Debt is one of the easiest things in the world to get into and one of the hardest to get out of. There are thousands upon thousands of tips for getting out of debt whether it be slowly or quickly.

But debt can often be paralyzing. When you make $30,000 a year and you are looking at $30,000 in debt, what can you do about it, where can you start? It seems an insurmountable task. But like most things in life, you can’t get anywhere unless you start somewhere.

Here’s one thing that has worked for me. I worked on my debt one day at a time. I did this (and still sometimes do this) by making a conscious decision every day not to spend on something that I would have. And however much I would have spent on that, I put it away in a safe place, and used it to pay off my debt. Will it get you out of $30,000 of debt in one year? No. Will it get you there a faster than if you didn’t do it? Yes.

Too much depriving leads to binging

Most people don’t want to think about the things they can’t do when they are in debt, though. But if you start small, not buying things can become its own reward system. When we feel deprived, we generally end up doing those things that we think we are deprived of anyway.

Anyone on a diet will tell you that if you don’t eat any dessert ever, eventually you’ll eat 10x as much as you should. By eating just a tiny bit of dessert every day, you can still feel like you are getting what you “need”, and you don’t go on the eating binge. Buying stuff can be the same way. Let yourself still buy some things if you feel you really need to. But pick one thing per day not to buy. Some examples of things you could not buy are

  • A pack of gum at the convenience store
  • One of your five daily Starbucks
  • Take a lunch instead of eating out one day
  • Walk to the store instead of driving (here you are not buying gas, maintenance, etc., averaging $0.45/mile)
  • Bring a water bottle with you somewhere you might buy one instead

These are simple things. If you eat in one day a week, you won’t feel like you’re missing out on lunch with your co-workers, but you’ll save $10. If you miss out on one coffee a week, you won’t feel deprived, but you’ll save $2-$3. As quickly as possible, and always that same day, physically put the money somewhere (money, not an IOU for money) – in a jar is a great place. At the end of the month, take that money out and apply it to your highest interest debt. If you do this faithfully, you’ll be surprised how much money you have at the end of the month, you won’t feel deprived, and you’ll be just that much more closer to your goal of debt-free.

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