This blog post comes from the heart in the hope it will help someone else who might be struggling
to believe there is a way out of debt.
All it takes is following the exact same steps as we took, and you will get there. 100% Guaranteed.
Let me set the scene.
My husband arrived into our relationship with approximately £22k or $28k worth of credit card debt from previous relationships that he took in his name. The usual story of letting luxuries and purchases become the norm, with the knowledge that one day “it will be sorted”.
Throw in some times of unemployment and the amount added up to quite a bit.
He has had this debt and tried to manage it for the majority of his adult life, and like most people not something he would share with people.
The usual strategy of making the minimum payments and one day paying them off was the goal – but as we know all too well that never happens, or at least you are never the winner only paying much more in interest for the delay process.
My past experience of money management in adult life was the opposite – no debts to my name, other than mortgages, and never feared my credit card statement in the post. I bought only what we had money for.
When I learned of the debt those years ago, it consumed me with dread.
Dread that how could we give up money each month, how much could we afford to give up without comprising on lifestyle, how could we ever pay back such a large amount – all the usual circle of endless worry and stress questions that everyone feels around debt.
However, I knew we had to do something to make it disappear as only when we are debt free could we truly be able to have financial freedom.
The goal of financial freedom is too powerful not to want to take action, even in little baby steps. And that is the key to everything you want to achieve in life – turn up each day and do one thing, one thing only, that works you towards the direction you want to be in ultimately.
Act and live the life you want now, and it will come into action.
If you want to be rich, you have to start managing your money and using the same tips and tricks that the successfully rich people do.
And so we set up a plan.
A plan which I have nicknamed now AutoPilot Money, as really now it is set up and in place we don’t need to worry about it. It just happens for us without too much interaction from us each month and we are working towards that financial freedom goal consistently.
And as a result of that exact plan, which I will share with you, the debt is gone completely and faster than we initially thought.
Try nearly 1.5 years faster, effectively giving us a pay rise and more money each month to do more fun things with!
The Goal is starting to appear in real life and it is amazing, and you can feel it too if you apply the same principles to your own life and debt.
Step 1 How much debt did we have in total?
To pay off the debt, and this works for all debts, you need to start by knowing exactly how much you are dealing with.
For us, that involved my husband contacting all the credit card companies and asking for outstanding balances.
The total came to just under £22k or $28k.
Step 2 – How were we going to pay it off?
Next comes the choice part.
Now we knew the size of the debt that needed our immediate attention, we could pay each one individually with the credit card company OR if the option was there to have a lower APR rate personal loan to cover it all, that would mean one payment moving forward and it would pay it all off collectively.
We had the option to go the personal loan to pay it all off fully in one place, so that is what we put in place.
So when we had the personal loan approved, we used the funds to pay off each of the outstanding credit cards directly and close them off.
The next benefit of having now just one payment in one place, our bank as it turned out, was that I could track the outstanding amount very easily and it acted as motivation to clear it off faster.
It was also really easy to make over payments when we had funds to do so each month.
Step 3 – We met the minimum payment always, and then paid more on top
If you don’t have the same luxury as us, or it doesn’t make financial sense to have a personal loan – all you need to do is commit to the minimum payment at least for all your debts. But, and I cannot stress this enough, you need to be aiming for more than the minimum payment each month without question.
If you can only pay one debt of many with even a single £1 or $1 more – do that.
Always start with the debt that is costing you the most in interest each month (has the highest APR %).
With our method of a personal loan, we didn’t have to worry about meeting the minimum thankfully but we could save money on interest on the loan if we choose to make over payments.
So although the set monthly amount for 5 years on our loan would mean the debt was gone in that time period, we decided to make over payments whenever our budget would allow.
Step 4 – We found extra money to throw at the debt by budgeting…and on Autopilot
My husband’s past spending style needed a major change in patterns, as his old pattern meant he was overspending compared to his wage each month.
The real reason for this being that money shared him his whole adult life, and the fear of looking at his current account balance was real.
He hated it and so avoided it like the plague.
And over a large period of time that denial and lack of attention to something so important, I believe 7 or 8 years, overspending a little each month adds up and up and we were £22k/$28k looking to see when the madness will end.
I had never used a budget before, as I had always been ok with spending only what I had in the bank, but with the need to find money in as many places as possible to throw and close off the debt – it was time to set up a budget officially.
That is when I created after much searching and testing what would work for us, I created my own budget style called the AutoPilot Money scheme.
Essentially it is a budget spreadsheet method but smarter, as it builds in long & short term financial goals rather than just looking month to month.
The reason it is autopilot and without stress is that although the first month might involve some extra hard work and effort to make sure it all works, by the third month you know it works and are confident in it achieving your goals.t]
I started by opening up all our current accounts together, writing down all our fixed bills, our essential items and items that were impulse and probably not essential and listed it all in one place.
By beginning afresh at the start of each month when I knew exactly how much we were going to be paid, I could allocate each £ or $ to a requirement within our life, be it food & transport or debt payment.
And also remembering to allow us some reasonable fun money too.
Step 5 – We budgeted all areas of life and evaluated it each month
The important thing to remember though is that at the end of each month, if there was any money left over in budgets I would move it straight to our loan to help in any small way achieve debt-free quicker.
Then the next month review all budgets and if consistently we were under spending, up my amount to the loan and then adjust other budgets accordingly.
Alternatively, if we were overspending on our budgets it was time to just make the minimum on the loan and see if I could be better in other areas next month instead.
It was important though never to sacrifice to pay off debt where possible – I would always make sure there was enough money for the essentials and some fun money, as we needed a life style that was liveable rather than miserable.
If I had ever reached a point where funds couldn’t stretch, and we even lived through nearly a year of my husband being unemployed during this three year time to pay off the loan early, the thought of having to work another part time job to keep everything afloat and on course was totally fine by me.
We were in control of how that debt came to be in place for the most part, so we had to solve it.
Our goal was to get to a state where we weren’t living paycheck to paycheck to live, but rather feel financial free by having no debts ideally and money to have fun and live the life we want with. That is the purpose of working after all, to allow you to live life and a fun one with it.
My AutoPilot Money system allowed us to find money through simplifying and streamlining our spending, making sure we were only spending money in areas that brought us joy and happiness, and plan for the future. It allowed us to realise just how much we were spending on essentials and luxuries each month and then see what truly was important.
For us, over the three years where we have consistently overpaid on our loan till now that it is completely gone some 20 months early ahead of the time we hoped for.
We have got rid of our monthly satellite TV bill (we just didn’t miss it when we decided to give it up for a month for fun), I have learned how to plan our family food wiser and with less waste each week and month, we have each year saved successfully for large events such as Christmas and birthdays – all of these things were not planned but just happened because I took time to focus on what was important and our goal to get rid of this debt and manage money smarter.
I’m very thankful for having this experience because I doubt I would have learned how to be financially savvy and gain knowledge of money management without feeling like we were at rock bottom and had no choice but to do something different.
Be sure to download your own copy of my AutoPilot Money system here from my Etsy store.
You can even find instructions how to use it on my Youtube channel below: