We’re all big fans of eliminating debt. It frees up your finances to do the things you’ve always dreamed of. One reason people don’t prioritize debt pay off is that they are afraid to change their lifestyle. You might think that you have to drastically change the way you live in order to make debt-free living a reality.
Oh, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you want to eliminate debt without changing your lifestyle, it may be easier than you think. It’s true that the more you can cut from your spending habits, the faster you can pay off debt. But what if you still want the Target runs? What if you don’t want to give up the annual summer trip to see the Cubs at Wrigley Field with the boys?
There are ways to still have a fulfilling and fun lifestyle and crack the whip at your debt. Here are six ways to keep your lifestyle in check and ditch debt simultaneously.
Scale back just a bit
You don’t have to stop buying clothes in order to pay off debt. You do have to prioritize what’s important. Ask yourself how quickly you want to pay off debt. Does it matter if you don’t get a new dress for your friend’s wedding?
I once was talking to a friend about her clothing budget. She added up how much she spent on clothes in one month. The cost came to a grand total of $500 spent. She was mortified. Her goal was to pay off her school loans and the $500 made her feel guilty. When I asked her what she spent it on, she couldn’t remember. A few things she could, and she was very good at justifying them to me.
Then I remembered her goal. I challenged her to scale back on the clothing budget, but only by a little bit. Could she create a $400 budget for clothes? Could she take that $100 and add it towards her debt payment? It’s little changes like this that can help you eliminate debt without eliminating your lifestyle.
Scorched earth isn’t always the best approach
You’ve heard of the scorched earth approach to paying off debt, right? Scorched earth typically means that you cut out all unnecessary spending. The savings can then be thrown towards your debt. Then you’re stuck with no leftover money for fun, clothes, heck, even the occasional happy hour beer is out of the question.
Scorched earth isn’t always the best approach to eliminate debt without changing your lifestyle. When you go from endless Chipotle runs and Amazon Prime orders to absolutely zero spending, the deprivation can be detrimental.
Budget for the fun stuff
Instead, create a budget that says yes to weekend trips to visit friends or sushi dinners with your significant other. Start by categorizing your income into spending buckets. I love using four primary categories: fixed, fun, fudge, and future.
Reserve expenses like rent or a mortgage payment, utilities, internet and groceries for your fixed category. Your fun category can be reserved for clothes, bars, entertainment, or shopping. The fudge category is for any miscellaneous expenses you may forget about, so keep this amount fairly low. Then you should have a category for future. This includes any big goals you might be saving for, including a down payment, new car purchase, or vacations.
Do you like your Orange Theory membership? How about the monthly outings to the golf range? Folks who commit to paying off debt may get rid of expensive hobbies so they can free up cash. You don’t have to give up your hobbies completely though. Try hobby modifications instead.
A gym membership averages $58 per month, or $696 per year, which can eat up a healthy portion of your budget. Instead of paying a gym membership, try free workouts at home instead. There are plenty of excellent full-length workout videos to peruse on YouTube. My personal favorite is FitnessBlender if you like HIIT and strength training routines. You could also check out Yoga with Adriene. Both free. Both still keep exercise part of your routine.
You could apply the same adjustments to a variety of hobbies. Skip the green fees at the golf course and invite a friend to hit golf balls at the driving range. A bucket of balls is less expensive than a round of golf. Not to mention the best part about golf is whacking the ball anyways.
Get away with less
You want to keep buying, but isn’t buying part of the debt problem? Perhaps it’s not so much about the accumulation of stuff than it is about the accumulation of contentment. Could you get away with less and still have fun?
You may find pleasure in going out with your friends, but if you’re anything like me and my friends, we could be anywhere so long as we’re together. Instead of going out for dinner, opt for a potluck at home. Friendsgiving doesn’t have to be reserved for November. Ask everyone to bring a dish and have a great night in.
One of my favorite activities to do with friends is to have a game night. There’s no need to spend $10 on cocktails or overpriced beers when we can stock up our beer fridge at home and bust out Balderdash. I guarantee you won’t miss the bar tab and you’ll have a shockingly good time.
The major benefit of getting away with the less is that you still have all of the fun and have plenty of room to make headway on your debt. What’s that you said? You saved money, had fun, and paid down more debt? You go, Glen Cocoa.
Make a point to cashflow it
Above all else, if you are still going to be an active participant in your lifestyle you need to cashflow it. No more thoughts of, “How much is the payment?” It is time to simply think, “How much?”
Research from CareerBuilder found that 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, including one in 10 who make $100,000 or more in salary. When you support your lifestyle on credit, it’s like supporting it on plastic straws. They’re bendy, flimsy, and eventually ready to cave in. And let’s be honest. We’re millennials who prefer durable and reusable metal straws.
So, what are these metaphorical metal straws? Cash, of course! If you have plans to go to Coachella this summer, it’s time to start saving for it now. Set aside $50 bucks per month. Build savings into your monthly habit. This can help you eliminate stress when you set aside money for your lifestyle each month.
“Yeah, but I always forget to put the money aside,” you think. Banks offer automatic transfer capabilities for a reason. If you are ready to pay yourself first, add recurring automated savings contributions. There are several apps that can help you set aside cash or you can set it up within your bank’s online dashboard.
Satisfy the craving
Recently, I became obsessed with updating my apartment furnishings. I have a hodge-podge of hand-me-down furniture, along with a few Craigslist finds. I was ready for some trendy, cohesive mid-century modern pieces. And my, do those things come at a price!
Instead of leaning on those metaphorical bendy straws—credit—I decided to cashflow it. So, I sat down with my accountability partner, my husband, and I told him about my home deco goals. We looked at our budget and agreed to set aside $100 in a separate savings account each month.
Now, when I see something that matches my dream mid-mod aesthetic, I can draw from my “Apartment Decor” reserves. You could do the same thing for whatever matches your lifestyle. Chick-Fil-A cravings, trips to The Rack, a bougie bar crawl. Whatever you’re into, there’s a savings account with its name on it.
Little tips create big waves
The point of all this is to get you to reach your debt-free goal. The interesting thing is that once you implement these tips, they can quickly become a habit. This means you haven’t given up everything but you have successfully taken steps to eliminate your debt without changing your lifestyle. Imagine freeing up even more cash to do what you want to do or level up your lifestyle.
This week, continue your lifestyle as normal. Then at the end of the week, evaluate what you spent money on and determine what tweaks you could make. The adjustments could add up to savings that can be applied to the debt. In no time, you’ll be able to eliminate debt without changing your lifestyle.
Learn more about Qube Money and how it can help you eliminate debt without changing your lifestyle!