5 Ways to Get Out of Debt Without Giving Up Everything You Love

A young couple looked stressed while reviewing their bills.

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Why should suffering be accompanied by debt?

Key points

  • Don’t listen to anyone who tells you to cut absolutely all of your discretionary spending to get out of debt.
  • It is good to make a concrete plan to spend a small amount of money happily.
  • Sleeping on potential purchases and saving more expensive items is also a wise move.

If you are at work debt paid, you may have resigned yourself to stop all nonessential spending and your “fun” for a while. Farewell, weekly takeout dinner. Welcome, shop online. See you again, visit the coffee shop every day. Depending on how much you spend on the fun things that make your life happier, drastic cuts like this can make a big difference in how quickly you can pay off those debts and balance your finances. But at what cost?

Life is short, and if you try to deprive yourself of all the fun, it will be harder to stay happy and productive when you manage your finances. I am not alone in saying that money should be enjoyed; for example, financial guru Ramit Sethi suggests creating one conscious spending plan with error-free fun money built right in. The key word here is “plan,” however.

As someone who has spent most of 2022 manage my finances (by bringing more money and paying off debt), I know how difficult it is to face your life honestly and make productive changes. But I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to absolutely cut all of your discretionary spending to keep making real progress getting out of debt. Here are five tips to help you control your non-essential spending and still plan to enjoy it, just a little.

1. Honestly evaluate your spending

If you’re hoping to get a better handle on your finances and try to pay off your debt, you really need to spend some time thinking about how and why you spend money. Maybe you like to wander the aisles at Target, picking out cute household items that are so cheap each – with added value. Maybe you have a weakness for online shopping, and all the sales emails you get aren’t helping. Once you identify your spending triggers, you can make some changes, such as bringing only enough cash to buy what you need at Target, or unsubscribing from those tempting emails.

2. Prioritize the things that really make you happy

Maybe your truest love is books, and maybe not anymore add to your library while you get out of debt is a heartbreaking prospect. You can make books a fun spending priority, and cut back on spending on things that don’t bring you joy.

3. Build a little spending into your budget

Yes, I suggest that once you have an attractive spending priority, you should build your spending around it your budget. I recommend choosing a set amount of money that you can spend without mistakes, say $20-$50 per week, depending on your income and your debt payoff goals.

4. Sleep on all potential purchases

If you find yourself tempted to blow your fun spending budget, take a deep breath and step away. It’s so easy to tell ourselves that if we don’t buy something now, we’ll miss out on it forever. This is usually not true. If you find a sweater you like at your local department store and you’ve spent a week’s worth of fun, come back for a second next week, or check out the store’s website. If warm clothes are available, and you still want it, it will be easier to make a case for buying it if you don’t rush to the decision. A good technique for online shopping is to add items to your shopping cart — then minimize the window. Sleep there, and decide another day if you want to buy something. Chances are, after a few days have passed, you will find the temptation has significantly reduced.

5. Plan and save for big purchases

If you want to buy something for $100, and you have given yourself a $25 per week spending allowance, it’s time to do some math. Why not save $25 for four weeks and then buy? As many kids already know, finally making a big purchase with the money you’ve saved in your piggy bank is one of life’s most satisfying experiences. And hey, if in four weeks you decide you don’t want that stuff? You can take your happy money and spend it on something else.

These five tips have been a great help to me this year, and I was able to enjoy some of the money I made while also reaching my financial goals. Trying to cut all pleasure spending out of your life may help you save money in the short term, but trust me – it’s better for your state of mind and motivation to enjoy small indulgences even as you pay off debt.

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