Saturday, August 21, 2010

Getting the ball rolling

I'm no financial expert, but I successfully got myself out of debt — with help, of course. Not help in the form of money, but in the form of support and wisdom.

I have to thank my mom, who sat me down and set me straight. I have to thank Dave Ramsey, whose books and simple get-outta-debt plan guided me through the process. And how could I forget my dad? His college graduation gift to me was a check for a nice chunk of money, along with two of Dave Ramsey's books, Financial Peace and The Total Money Makeover. The accompanying "Con-GRAD-ulations!" card said, "Please read the books before you decide what to do with the money!"

I cashed the check. I did not read the books until seven months later. Pretty dumb for a recent college grad with a shiny, new degree, huh?

Without all this support, I don't know if I would have had the knowledge, motivation or strength to get rid of my debt so quickly. I needed people. I needed advice.

The information I've learned over the course of this experience is simple. There is no secret method of getting out of debt. While reading The Total Money Makeover, I thought, "You mean getting out of debt and taking control of your finances is really this simple? This is all you have to do? Why didn't anyone tell me this before?!?"

(I'll say here, as I have before, that simple does not mean easy. For example, turning down a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie is a simple act, but — at least for me — it is not easy!)

No matter how simple it is,  nobody taught me how to manage my finances before I actually started earning money. Once I had my own money, I got into a bad habit of spending frivolously without budgeting or saving.

Luckily, learning how to manage your money is a better-late-than-never kind of thing. If you're in financial trouble, the only thing preventing you from getting out of it is you.

Think about it: Every month, you decide where your money goes. If you keep track of it, you can make it go where you want it to go rather than later wonder where it went.

If you're in debt and you want to get out, your priority will be throwing as much money as possible at your debt. All you have to do is decide.

For anyone that may need them, I'll be posting some tips for getting out of debt in the coming weeks. I thought they needed a catchy name, so at first I thought of "Getting Outta Debt Tips" — or G.O.D. Tips. Since I usually try to avoid a smiting from above, I went with "Getting Out Of Debt Tips" — G.O.O.D. Tips.

Whether these G.O.O.D. Tips are actually GOOD or not is up to you. If they help you or someone you know, great! If you couldn't care less about personal finance, don't read 'em.

Again, I'm not a financial expert by any means, and the only proof I have that these tips work is the fact that they worked for me. But I know from experience that when you're sitting in a hole of debt — whether you're $500 deep with a retail credit card or $50,000 deep with a student loan — anything helps, and once you decide to turn things around, the only place you have to go is up.

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