So you’ve heard about Dave Ramsey’s Seven Baby Steps to pay off debt fast, but you don’t even know where to start?
Maybe you’ve tried to start paying off debt, and you just don’t think that the plan is going to work for you.
Well, it’s probably because you’re missing these key points.
I share every step of our debt-free journey as we try to pay off our over half-a-million dollars of student loan and business debt.
7 Things to Do Before you Start Paying Off Debt
How do I know that there are a bunch of things that you need to get in order before you start Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps?
Because I have been there.
I have tried to start a debt pay off plan for several years now, and I went about everything the complete wrong way.
I want to share with you my mistakes so that you don’t make them, too!
Paying Off Debt? Get Your Spouse on Board
The first thing that you have to do if you are married, is get your spouse on board.
This is really hard, especially if your spouse does not see a problem at all with the money, or has never participated in the budget.
It’s going to be hard to get them on board with a plan that, in our culture, is considered weird.
Budgeting by yourself doesn’t work.
So you’re going to want to get your spouse, and your entire family, on board with the plan.
Related: How to have a successful budget meeting with your spouse
Paying Off Debt? Set Goals and Know Your Why
Now that everybody’s on board, and in the loop to what we’re working
toward, we need to set some financial goals and define our “why.”
That’s what’s going to keep us going through this whole thing.
If your debt-free journey is going to be really long, like ours is, then you’re going to want to have a really good reason to keep going.
Related: How to Stay Motivated Paying Off Debt
Paying Off Debt? Nail Down the Budget
You don’t have to be perfect at your budget.
In fact, it might take you several months to really figure it out.
It definitely took us quite a few months, and we’re still learning and still figuring it out.
You can use cash envelopes, or online templates. Many people prefer to use a budgeting app like, Dave Ramsey’s EveryDollar app, which we use.
And I have some great budgeting printables that you can grab too.
But, definitely, budgeting is something that you learn as you go.
Your budget’s not the same every month, and you get better and better the more you do it.
A lot of people feel really intimidated that they can’t budget and think that’s going to keep them from paying off debt.
So you really just have to jump in and start practicing.
Related: How to Budget for Beginners
Paying Off Debt? Don’t Dig a Bigger Hole
Cut up the credit cards and vow to never go into debt again.
We kind of thought, I guess, we could “out earn” our debt.
When we got out of residency, we started our own practice, and went into more debt to start the practice on top of our already ginormous student loans.
We were like, “Well, someday we’ll make enough money. Someday we’ll make more money, and then we’ll pay off our debt.”
But we weren’t doing any kind of budget.
And we were actually paying some debt off. We paid off a car. We paid off our original practice loan in about three years.
But, since we weren’t budgeting, we were actually putting things on credit cards on the back end, and paying off debt on the front end, which makes absolutely no sense.
You have to just stop all of the debt if you’re going to actually make progress on the debt.
Paying Off Debt? Get Caught Up on Your Bills
This has been our biggest struggle this year because we were in so much debt.
We were getting so frustrated because we were making our budget.
We were ready, and like, “Let’s do this Debt Snowball.”
But we were so behind, it actually took several months for us to even get caught up.
You need to be caught up on your current bills so that going forward, you’re not still living paycheck to paycheck to paycheck.
Related: How to Start a Budget When You’re Broke
Once you’re caught up, then you can start on Baby Step One which is to save that $1,000 of a little starter emergency fund.
That way when any big emergencies come up, then you can be ready for that without having to reach for a credit card.
Paying Off Debt? Be Honest with Yourself
For the longest time, I didn’t even want to look at how much debt I had from my student loans.
I was like, “I’ll deal with that later. One day I’ll have money. I’ll deal with it then.”
I didn’t even want to know because I was so overwhelmed by it.
But that’s not actually helping anybody.
It’s almost scarier when you don’t know the truth.
Once I actually listed all of our debts from smallest to largest and we started to make a plan and work together, I felt comfort instead of an overwhelming anxiety.
So I would just encourage you to be completely honest with yourself.
Leave no debt unturned.
Once you have it all out there, you can actually make a plan and start making progress.
Related: The Debt Snowball Method for Large Debt
Paying Off Debt? Give Yourself GRACE
The final thing that you need to do before you start Dave Ramsey’s Seven Baby Steps, and start really attacking your debt, is to give yourself some grace.
So, yes, debt is dumb, but a lot of us have done it.
It is “normal, ” but the thing is that “normal” is not always right.
So this culture that we live in, where it’s all about more, and it’s all about spending and going into debt to get what we want right now, a lot of times I feel guilty about it.
I feel guilty about the decisions that we made to go into more debt to start a medical practice, when we already had so much debt.
I just have to learn to give myself grace and know that now we’re starting this journey now, and live in the present.
I hope to also inspire others who feel completely overwhelmed by six-figure debt and just feel like there’s no other option, and that they’re just drowning and are facing bankruptcy.
Make a plan and reach out for help.
You can pay off your debt. You can do it!
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