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Debt management

When my wife and I were first becoming established as adults we had racked a decent amount of student loan debt. As time when on neither of us had well paying jobs and we found ourselves relying on credit cards and credit lines from our credit union to make ends meet. Of course we often found that we couldn't make all these payments as scheduled and took many dings on our credit reports because of 30/60/90 day late pays. In 2010 my wife and I decided we were had progressed in our careers far enough we could afford a house payment. 

 

We visited with a mortgage company and were denied because of bad credit, both of us being in the 500s, mostly because of high usage on credit cards and late pays. Armed with this information we made a concerted effort to pay all of our credit payments on time and to not use our credit cards. In a year we had successfully payed our balances down enough to get us into approval range. 

 

Around the time we bought our first house we still had quite a lot of credit card, student loan, and auto loan debt and struggled to keep track of where our money was going. I stumbled across Mint, signed up, and added all my accounts. Armed with this holistic view of our finances we were able to make smarter decisions about what we buy and even started budgeting to a certain extent. I will admit that we still don't budget as well but I've been trying to utilize what's available in Mint for budgeting with some success. 

 

Because of the better overall view of our finances we were finally able to start saving some money and over the next several years had a pretty decent nest egg in a saving account earning little to no interest. In 2016 I read a blog posting by Dave Ramsey about his "7 Baby Steps" to reducing debt. Again, I'll admit I don't follow them to the T, but we used the bulk of our saving to pay off our remaining student loans. This freed up several hundred dollars a month in income that had previously been loan payments. Using the "debt snowball" we made much larger payments against our existing credit debt. Because we continue to buy cars ever couple of years and it seems like something expensive is happening to a house, car, or medically, we are still debt snowballing, however even with this debt we are continuing to make headway against our debt and every year we have less and less. Additionally, because of this, we are in a much better place to make our payments and both of us now have 800+ credit scores. 

 

In summary, watch what you are spending and reduce unneeded expenses. Track your incoming and outgoing income with something like Mint. Budgeting was hard for me because I like buying expensive electronics but I realized that we were overspending on thing we didn't need. When you can, using Dave Ramsey's baby steps are a great guideline for paying down existing debt. Finally, don't expect changes overnight, we've been working on it for 8 years at this point. I'm an impatient person so this was one of the hardest parts. Things started off really slow but the changes are incremental and good habits will eventually pay off.