I read a lot of great personal finance blogs about getting out of debt journeys. I absolutely love a good success story. They make me all warm and fuzzy and simultaneously send a chill down my spine. Every. Single. Time. A lot of the wonderful blogs I read, however are from the perspective of a couple who already have a fully furnished home and two cars and everything they could possibly need in terms of material items.
But what about us drowning in debt without a comfy couch to sit on. (You can read more about my lumpy $3 couch and why I started freelancing here.) Without a desk to work at and instead have to plop down in front of their thrifted coffee table everyday because it’s pretty much the only surface in the house. What about us?
Paying off debt gets a little tricky when you don’t have a fully functioning life yet. Spending the extra $500 in income on debt is really tough when you could be finishing your home instead. I’m pretty sure if I spent $500 on a couch, for example, it would not be lumpy. So, what’s the solution? Is there a balance?
This is something I’ve really been considering lately to strike some sort of balance between paying off debt and spending a bunch on household items. Basically, the work is paying off a debt and the reward is spending a predetermined amount on household items. Let’s say I pay off everything in collections. Well, my reward would be to update and fully organize our bathroom within a $250 budget. That way I don’t feel guilty for spending $250 on something other than debt and my credit score is happy with the financial progress.
Combine the reward system with the other methods on this list, and you’re golden.
Buy It Used
This is something we have been doing a lot of lately. Between Facebook Marketplace, the Let Go app, and Craigslist, we’ve managed to pick up some really great pieces for our home. Since moving to Washington last August, we haven’t had a washer and dryer and it has been a giant pain in the ass. With a new baby coming in about 2 weeks, we really couldn’t stand the thought of going without any longer. If spit up grosses you out as much as it grosses me out, you know what I’m talking about here.
Anyway, we managed to find a washer and dryer set only a couple of years old on Facebook for $350! I’m happy to report that the set works perfectly (though we did accidentally flood our laundry room and kitchen after installing it improperly) and we saved about $700 on appliances.
Another great used purchase we’ve recently made is a rocking chair for the kids’ room. My husband has wanted a glider since our 2 year old was born and I really couldn’t justify spending hundreds of dollars on a chair. Well, I was scrolling through Let Go, and I noticed someone had an old wooden rocking chair available. I offered them $20 for it, sanded it down, primed it, painted it, and now we have a beautiful mint rocking chair in the nursery. The total cost was about $40 compared to hundreds.
Moral of the story? Buying used is a great way to update your home without taking too much away from paying off debt.
One of the fastest ways to update your home without blowing your budget is to throw some fresh paint up on the wall. We just finished painting the kids’ room and our bedroom and absolutely love it. The energy of the house completely changes. We also built our own shelves and I plan on decorating our daughter’s side of the room with fun DIY decor that my 2 year old can help with.
I haven’t really tried to implement this strategy yet but it kind of seems to happen on its own. We tend to switch between phases of spending money on the house and living extremely frugally to pay off debt. I think as long as you aren’t getting into more debt while upgrading your life, it’s all good. Maybe in May you really needed to spend your extra income on your new baby’s clothes and furniture but in June, you put all of it toward debt. Consider creating a debt diary to track your debt month in and month out.
Now obviously this, along with any of these other methods, will prolong the amount of time you’re in debt BUT they will also keep you sane while you pay it off. For more on staying sane while hustling hard, check out this post.