The Business World Has Important Lessons To Offer Consumers Trying To Get Out Of Debt
Everywhere you turn, whether it’s TV, radio or the internet, consumers are inundated with “get out of debt fast” scams. Unfortunately, most families end up learning the hard way that if it sounds to good to be true it probably is. Companies like Tax Masters, JK Harris and others have gone out of business due to an inability to deliver on the unrealistic promises they make to their customers.
Since those searching for debt relief have been warned about scams, and have already read countless articles on saving money, paying down debt, borrowing from family and friends and shopping for lower interest credit opportunities, I wanted to liven things up a bit with a different type of get out of debt plan.
Start treating your life like a business. While it may sound counterintuitive, there are many important lessons consumers can learn from successful small business owners.
Successful businesses track spending and don’t take on overhead unless it’s necessary
As a small business owner who has been in business for over 4 years now, I can attest to this principle personally. Unnecessary overhead is a killer. Small business owners won’t stay in business long if they recklessly take on overhead and spend on goods and services they don’t need. In many respects, the trick to running a service based business, like a small law firm, is smart decision making when it comes to spending. If you’re looking for ways to get out of debt, you could do a lot worse than starting with a Quick Books account for your personal checking account.
Start tracking where your money goes.
Are you spending too much on entertainment? Credit card bills? Housing? Keeping an eye on where your money is going will give you a better idea of how to cut back on non-essential spending. For example, you may believe that you’re only spending small amounts on dinner and drinks with friends, but maybe it’s a larger percentage of your gross income than you realized. Having access to hard data will up your sophistication level considerably and give you ideas for a plan of action.
Successful businesses are organized
Too often, consumers facing bill problems are overwhelmed by the sheer number of creditors that are calling and writing. They lose track of who and how much they owe. If your plan is to get out of debt, this is not an option. Like a small business that keeps records of all vendors, expenditures, deductions and receipts, you too need a master list of all debts. Even if it is nothing more than an excel spreadsheet that you update every week or so, keep track of every outstanding bill you owe. Make a separate category for bills that are recurring on a monthly basis. Again, this strategy is made much easier by using software like Quick Books, but any system is better than no system. For the chronically disorganized, even a special folder where all bills are kept would be a start. There is no way to get out of debt, unless you have a clear picture of how deep you are in the first place. Get organized.
Successful small business owners think outside the box
Even if only for a moment, break free from the “salary mentality.” Your income does not necessarily need to be finite based on a raise or promotion. Most successful entrepreneurs are creative, they’ve invented ways to make money, either on the side, or as the sole focus of their career. You can do the same, and don’t think you need a multi-million dollar idea to participate. Brainstorm with friends or family, where does your expertise lie? How can you monetize your talents? Even something as simple as selling baked goods to local businesses, creating gift baskets for events, tutoring local students, or making special T-shirts with a catchy slogan can begin to generate income you can use to pay down your debts.
Successful businesses have a long term time horizon
You know all the cliches: Rome wasn’t built in a day, patience is a virtue etc. But consider this, most startup business ventures don’t allow stock options to vest for four years or more! Business owners understand that the first years of a new enterprise are often the most difficult and they are prepared to invest time and money in order to build something sustainable. The goal is to put a plan in place that you can stick with, and that will produce results, for years to come. Forget the scams, forget the get rich quick stuff, get organized, get data and get going, one step at a time.
Successful businesses use bankruptcy as a reset button
At the dinner table, bankruptcy is taboo, but in the board room, it is a sophisticated move that businesses use to start over stronger than before. While bankruptcy is not a process to be entered into lightly, it must be considered as an option for a struggling consumer just as it is for a struggling business. Regardless of level of organization, time horizon, reduction in overhead or side profits from an entrepreneurial business, some consumers are hopelessly saddled with debt and have no other way out than bankruptcy. The point here is that bankruptcy cannot be foreclosed as an option, and must be evaluated, even as you seek to avoid it.
For more information see: Is Bankruptcy The Last Resort Or Best Option?
Getting out of debt isn’t easy and there will never be a shortage of voices telling you the “best” way to succeed. Regardless of which path you decide to take, incorporating some of sophistication of a successful business into your personal finance routine can only help in the long run. Good luck.