Take control of your money and your life! Renowned financial author and Til Debt Do Us part host Gail Vaz-Oxlade takes a tough-love approach to helping couples in a financial crisis to face reality.
How can you get out of debt and back on the road to recovery? Click to see Gail’s 10 Tips To Get Out of Debt.
Til Debt Do Us Part Saturdays at 10p ET on CNBC
Every family that finds themselves in debt should cut up all their credit cards and live on a cash budget, keeping a log of each and every expenditure made. Use the following formula to set a budget. Keep in mind that the "life" category includes is everything from groceries, to gadgets to entertainment. Housing: 35%, Debt: 15%, Life: 25%, Transportation, 15%, Savings 10%.
Reducing your interest cost is one way to fast track your way out of debt. Some people have interest rates as high as 30%, when they pay their monthly minimum, all they're doing is paying off interest rather than chipping away at the principal. By calling to negotiate with creditors, high interest rates can be brought down. If you call and a representative says they can't help you, ask to be connected to a supervisor until you get to someone with the authority to reduce your rates.
Do anything you can to bring in extra money to throw at your debt, even if you work a full time job. Consider overtime at work, dog walking, baby sitting, tutoring, or using any skill that's unique to you to bring home the bacon…some creative ideas we've seen on the show: web designing, party planning, teaching music lessons and much, much more!
When deciding how to tackle debt and putting a plan in place to save for the future, you have to consider all of your options. Ask yourself the tough questions and prioritize…if going to grad school is important, then maybe you can be a student but take on a part-time job. If having a child is important, do you need to take a full maternity leave? Should you consider buying a home - maybe renting is a smarter option? Make a list of things you want to do and discuss them thoroughly with your partner to help make the best decisions for you and your relationship.
To reduce debt, make a list of every single debt that you have and rank them in order of the highest interest rate, not the highest balance. Pay off the highest interest rate card first. Every time you have extra money, throw it at the debt you've targeted until it's gone and then stop using that card! Reward yourself by making a checklist and crossing out the debt, you'll feel better as you start to see it disappear. When your debt is paid off, take the money you were allocating for debt repayment and put it towards savings.
Getting out of debt isn't easy, but you have to remember that you cannot let debt consume you and hurt your relationship. You and your partner need to work through the debt together, making sacrifices but focusing on what's important as well - your family and your relationship. Get a babysitter and make time to do something special with your spouse so you can remember why you fell in love, set time aside to do group activities as a family to involve the kids as well. Don't let your debt get the best of you.
When working your way out of debt you can still spend on things that are important to you, you just need to plan and save for them. So for example, if you're planning to get married, don't rush out and cancel your wedding - re-think your wedding plans and see if there are cheaper alternative ways to spend on what you want. If you really love to travel, don't cancel your trip for the year, figure out a way to do it on a tighter budget and save a little each month for it so you don't have to put it on credit cards.
Eating out costs way more than buying food and cooking at home, not to mention that the latter option is much healthier as well. Make cooking dinner a family activity, something that can be done to together to make the experience more enjoyable -- and when you're done cooking, sit down and have dinner together, discuss the day's events and catch up. Having dinner parties at home is also a way to cut down on entertainment with friends. If you're planning a romantic dinner consider taking the kids to their grandparents' and having dinner at home rather than in a restaurant. If you're going to get together with friends, consider the same thing. Remember, it's not about the food, it's about the company.
When it comes to working your way out of debt it's all about organization -- believe it or not getting your documents in order will help you pay down your debt because it puts you in control. Organize your paperwork so you know where every important document is and so that all documents are easily accessible. Use a collapsible file folder, label the tabs clearly and most importantly, do this with your spouse so you both understand the system.
Sometimes to get out of debt you'll have to sell something that's really important to you or that you love. The reality is dealing with the heartbreak of losing material things will be far less than dealing with the damage that these things can do to your finances. If you have to sell a car, house, piece of jewelry, artwork or anything else, take a deep breath and realize that what you're doing will help your future and your finances -- and just let it go.
In Til Debt Do Us Part, renowned financial author and columnist, Gail Vaz-Oxlade takes a tough-love approach to getting couples in financial crisis to face reality. With the sensitivity of a therapist and the toughness of a CFO, Gail asks hard questions and pushes couples to face each other and reality. Watch two episodes Saturdays at 10p ET on CNBC.