This is a guest post by Brian. Brian blogs at Debt Discipline where he writes about his family’s personal experience with debt and paying off over $109k in debt, you can follow Brian on twitter @debtdiscipline.
I just finished a four-week stint as a grand jury member.
Believe it or not this civic duty taught me about personal finance.
Luckily my company pays me in full for as long as I serve. Juggling both responsibilities was tough, juror during the day and employee at night really lead to some extended hours, but provided a number of interesting cases.
I’m not allowed to disclose any of the details of the cases, but in general terms these are some of the case types I had to review:
- DMV Fraud
- Credit Card Fraud
- Grand Larceny
- Identify Theft
I’m not about to try to understand why people turn to a life of crime I’ll leave that to the experts. It was pretty clear over the last four weeks that the people involved in the cases were either trying to financial taking advantage of others, or cheating the system to gain an unfair economic advantage.
It reminded me of a story I watch on 20/20 late last year about a family turning to a crime to help pay their bills.
Four years ago with a knot in my stomach and facing my family to tell them we could not afford a family vacation because we had accumulated over $109k worth of debt I never once considered a life of crime.
As I sat listening to each of these cases I couldn’t help but wonder with a little education, and advice if some of these people’s situations would have turned out different.
It wasn’t easy for us, we had to make changes in our bad habits, become discipline in the way we handled our finances. Here are some of the personal changes that we made as a family to help repay our debt.
Plan – Our plan started in the form of a budget. We wrote everything out on paper. All of our income, all of our expenses, and began to track every item. This gave us a clear understand of what changes need to occur to pay off our debt.
Communicate – We as a family, including involving our children began to have regular budget discussions. We want them to understand why we are making these changes and prepare them for their futures. We don’t want them to make the mistakes we have made.
“No” – we learned to say this word often, to family, friends, co-workers, etc. if it wasn’t in our budget we politely said no. If someone pushed back we would explain what we were working on with our finances. This included things like luxury items and eating out.
Wants vs. Needs – Looking at item on the budget and determining if it was a want or a need. I need housing, electric and basic food. I want the latest video game or smart phone upgrade.
With the above steps we have managed to pay off $96K in 46 month and have $13k left to go. We expect to be debt free later this year. I’m optimistic that anyone with a little discipline and hard work can change their situation. I wish I could have said the same for those I came across in grand jury duty.
What’s your best tip for paying off debt? Have you ever server on jury duty?