How to Stay Debt-Free
Stick to Your Budget
Once you've gotten out of debt, it may be tempting to start splurging. However, that could start you back on the road to more debt. According to Clare Levison, CPA and author of "Frugal Isn't Cheap: Spend Less, Save More, and Live Better," "To stay debt-free, you need to embrace the mentality that frugal isn't cheap -- it's smart. Being frugal means taking pride in using your money wisely. It doesn't mean you have to be cheap and pinch every penny and give up all the things in life you enjoy, but it does mean prioritizing. Focus on accumulating wealth, not spending, and you'll be well on your way to staying debt-free."
Set Savings Goals
Accumulating savings is a priority. You'll need an emergency account to fund up to eight months' worth of living expenses in case of setbacks such as job loss or illness. Also, set up accounts for special purchases such as a new car or an event such as a vacation. Staying debt-free is one goal -- and one way to reach that goal is to start building wealth. Brett Gottlieb, investment advisor with Legacy Investments, recommends "selecting a recent debt you just finished paying off, say a credit card that you had been paying $300 a month on, and now direct that same amount of money into a savings account. Since you were used to paying that last debt amount, it should be in your current budget to continue, just redirected to a new location."
Use Prepaid Debit Cards
Many people use debit cards with Visa or MasterCard logo instead of a credit card to regulate their spending, but not all debit cards offer this service. If your debit card doesn't, obtain a prepaid debit card that does. Vendors recognize them as credit cards. Because it's equivalent to paying in cash, you can't go into debt with these types of cards. When the money you've prepaid runs out, you have to reload it or stop using the card.
Establish Multiple Income Streams
Losing your job could put an end to your debt-free status rather quickly. Establish several streams of income to supplement your primary source that can be expanded to replace your lost wages. If you're a teacher for example, you could tutor students. A nurse might have several senior citizens she checks on in the evenings and weekends or whenever she's off shift for a monthly fee. Someone with a full-time job in sales could use that sales ability to start an Internet marketing company. Look to your skills outside your job. If you like to write, start a freelance writing business. Your photography hobby could turn into a business if you photograph pets, babies, weddings or other celebrations.
Revise Your Definition of Success
Many people get into debt because they want to purchase the best of everything -- the biggest house, an expensive car -- and at the end of the day, they find they aren't enjoying the purchases because of the uncomfortable debt load they are carrying. Consider purchasing less house than you can afford. This will allow you to accumulate more savings, which gives you the security you need to deal with unforeseen expenses or events such as temporary job loss. Success is not necessarily defined by the things you own, but rather the peace of mind you enjoy from having liquidity.