Paying down debt isn’t easy.
In fact, Business Insider reports the average American has $59,580 in debt, which includes mortgages, auto loans, student loans, and credit card debt. And most of us know all too well that paying it off isn’t the easiest task.
However, this is where financial educator and Much Founder Carmen Perez comes in. According to her company’s website, she was swimming in a pool of $57,000 in debt, but today she is debt-free. Plus, she accomplished the feat in less than three years.
Here are some of her tips.
“Debt and taking out loans, should be viewed as like a tool,” Perez explained. “I think if you put that into perspective and say like, ‘What will this tool do for me? Is it going to cause me to be able to build something great or could this potentially be a hammer and fall on my foot and hurt me?’ You just have to manage the tool correctly.”
Next, be mindful of your relationship with money. Are you mindlessly splurging when under stress? Do you over indulge on new products when a new trend is circulating? Try to trace your financial patterns to assess whether you have a secure standing with your finances. Per Wespath Benefits & Investments, your financial relationships are secure when you have a satisfying relationship with money in terms of acquisition, spending, and management.
“Look at your relationship with money. In retrospect, I wish I would’ve done that sooner when it came to my money and paying down debt as opposed to just trying to figure [it] out and being reactive because I got sued for my student loan,” Perez stated. “I wish I would’ve really taken the time to really understand patterns around money and relationships with money.”
She continued, “When you see a pattern that doesn’t serve you starting to come up, you can identify it very quickly and try to figure out your triggers around that and how you can disrupt it a little bit easier if you’ve taken the time to really understand your relationship with money and figure out if it’s healthy or not.”
It is extremely helpful for you to be intentional in your debt reduction efforts if you have the means to do so. Budgeting should also be considered. For Perez, this was applied by eating out less and meal prepping from the comfort of her kitchen, cutting cable, and being very mindful of keeping the rent costs as low as possible.
Per Fidelity Investments, you should strive to spend no more than 50% of your earnings on necessary expenses, 15% should be allocated for retirement savings, and 5% for short term savings.
“If you have the privilege to be able to budget, that is one of the easiest ways to figure out where you’re being wasteful and where you can get extra money from,” Perez mentioned.
Practical tips to consider is the cash envelope system. Perez told Good Morning America she would categorize envelopes and write the budget on the outskirts. She would then only pull the exact amount needed for the bank.
“For example, if my budget for food was $400, I would go down to the bank every two weeks, pull out $200 and use that for the next two weeks until I got paid again. And that was literally the only money that I used, in these cash envelopes. That really helped me tackle my debt in a meaningful way because I wasn’t overspending,” Perez told Good Morning America.
Unfortunately, no matter how much saving or budgeting an individual does, the reality may be that more income will need to be generated. Some may look to secure an additional job or side hustle.
“If you find yourself drowning in credit card debt and you feel like you don’t make enough and you’re organized on your money and you budgeted and you don’t have anything, you’re authentically living paycheck to paycheck, that’s when it’s like important to increase your income before trying to drain the ocean. You should hammer down on increasing your income and then you can tackle that in a sustainable, meaningful way that’s not going to make you feel like you’re on a hamster wheel,” Perez said.
Looking to be a part of the solution, Perez launched Much, a budgeting platform, after becoming debt-free.
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“We give you an easy to follow plan where you can save up to 10% of your take home pay in a very realistic way,” Perez expressed. “We don’t allow users to go over 10% cuz it’s not realistic.”
She added, “And the reason why I put it together, it’s from lived experience, right? I know where people will fall off. I’ve coached individuals toward financial success. I’ve obviously done it myself. So this platform has been built by someone for the folks that actually really need this and it’s in a way that is empathetic toward a lot of situations.”