Kick Your Credit Card Debt to the Curb!

May 28, 2010 7:42:56 AM

The financial challenges we’ve faced as an industry over the past four years have been nothing short of difficult. We’ve saved, skimped, sacrificed and cut back to the most necessary necessities. We’ve been to the battle lines and back and have shifted our real estate businesses in order to not just survive but to thrive, and it has paid off.

Looking at our financials at the Keller Williams Service & Support Center here in Austin, I am proud to say that we remain a financially solvent company. Not only is that statement an anomaly within the realm of real estate, it’s a significant accomplishment in any industry.

Which is why I got to thinking: how can we apply the same business-savvy saving strategies to our own lives?

If ‘leading with revenue’ works in our business lives, why can’t it also be just as effective in our personal ones? It’s time to kick credit card debt to the curb with some help from the tips and tricks below!

START THE CHANGE

If you’ve read Gary Keller’s book, SHIFT: How Top Real Estate Agents Tackle Tough Times, you know that the first tactic is dedicated to Mindset and Action. Tackling your debt is no different. In order to win the battle against the bulge you’ve got to set an end-goal. First, start by filling in the blank to the following sentence: I will be free of credit card debt in ___ days/months/years. Focus on this goal. Hang it on the refrigerator, in your bathroom – whatever it takes to remind yourself that a debt-free life is a good one that you’re prepared to achieve.

READY TO CUT BACK?

It’s time to take a good look at your current spending habits. Where are you spending the most money and where can you cut back? Are you spending on necessities, or are you trying to live up to a certain lifestyle? What often surprises most people is the amount of money dedicated to discretionary spending. Is your love for lattes putting a damper on your debit card? One too many trips to Nordstrom? Are you driving a car that takes up so much of your income that you are forced to use a credit card for daily living expenses?

If you’re really aiming to be debt-free, take a close look at your budget to figure out where you can cut back. Then set smaller goals to remove spending in each area. It doesn’t have to be much, but the more you cut back, the quicker you will reach your goal. The new credit card regulations require disclosure of the time required to pay off the balance when making just the minimum payment – it can be very eye-opening (and motivating to pay more)!

CONVERT TO CASH

While you are paying down your debt, make a commitment to yourself that you will not add to the balances unless absolutely necessary (and cute shoes on sale are not an absolute necessity!). Set a budget for your weekly spending, withdraw that much cash, and when it is gone, it is time to stop spending for the week. It is easy to lose track of how much you are spending when you are swiping a debit or credit card.

SNOWBALL

What does a snowball have to do with debt? Well for one thing, it might be how you got in a position where you have too much debt. But it’s also a great way to get out of it, says financial expert Dave Ramsey.

His method: Start by paying your smallest debt first. This can be an outstanding bill or a credit card from your favorite store. Pay it off as fast as you can, while maintaining minimum payments on your other cards of course. When that debt has been removed, shift your focus and the money freed up to the next smallest debt. The sense of accomplishment in paying off even a small portion keeps you motivated and focused on the end goal and reminds you that it is possible!

Note that if you have one credit card that is carrying a much higher interest rate than the others, you might want to focus on that one first if it is an achievable goal.

CASH IS KING

Look for cash savings anywhere and everywhere. (Seeing a trend here?) Get creative about your spending. Vacation close to home; search for coupons online; cut back on dining out and plan and prepare healthy meals at home; rent instead of going out to movies. Organize a clothing, home décor or toy swap – an outfit that has never felt right to you may be just the ticket for a friend. It may be tough at first, but get creative and have fun with it!

As real estate agents, you are also in the unique position where you can approve your own raise. What can you do to fuel your career forward, and earn more money along the way?

Here’s the bottom line.

No one is born chief financial officer of a company – and the same can be said for you as you work to build (or even rebuild) your financial well-being. It takes work, discipline and in some cases sacrifice. I commend you for taking on the challenge of being debt-free and wish you the best on your journey to having your dream life.

What strategies are you implementing to drive down debt?