The fool-proof, fail-proof way to stay out of debt

There are so many ways to get into debt. I know that. You know that. We all know that.

But did you know there's only one way to ensure you remain debt free?

That’s right, there’s one single, solitary way to ensure you remain free of debt for the rest of your life.

Your initial reaction to that statement may be similar to what mine was. It was something like “But that’s so unfair!”

But as I thought about this further, I realized that maybe it’s not so unfair after all. If there’s only one way way to be debt free, that takes out the mental anguish that comes along with the process of having to make a big decision. Even a small decision can be mentally exhausting!

In fact, it's reported that the more options you’re offered, the less likely you are to make a decision at all. Inaction is ALWAYS easier than action – so that added layer of the action involved in making a decision would actually make it much more difficult to take action against debt.

While that concept is certainly intriguing, you're probably wondering about this top-secret formula for staying debt free. Well, it’s simple … and it’s not so simple. You see, the single, solitary way to remain debt free is to (drumrolll, please) — live within your means.

It sounds easy, right? Well, let's not kid ourselves. Living within — and especially below – your means can be downright hard. If it were easy, then no one would be in debt!

I liken it to the fool-proof secret for losing weight. You know the one. It usually sounds something like this: “Losing weight is simple; just eat fewer calories than you burn in a day.”

And of course I always want to respond with: “Well golly! Why didn’t I think of that?” with an eye-roll added for good measure, of course.

The thing  is, it's not the statement itself that bothers me. Rather, it’s the way it’s delivered. Or perhaps it’s the way I perceive it. As though the person is saying, “Duh, this is the easiest thing in the world to do.”

But it's NOT easy. And neither is living within your means. It takes willpower, determination and the self-assuredness to know that you can do it because you are better than debt.

And while roadblocks will get in your way, and you may even be de-railed a few time, and that's OK. Just don’t let it deter you. Because YOU are stronger than that. So don't ever sell yourself short!

And if you ever need a little reminder of just how awesome you are – I’m here to give it to you! (Seriously! Just leave a comment below.) Because if you’ve pledged to live within your means, and you refuse to let debt keep you down, then you’ve already taken a giant leap forward – and that deserves to be commended!

And remember, if you need some guidance and tips for ways to create a budget, save more money, improve your credit score, or pay down existing debt, we have tools to help you do all of that and more in our Financial Education section.

(And if there’s information you’d like to see that’s not there, let me know by commenting below!)

Jessica Horton is a former copywriter and community manager at MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.