10 things that are guaranteed to keep you in debt

“Debt is a tool”. 

My ex-husband loved to say that as an excuse to take out an unneeded loan or buy something on a credit card. After years of living in this type of lie, I realized that there was no reason for me to believe the falsehood that I had to be in debt to live well. Re-teaching yourself with frugal practices can really be discouraging some days. Here are 10 lies that I believed I had to do to be in debt:

1. Eating out.

The number 1 thing that will keep you from getting out of debt is buying food instead of making it. Sure, it’s handy to swing through the drive thru, but it costs less (and probably much healthier) to just go home and have a PB&J. And if you really want to save, make a Menu Plan, it will tell you what you need to buy at the grocery store so you won’t be throwing out the extra food you don’t eat. I make sure to pack a lunch everyday to take to work instead of eating out, it saves me over $40 per week. Fun Tip: get some lunch containers that make you excited to put lunch together (I use these and I love the colors and individual serving containers).

2. Vacations.

I work with women who believe the lie that they have to take a vacation every year. They jet off with their families to the Caribbean or Disneyland every year, then complain the rest of the year about how much it cost. You don’t have to go on a big trip every year, if you want to take some time off, stay at home. Visit Living Well Spending Less, she has a great list of family friendly stay-cation ideas like camping in the backyard, or going Geocaching.

3. Upgrading your car.

Yes, your car looks like someone ran over it with a snowplow, but if it works and is paid off, you are better off than over 75 Million (yes, you read that right) Americans who owe over $1 BILLION all told on their cars (as of November, 2015). So think before you trade in your car for a new model, is it really worth having a car payment just for the new car smell? You can always buy those new-car smell air fresheners.

4. A spring, or fall wardrobe.

The current message being fed to everyone is that you have to look the part, you have to buy from these brands and wear these sunglasses to be happy and/or popular. I keep a small wardrobe that is completely from Thrift Store shopping and I still get a ton of compliments on the clothes I wear. (The secret is Pinterest, I keep a board strictly for thrift shopping so I have ideas to refer back to).

5. Not budgeting.

Nothing is quicker to get you in trouble than not knowing where your money is going. If I don’t pay close attention I can quickly spend more than I mean to. I suddenly find myself at the end of my money with month still left over. Nothing is more stressful than wondering where in the world your money went to. A Moms Take has a wonderful FREE downloadable budget sheet for people like me who want a budget but don’t know where to start.

6. GOING WITH THE FLOW.

It’s very easy to be content with what you have, to just accept that the credit card payment is a fact of life and to keep overspending. I was paying over $150 for a single phone line, because “that’s just what you do”. I shopped around and found out that I could get a phone line for $45 a month and keep my old phone. Shopping around for car insurance saved me over $500 a year.

7. Shopping to maintain an image.

We all know that there are some stores that are just more popular or higher quality than others. The problem is that these stores might be good for our image, but they are bad for our pocketbook. If you are shopping somewhere that costs more because you don’t want to step foot into “that” cheap store, then you have to wonder if it’s worth it just to maintain your image.

8. Buying instead of renting.

There are a few exceptions to this rule, but for smaller things, books, movies, tools, it is far, far cheaper to rent rather than buy. Rather than buying that new movie, rent it, even better borrow it from the library for free. There are many companies that rent out small equipment, so before you buy that chainsaw you only need for the one project, look into renting one instead.

9. Following the latest trend.

Look around, everyone is buying trendy clothes, phones, even the brand of coffee that people drink is fashionable. Buying into those trends costs money, and it will just escalate. Several of my co-workers go to Starbucks every day, without fail. I just waive them off while I drink my coffee machine coffee, it might not taste like that venti-mocha…whatever, but it’s also saving me $5 a cup.

10. Not taking care of what you have.

I don’t have a lot, but what I have I maintain. I make sure that my lawn mower is in tip-top shape every spring and I take my car in for an oil change every 3k miles. Keeping everything in good condition helps me avoid those sudden and unexpected expenses when something breaks.

*If you want to learn to do your own oil change to save money, Big Family Blessings has a wonderful, easy to follow DIY oil change tutorial (with pictures).

What are some things that you do to keep yourself in debt?