My wallet is a wasteland of expired insurance cards, grocery store key tags and a Subway rewards card that has so many points on it I think I might be able to buy my own franchise. It rarely, I feel obligated to mention, has much money in it.
You probably have a lot of miscellaneous items taking up real estate in your wallet and most of them don’t do you much good. So how about putting something really valuable in your wallet? Something so valuable you might even consider it invaluable.
Oh. And also, it’s free.
What am I going on about? A little something I like to call the Get Out of Debt card!
In the game Monopoly, it’s distressingly easy to end up in jail. You don’t even need to do anything illegal, like embezzle funds or bribe your way to victory in the local beauty pageant. You just need an unlucky roll of the dice. If you’re lucky though, you might have a Get Out of Jail Free card on hand. This simple little piece of orange card stock is better than any lawyer and has you instantly out of the clink and back on the road to riches (or, in my case, complete and utter fake financial ruin).
The Get Out of Debt card does not get you instantly out of debt. (Sorry! That would be awesome, though.) Instead, it provides you with three things that are essential to making your financial dreams come to life: purpose, motivation and structure.
The easiest way to see how is to make your own. Here’s how:
Cut out a card. Arts and crafts time! The actual construction of the card – the color, the size, the paper you use, etc. – that’s all up to you. The only important point is that it’s going to live in your wallet, so it needs to be the right size and sturdy enough to survive rubbing shoulders with your “Get 19 haircuts and the 20th is free” punch card.
Decide on a goal. Big or small, it’s up to you. It just needs to be something that you truly, deeply want. Buy a new car. Pay off all my credit cards. Take a vacation in New Zealand. Whatever goal you choose, that goes on the front of your card.
Pick your debt demandments. It wasn’t until I was a boring adult that I learned that “demandment” apparently isn’t a real word. As a kid, I heard Hulk Hogan go on and on about his Three Demandments (the training, the vitamins and the prayers, brother) and just assumed that was a legitimate word (like a commandment, only more intense and said in a loud, growly professional wrestler voice).
Let’s go ahead and steal from the Hulkster and create a list of personal debt demandments. You can have as many demandments as you like, they just need to be able to fit onto the back of your Get Out of Debt card.
What should they be? That’s up to you. They’re your personal money rules, so it’s important to pick ones that counteract your bad financial tendencies. Here are my 7 Debt Demandments:
- Never without a list
- Target once a month
- >$100 = 7 day wait
- Keep receipt until spreadsheet
- Highest APR first
- "Will I want it next month?
Some of them are probably self-explanatory. “1:1:1” means that for every $1 I spend on something non-essential (like music or new clothes) I need to put $1 towards debt (above regular minimums) and $1 towards savings. “Target once a month” means I’m only allowed to go to Target once a month – otherwise, I have tendency to show up there when I’m bored and leave with an armful of cat toys and Paul Rudd movies (It’s a sickness! Leave me alone!).
Your debt demandments will be unique to your personal struggles, so be honest with yourself and don’t be afraid to revise your list from time to time.
Carry your card with you always. Don’t let your Get Out of Debt card fall too deeply into the bottomless depths of your wallet. Keep it near the front. The more visible the better. Ideally you want to see it every time you reach for a credit card or some cash.
And when you're rooting around in there and you see the card, stop a moment and take a look. Think about that goal on the front and ask yourself, “Am I about to bring that dream closer? Or push it further away?” Flip the card over and scan the back – are you about to break one of your demandments?
Used correctly, your Get Out of Debt card should provide you with the direction and accountability you need to stay on the path to your financial goals. It’s not quite as good as instant, no-effort debt eradication I suppose, but it’s pretty darn close.
Want more ideas about how to save money, reduce debt and reward your wallet for all the foolishness it’s been putting up with all these years?
- Take a few minutes and learn the secret to breaking bad money habits!
- When you’re done with that brace yourself, because we’ve got the fool-proof, fail-proof way to stay out of debt forever!
- The 1 Finger Rule is a pretty slick way to keep from spending money you didn’t mean to.
- Seven budgeting secrets that everyone should know are just that. So make sure you know them!