As I was getting ready for work one morning I watched the Today Show. John Cena, who is a professional wrestler, as well as an actor and rapper, was guest hosting. I am not a follower of professional wrestling but I have seen Mr. Cena in a few movies and if I could describe him in one word, the word would be “chiseled”.
Natalie Morales, one of the regular hosts on Today, mentioned how in shape he appeared and asked him how many hours per day he spent working out. I wish I had recorded his answer because it surprised me. I am paraphrasing Mr. Cena’s response here:
“Watch what you put into your mouth, and do a little bit more physically every day. You will be amazed at how your body will respond. Keep this simple!”
I lost thirty pounds last year by doing this (I counted carbs and calories on my iPhone and walked more). But as I listened to him, it made me think about my last journey with getting out of debt.
In 2010 we had $20,200 in consumer debt, plus our home mortgage. The consumer debt consisted of the balance on a car loan (we purchased the car in 2008 with a five year loan), a department store credit card, an orthodontist bill for our son’s braces and one VISA. My wife and I decided we were tired of these bills and decided to get serious about paying them off. 23 months later, all four consumer debts were paid off. We kept going forward and on August 22, 2014, we paid off our home mortgage!
So how does this relate to John Cena’s advice? Just keep your plan simple and implement the plan!
The first step (after deciding once and for all to get out of debt) is to create a household budget. Just thinking about income and expenses is not enough. The budget gives you the information that you need to be able to have a plan of attack. One of my coaching clients told me he did not want to have a budget because it would force him to acknowledge that he needed to work more hours in order to pay down his debts! A budget will expose the issues causing debt.
Second, do you have an emergency fund? How would you feel if you knew you had money in the bank to use to fix a dead car battery instead of having to charge it on a credit card? A coaching client told me she would “have a huge weight” lifted off of her shoulders if she could have just $600 in savings! The budget she created showed her that she could save $25 every week if her husband would stop buying energy drinks at work (which he agreed to). They also eliminated some other expenses so they could put $300 per month into their emergency fund.
How much should you have in your emergency fund? Whatever amount you believe will make you feel secure in case something unexpected happens. $500? $1000? My wife and I started with $1000.
Third, what order do you want to focus on your debts? Some people want to pay off the account with the highest interest rate first. Others (like my wife and me) choose to pay the smallest balance first. Either plan works. Pay the minimum amounts on every debt except the one you are focused on. That debt gets every dollar possible thrown at it until it is paid off. Then you take that money and add it to the payment on your next debt list.
When the second debt is paid, you roll that money towards the next debt, and so on until they are all paid off. Do not spend the extra money as that kills the plan!
My newest coaching client told me during our introductory session that she was considering bankruptcy because she did not have enough money coming in to pay all of her credit cards. Once she put her budget on paper, she realized that she was making extra payments to all of her credit cards. We worked together to create a plan where she attacks one card and pays minimums on the rest. She had the income but she was not seeing any progress because every card was being worked. With intense focus she will knock out her first bill in just two months and generate the momentum needed to kill all of her debt!