Get in Shape: Consolidate! (3 of 3)

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Part III: Don’t Stop Believing

Hold onto that debt-free feeling…

The longer someone waits to start making healthy choices, the worse the damage to their body is. And it’s true with finances as well: The longer you delay taking action on your debt, the more you’ll hurt your long-term financial future.

In Part I of this series, we laid out making a budget. In Part II, we discussed reducing your expenses and increasing your income. Now we’re going to talk about the hardest part: not giving up.

Pace Yourself

Sticking to a plan to pay down your debt quickly is going to be much harder than actually making the plan. In this way, it’s really no different than going the gym or sticking to a diet. There’s going to be a lot of stuff that you want to buy that you won’t be able to. Little pleasures, like that extra cup of Starbucks, that movie ticket, or that Friday night dinner out at your favorite restaurant are going to be set aside in the name of getting out of debt.

But just like diet “cheat” days, there are ways to enjoy some of those little pleasures on the cheap, too! Lots of movie theaters have a discount night, often on a Monday or a Tuesday. If you just wait a few days to see the hot new Marvel movie, you can save yourself a lot of green. (And it goes without saying that you should skip the concessions; $7.00 for a small soda is not a wise investment.) You can also look for specials at your favorite restaurant, and limit that extra cup of Starbucks to one a week.

Some people are able to live on basically nothing, just like some people are able to basically live at the gym. Odds are, you’re probably not one of these people—and you shouldn’t try to force yourself to be. Know your limits and pace yourself; that way, you’re much more likely to succeed.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Being in debt stinks, there’s no two ways about it. Constantly fretting about whether or not you’re going to be able to afford your bills will take a heavy toll on your nerves. And a lot of the ways that people deal with stress are not healthy: they eat junk food or they smoke or they drink too much. That leaves you feeling worse and it ends up eating into money that could be put to better use.

Getting out of debt is going to open up a world of new possibilities. It will improve your credit score, which will leave you with better lending options in the future. It will relieve the burden of constant worrying, which will make it easier to make healthy lifestyle choices. It will also do wonders for your self-esteem, which can make you productive at work, more agreeable in your personal relationships, and just generally make you happier.

In short: getting out of debt is worth the effort. So when you get a second, write yourself a letter that details exactly what living with burdensome debt is like, and all the ways it’s driving you crazy. Keep this letter by your bedside table—or even carry it with you—and read it once in a while to remind yourself what you’re getting away from.

It’s all too easy to get discouraged and go back to your old habits. (Anybody who’s tried to lose weight and knows this.) More importantly, it’s way too easy to forget just how bad things used to be. Take steps to remind yourself. It’ll help you stay the course.

Leave Room for Savings

Lastly, while getting out of debt is super important, so is building up your savings. Lacking a rainy-day fund is what leads many people to taking out burdensome loans in the first place. Unforeseen expenses arise—like car repairs or a medical bill—and they don’t have the funds to pay for it. And people with poor credit scores in particular end up taking out predatory payday loans, bad credit loans, or title loans in order to afford those costs. This doesn’t just trap them in debt, it can lead to a cycle of debt, which is even worse.

At some point while you’re paying down your debt, you’re probably going to have a surprise expense. Life is funny that way. (Not ha-ha funny, just brutally unfair funny…which is to say, not funny at all.) And that expense could easily knock you off your game. It could undo all this great progress you’ve been making. Not only will it put you further into debt, but it could make you give up on paying down the debt you already have. It’ll cost you money now, and it’ll cost you money later.

So make sure to make room in your budget for saving! Having a savings, even if it’s just a couple hundred dollars in an envelope, is way better than having nothing at all. Our advice is to shoot for an even $1,000 and go from there. This is one way where getting your finances in shape can actually be easier than getting your body in shape. Trust us, if people could build up a $1,000 calorie savings for when that McDonald’s craving hits, they would do it in a heartbeat. You won’t regret it.

Consolidate!

Now this is where things get really interesting: You’ve taught yourself some safe financial practices and changed the way you spend (and save). Good for you! So how can you really take yourself from in-shape to a financial Olympian? Or how about just debt-free?

The answer may be to take out a “Debt Consolidation Loan.”

Think of it like “Cross Fit” for your finances, helping you shed those excess debts and tighten your credit score. Plus, debt consolidation doesn’t mean buying a DVD where a large sweaty man yells at you for an hour.

With debt consolidation, you take out one large loan—preferably at a much lower interest rate—to pay off all your smaller loans, credit cards and other debts. Not only does this lower the number of payments you have to keep track of, but scoring a lower interest rate could save you even more money over time. Consolidating your debt can be a big step towards getting your debt in shape. By taking out one big loan to pay off all your smaller loans, cards, and other debts, you can reduce not only how many payments you make each month but how much you’re actually paying. Plus, getting a loan with a lower annual percentage rate (APR) can potentially save you thousands.

But just like exercising more isn’t the only part of getting in shape, debt consolidation isn’t the only step you should take in order to achieve financial stability. Once you’ve consolidated your debt into one place, what you should be doing is trying to pay down that debt as fast as possible. The longer someone waits to start making healthy choices, the worse the damage to their body is. And it’s true with finances as well: The longer you wait to take further action on your debt, the more damage you’ll do to your long-term financial future.

To get started on a lower-interest debt consolidation loan today, click “Apply Online” below. It’s easy. You won’t even break a sweat!