You may not believe this if I told you, but a lot of people have made debt a part of their lifestyle.
Urgent 2K today, “I’m just calling to greet you” tomorrow (younger siblings, I see you 👀).
But this is not ideal.
There’s a whole life out there that does not involve you avoiding phone calls from the people you owe, and having to block them from your WhatsApp status so they don’t see that you bought shawarma.
If that sounds like a dream come true to you, you should keep reading.
How to get out of debt
Here are seven things you should keep in mind if you’re trying to not just get out of debt, but STAY out of it.
Set aside a percentage of your monthly income to repay debts
You might want to be careful here. Don’t be tempted to allocate a huge chunk of your income to paying loans. If you do, you might not have enough for yourself as the month passes and you might resort to borrowing again.
The recommended percentage is 20%, and this leads to the next point.
Live below your means
Typically, your income allocation should follow the 50:30:20 rule where you spend 50% on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings and investments – summing up to 100% right?
However, when you have debts to pay, you no longer get that 100% at your disposal, so you’d need to live within the 80% left (for example) after loan repayment. This would require a lot of discipline, and cutting down some of your usual expenses (mostly wants) – at least till you’re out of debt.
Use the debt snowball method to repay your existing debts
The debt snowball method of debt repayment is a strategy to help you pace your repayment by settling the smallest debts first and crossing them off your list (assuming you have more than one).
Using this method, you create a list of your debts, in descending order – so a 50,000 naira debt would come before a 70,000 naira one. Then, each month, you pay as much money as possible to the first debt and make minimal payments to the others, until the first (smallest) debt is completely paid off.
Then you do the same for the second, and the third, until you’re now fully debt-free.
Leverage unexpected Inflow
If you won a cash giveaway on social media, or your generous rich aunty sent you money during that period, you might want to act as though you didn’t receive it and use it towards paying off your debts.
After you’ve gotten yourself out of debt, you’d feel a relief – like a weight on your shoulders has been lifted. It’s important that you maintain that and stay out of debt for as long as you can. This also helps you build the habit. So that brings us to…
How do you stay out of debt?
It’s one thing to get out of it, but if you don’t take the necessary precautions, you may end up right back in it before you know it. So here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning toward a debt-free life in the long term.
Be strategic about paying off your debts
Remember to do your debt repayment gradually and with a plan. If you decide to irrationally use your entire salary to pay off a loan to “get it over with”, it may come back to haunt you because you won’t have any left to cater to your needs, and you’d end up going to borrow again.
That’s a vicious cycle you don’t want to get yourself into.
Have Emergency funds
This might just be the most important point in this article. Let’s face it: the only reason you took a loan from someone is that you had nothing of your own to fall back on.
That’s what emergency funds are meant for – rainy days. If you’re unsure how much should be in your emergency fund, find out here, and set up your emergency plan in less than 3 minutes.
Get an additional stream of income
Over-dependence on one stream of income can lead you to frustration, especially if it’s not stable. So, it’s a good idea to get another one – preferably a passive one. It gives you options and makes sure you’re not stranded if anything affects the first one.
All I’m saying is…
Debt is not what you want hanging over your head for a long time. Many times the reason people don’t pay off their debts is that it gets overwhelming when they see how much has accumulated over time, so they become complacent.
The earlier you strategise and get to pay them off, the lighter your life would become. The debt snowball method makes it easier for you to prioritize your debts, so you can pay them off slowly and painlessly.
Please let me know in the comments if you’ve ever tried the debt snowball method (even if you didn’t realize there was a name for it), and how you’ve been able to stay out of debt if you’ve hacked it. You may be inspiring someone in the comments.