How One Small Change Helped Me Pay Off 3 Credit Cards

brownbag lunchIt was noon and time for me to go to lunch. I got up out of my chair and noticed my co-workers putting their coats on.

One of them looked at me as she walked by and said, “We are going to Chipotle, did you want to join us?”.

I then uttered words I never thought would come out of my mouth…“I packed!”

Why were those words so painful to say?  What helped me realize that this change was necessary?  How did this change help me pay off 3 credit cards?

 A $19,000 Cloud of Debt

Over the years, my wife and I had battled with credit card debt.  Sometimes we would win while other times the debt would seem to be conquering us.  It got to the point where having $19,000 of debt seemed normal.

While eating dinner one evening, we were discussing where we wanted to be in the next 5 years.  Both of us realized we did not want to continue down this path of ever growing debt.  We needed to make some changes.

Questions arose.  What changes did we need to make?  Where would we begin?

A Very Bad Habit

In order to see what changes we needed to make, we first needed to get an accurate picture of our financials.  Each month, I had been successfully keeping track of a basic budget, using an Excel spreadsheet.

This worked for paying our monthly expenses.  Yet, we didn’t really have an idea of where the rest of our funds were going.

I had heard about an online resource called Mint.com some time ago.  I embarked on using such a resource to see where our money was going each month.

Once the first month’s data was put in, I noticed we had a very bad habit!

In one month’s time, my wife and I had spent over $1,000 on food.  Let me repeat that.  My wife and I (two people) had spent over $1,000 on food in one month.

foodspending

Yikes!!!  This couldn’t be right.  It’s just the two of us.  How could that be?  I put in another month’s data.  Same result.  I put in a third month’s data.  Same result.  Over $1,000 was being spent on food.

Using this online resource helped us identify where our money was going.  This exposed us to what change we needed to make.

It was made clear that to get out of debt, we needed to eat out less!

One Meal at a Time

Like any goals, if you try to jump right in and do everything you are supposed to, it can often lead to burnout and failure.  We decided to take a slower approach.

Years ago, when I wanted to lose some weight, I implemented one small habit or change per week.  This can also be called “Habit Stacking.”  It worked for weight loss, so we thought what about our finances?

Notice below the steps we took:

  1. Plan weekly meals – each Sunday we plan all meals for the week
  2. Pack Lunches – we pack our lunch 4 days per week
  3. Eat Dinner at Home – we eat dinner at home 6 days per week

We also tried a few things to keep things fun and keep us going:

  • Deal Hunting – used coupons and Entertainment Book
  • Scheduled Dinner Dates with our Money Buddies

Two Months, Three Credit Cards & One Small Change

By eating out less, we were able to pay off 3 small credit cards, amounting to $2,000, in less than 2 months time!  I cannot fully express our excitement in achieving this small success.  It was one small change that had grand benefits to our overall goal of getting out of debt.

To some, this small achievement may be just that, a small achievement.  Perhaps eating out is not a problem for the majority of people in debt.  Yet, a good question for all of us to consider is:

What small change could we make to free up some funds?

I encourage you to try this exercise:

  • Identify where your money is going
  • Choose 3 things your family could go without or do less of
  • Act on at least 1 of these items for 30 days

I am confident that this small change will yield you great results in your battle to get out of debt! 

“…I Packed”

Do you recall my opening words where I turned down the offer to go out to lunch because I packed?  Do you know what brought a smile to my face as they were walking out of the door?

When I opened my lunch that day, there was a baggie with remnants of 3 credit cards completely cut up!  No meal in the world can replace the feeling of the cloud of debt being taken away!

 

About the Author:

AndreAndre Brown is the author of the blog Boomerang Buck, a blog about getting out of debt one buck at a time!  Andre openly shares his progress on how he is paying down $19,000 of credit card debt.  He enjoys sharing tips and resources he is finding along the way!

Connect with him on his blog, Boomerang Buck or on twitter @boomerangbuck.

  • Jeff Ehrlich

    Andre, Congrats on paying down your $19,000 of credit card debt. Eating out is a huge expense and you can lose some debt pounds by packing it and eating dinners at home.. Great job!! We did a video on Brown Bagging it Dave Letterman style.. http://www.debtfreesquad.com/brown-bagging-it/
    Jeff

    • http://twitter.com/boomerangbuck Andre Brown

      Thank you Jeff! We put a dent in our $19,000 and have a bit to go but it was a great motivator to pay off those 3 cards! Not only did I lose some debt pounds but actually pounds by brown bagging it! Thanks again!

  • Kretek

    I started cleaning out my cabinets. I’d spent thousands on food, yet I would just put it on the shelf after a trip to the grocery and forget about it. So I started eating all that stuff I bought. I’ve spent $50 on groceries in 2 months now. I still have a lot to clean out of the cabinets, too. In 3 months, I think I’ll probably only have spent $80 on food (keep buying perishables such as milk).

    Some days it’s tough and some days I can’t eat at work because I forgot my lunch, but I’m happier knowing I’m not eating with a credit card.

    • http://twitter.com/boomerangbuck Andre Brown

      Wow, that’s is great!!! Before being focused on our debt, we would simply buy whatever we wanted, as it relates to food, with no planning at all. Now, we look at what we have and plan our meals around that. Saves at the grocery for sure!

      It can be tough to pack at times. I still fight that battle. By taking time every Sunday evening, it helps me stick to plan and pay down the debt. Thanks for sharing your experience!