Jumping in the pool of business and entrepreneurship has only one end—the deep end. If that’s the direction you want to go, you dive in headfirst, and there’s no shallow end. When you jump into this world, it’s all or nothing. You may swim over to the edge and catch your breath momentarily, but other than that, you’re in it up to your eyebrows.
That being the case, you don’t want to weigh yourself down as you jump in. In this world, extra weight such as personal debt will pull you down, maybe even drown you. So why start with a disadvantage? Make things easier on yourself.
Part of the Background
In today’s plastic society debt is so common that it’s wallpaper, part of the background. It’s something we don’t notice, but it’s something that can kill us just as sure as carbon dioxide can. Something in the background that we don’t notice, but with deadly results.
We use credit cards, so we don’t really see the money and it sneaks up on us, and next thing you know, you’re under water.
Being Debt Free is Vital for the Entrepreneur
Starting a new business usually means incurring debt. (There are clever people out there who use creative ideas and financing (legal) and are able to avoid debt when starting their businesses.) But when you start it up, you need to be as debt free as possible.
Being debt free protects you as you start your business. You’re going to be putting almost everything back into the business, so you need to reduce your living expenses, and that means getting rid of those credit card payments for one thing, the car payment too.
Think about it this way: If things get tight, do you need to worry about losing your transportation? It can shut down your business in a hurry.
Having that debt gone also gives you a feeling of strength when you have to talk to bankers and investors. You’ve paid off your debt, and so you know you can handle most anything. You’re speaking to them from a strong position. A clean balance sheet also shows them you can handle money.
As an entrepreneur, you need to be debt free.
Some Simple Steps
The process is actually simple, and that’s what makes it hard. It’s so simple we keep putting it off. So simple people keep looking for better ways. Getting debt free is just as simple. Stop borrowing (i.e. stop using credit), stop living beyond your means, and start saving (I’ve already talked about that). The first step—stop using credit cards, cut the suckers up. Simple, but I know it’s painful. But growth involves pain. But this definitely isn’t a sacrifice. That one step alone will help you save money.
If you have to use plastic, make it a debit card only. Even better pay cash. As you actually see the money in your wallet, purse, billfold, you’re more aware of how much your spending and what you’re spending it on. Dave Ramsey recommends paying all your bills in cash, using separate envelopes to you can see what you’re spending.
Two of the best known financial counselors in the country today Dave Ramsey and Clark Howard say that when you begin to get out of debt, the first thing to do is put $1,000 in an emergency fund. Why? Once that card gets cut up you can’t use for emergencies anymore. And an emergency isn’t an incredible buy at your favorite store, or a new car. An emergency is a hospital visit, an unforeseen auto repair. You know, important things.
It’s easier than you think. Stop eating out so often. That will save you a fortune right there. If you have it as a goal, you’ll be surprised how quickly it can happen.
Believe it or not you can actually pay cash for your car too. It’s easy, when you pay off your car, you keep making the payments. You just pay them into a savings account exclusively for the car. Then when it’s time to buy a car, you’ve got the money already and you can pay cash.
The Debt Snowball
Dave Ramsey has a program called the Debt Snowball designed to give you quick victories, but meaningful ones to get out of debt fast. Again, it’s simple.
Make a list of all your debts from the smallest to the largest, don’t worry about interest rates. Start with your smallest debt and throw everything you can at it. Say you’re paying $50 toward one credit card, if you can put another $10 or $20 per month toward it, do it. (An associate of mine did that for his car payment—he said it was easier than trying to put the money orders into exact change—and his car was paid off about four months earlier.) As you do this, obviously keep up the regular payments on your other debts. Once that card is paid off, you add that monthly payment you were making on to the monthly payment on your next smallest debt. When that is done you add those to monthly payments onto your next debt, etc. By the time you’re at your biggest debt, you’re tossing a boatload of money at it.
The one thing all the counselors agree on, you may have fallen into debt, but you’re not going to fall out of it. The only way you’ll get out of debt is by making a budget including deadlines and sticking to it and making sacrifices.
You can do it and have your freedom and that will give you strength as you pursue your new business ventures.