own. Kids grow so fast when they are little that they don’t wear out most of their clothing.

This swapping arrangement saved me about $350 one school season! For a virtual swapping site, go to Swapbox.com.

Reap Rewards in Minutes

It’s amazing how a few phone calls can save you as much as $500 per year.

Call your auto insurance company and ask for the discounts they may offer such as good driver, non-smoker, defensive driving course, garaged vehicle, car alarms, and good student.

Be sure your teen is listed as the principle driver on a vehicle that does not carry collision and comprehensive. Don’t forget to look at USAA.com for special rates for military families as well.

While you’re on the phone, call your cell phone provider, cable service, home insurance carrier and pest control company.

Say the magic sentence: I’m thinking of cancelling because I believe I’m paying too much with your company.

It’s amazing how uttering the “C” word will make them jump to keep your business and a few minutes on the phone can yield you discounts you didn’t even know existed.

In fact, the cancellation department is oftentimes authorized to offer discounts that other company departments cannot grant.

Redefine Entertainment

When times are lean, it’s a great occasion to readjust your definition of entertainment. Rediscover the challenge of board games, enjoy the beauty of a walk in a park, or check out a new hiking trail.

Instead of going out for dinner and a movie, choose one outing per week and visit Restaurant.com for discounted gift certificates.

Review the Lifestyles section of your local paper and eat at a restaurant that offers mid-week dining specials. Check the FSIs (free standing inserts) in your Sunday paper for restaurant coupons.

Consider going to a matinee, a dollar theater, or the base theater. Go to Cinemark.com and sign up for their email coupons – this saves us $5 to $7 each time we use them.

Or download the Retailmenot.com app to find free coupon codes for everything from entertainment to coffee shops.

What is one thing you can do today to begin your Debt Diet tomorrow

Photo credit: kaneda99 via photopin cc

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About Ellie Kay

Ellie Kay is a regular expert on national television with ABC NEWS NOW’s Money Matters and Good Money shows. She is also a national radio commentator, a frequent media guest on Fox News, and CNBC, a popular international speaker, and the best-selling author of fourteen books including her newest release, The Sixty Minute Money Workout (Waterbrook, 2010). For money savings links visit Ellie's blog.

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