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As a single parent, it’s more important than ever to dig yourself out of debt.
- Not all single parents are in debt (some are in the process of saving and investing – yay!)
- When people make the assumption that because you are a single parent you are therefore poor it is demoralizing.
However. If you are in debt, and are just swimming with your head barely floating above financial waves, I’m here to help.
I want to tell you a little bit about my journey to get out of debt. It took work, dedication, and sacrifices, but it was worth it.
For me, the moment came when my car battery died. It was winter. I was leaving school (I’m a teacher… picked one of the lowest paying careers with student loans trailing behind me… whooooo!) Thankfully, a kind-hearted co-worker jump-started my vehicle. I was able to get it into the shop.
They kept it over night.
And then. They quoted me with a $2,600 fix.
Now, don’t get me started on the fact that I believe a lot of car shops take advantage of women. No, not all, but I’ve experienced it first hand and I believe it happens all the time.
When they quoted me $2,600, I crumbled. I was devastated.
Thoughts that raced through my mind:
- How could one part and service and labor cost me $2,600?
- How could the cost of repairs possibly equal more than my car is worth?
- How did I get to a point in life where, at my age, and after a lifetime of work, this dollar figure could make me crumble?
Here’s how it happened. One. I didn’t have a robust savings for moments like this. Two. I didn’t have number one because I wasn’t out of debt. So ANY excess money I could have been saving was going to pay off interest rates on my credit cards.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Let me help you by passing forward the process I used to reclaim my financial life.
THIS IS HOW YOU GET OUT OF DEBT
My recommendation is to educate yourself on all things financial.
1. The Total Money Makeover (Dave Ramsey – HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Also, you should get his podcasts, too. He’ll yell at people and it’s strangely motivating. He does follow biblical principles, so if that isn’t your jive, I’d recommend other reads. This is truly the single most important wealth of financial advice that I utilized to get out debt. It took me 2 years but it was worth it. Check it out.
2. The Simple Path to Wealth (once you’re ready to learn more about investing, etc.)
3. Rich Dad, Poor Dad
Start here with these books. Learn the lingo. Read people’s stories and find motivation.
Note: Since I don’t really have time to read (re: single parent), I listen to audiobooks. I put them on when I’m making dinner or driving to work, really, whenever I can. I average about 35-42 audiobooks per year.
Know that you can do this. And trust me, once you pay off your debt and begin saving and investing, it’s going to feel SO SO SO good.
ASK YOURSELF WHAT YOU VALUE
Open a few bank statements. When you look at these, ask yourself where you spend the majority of your money.
Is it on your rent? Then perhaps you value a decent living space. Is it on hair cuts and designer clothes? Well, there you have it. You value maintaining your looks and sense of reputation, perhaps. Do you spend most of your money at McDonalds? That’s a reflection of your values. You need something fast and easy that fills the kids and doesn’t make excess dishes at home.
You may be all: I disagree. In fact, that ticks me off. How dare you say this is a reflection of my values?
Ok, ok. Hear me out though. I am not judging you. But, is it possible that where you spend the most money is a direct reflection of what you value? I’m not going to argue that keeping up your appearance or living in a safe space is not worth the money. BUT. It does reflect a value, no?
If you feel like one of your values is distorted or out of balance, it’s time to reconsider where you are budgeting your money. For me, when I took an honest look at my budget, I realized I needed to spend less money at Subway (kid you not, this was definitely a thing).
List your values. Then, figure out what a fair amount to spend on each one of those values is. It should bring your finances into focus.
PAY OFF YOUR CREDIT CARDS
I paid off my credit cards by doing the following:
- Calling every card company and asking for a lower interest rate.
- Asking every single bank (and specific card) what offers were available to me.
In some cases, credit cards may offer a balance transfer from a credit card with a higher interest rate to a credit card with 0% interest for 6 or 12 months, etc. Usually, they’ll allow you to transfer money to card at just a percentage of the balance as a fee.
Example. Credit card A has $200 on it, and it is accruing 20% interest (super high, btw). However, if you transfer the balance from Credit card A to credit card B, you won’t have to pay interest on that $200 for 6 months (or whatever the deal is). You may have to pay, say, a 5% fee to do a balance transfer. So, in this example, you may pay $10 to make that transfer. However, the money you save on the transfer, if paid off before the zero-interest timeframe ends, will save you more than $10.
Did you see my catch there? You must pay this money off before the grace period ends. Credit companies can have really nasty fees if you don’t pay it off in the allotted time. For any transaction you make with a bank, read the fine print carefully. A good banker will explain any questions you have.
I always make sure I fully understand the consequences if I cannot pay off a balance transfer before the grace period ends. It’s a nasty deal (and works hardcore against you if you don’t do it right).
BUT. If you can beat the system here, you could save a lot of money and put the money you save every month toward paying off debt.
If you’re interested, here’s a 0% credit card that you could apply for and do a balance transfer. I have never used this one. I usually did mine through Wells Fargo.
QUIT HAVING FUN
If you want to prioritize debt payoff, every single decision in your life should be focused toward that debt payoff.
I couldn’t go to a close friend’s birthday because the restaurant was too expensive. It broke my heart. But. I knew that if I went, it would wipe out a percentage of what I wanted to put toward debt payoff that month. It was not justifiable. So, I explained it to my friend. It was not an easy conversation. However, good friends won’t judge you for this. They’ll be willing to find ways to spend time together that are within your means.
CUT OUT SUBSCRIPTIONS
You heard me! Netflix. Stitchfix. Or whatever else Fix or Flix you are paying for every month.
Take that extra $8.99 and plop it toward your debt. Hey, if it wasn’t painful, it wouldn’t be debt payoff.
(For the record, I lived without internet in my home for 6 months by choice to save the $45 every month. My friends thought I had lost it. But, hey. I am out of debt now and running a lucrative website from home, so I think I am doing OK! P.S. If you’re curious how I make money on this website, I’ll explain it here).
DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO
Do you know what I didn’t enjoy during my debt payoff? (That’s an understatement. Let me rephrase).
Do you know what I hated during my debt payoff?
Driving around and delivering food to people using Door Dash.
But, I did it because it brought in anywhere from $60-$100 dollars per week. Yes, I was fortunate that on some Saturdays I was able to do this (and no, I do NOT recommend this if you have kids in the backseat. I know some parents who do it, but personally I don’t think it’s safe.) If you know you can hire a sitter for less than you’d make per hour driving in your area and delivering with Door Dash, it might be worth considering.
I liked it because it was on my time (no one told me to be in at 6AM), I didn’t have a boss, I didn’t mind driving, and I found pockets of free time to make some deliveries. Again. I am not arguing that this is some be-all-end-all glorious option. But. It can help pay off debt so that one day you can be the one ordering dinners and helping others pay their bills.
That’s what I want to do. Be the one ordering in.
QUIT MAKING EXCUSES
Did you find yourself reading down this page and feeling anger toward me? “Yeah. BUT. I can’t do what you did because of x, y, z!”
“Well, that’s just not something I’m willing to do.”
I get it. If I read this article at a certain time in my life, I would have been royally ticked. It makes a lot of assumptions. A lot. And it puts a lot of pressure on already stressed and overworked/overtired single parents.
My goal is never to add more guilt to your single parenting journey. Heaven knows the rest of the world does it plenty.
But. If you want some of the stress to go, something has to shift. For me, it was finances. I NEEDED to make financial leeway or I would continue to sink further into debt.
So, I made a decision. I decided that it was not an option to not get out of debt. I tutored. I worked extra hours. I drove for Door Dash. When an opportunity, no matter how small, presented itself at work, I took the extra gig, even if I knew it meant late nights and extra stress.
I no longer wanted to live in debt to others.
“The borrower is slave to the lender” Proverbs 22:7.
I didn’t want to be indebted to others. I bet you hate the feeling, too.
I wanted freedom. You can find it, too.