In 2015, is it possible to live a debt-free life? What about run a debt-free business? Do either of those sentences describe you?
Ever heard of Dave Ramsey? He’s the guy whose financial principles are helping millions of Americans get out of debt, and do it pretty quickly. He also hosts a podcast/radio talk show every day – which is one of the top in the nation.
Before the recession I don’t really remember hearing people talk so much about living a debt-free life. I just picture the Lending Tree commercial of the dad in front of the big house, with the new car, mowing his lawn on his new riding mower… smiling the whole time, talking about being in debt up to his eyeballs.
Today, I think a lot of Americans, business owners included, are taking a fresh look at debt – and deciding it is possible to find success without it. Don't get me wrong, a loan can be a great, completely acceptable way to start a business, invest in a business, buy new equipment, and so on. Plus, I am not in the least a financial expert, but have worked very hard to make myself more educated on the subject.
A 2012 Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index poll found 76 percent of small business owners have carried debt at one time or another. Of that group, 36 percent said they were at least somewhat, if not very uncomfortable with the debt. The good news here? One year later, one in three businesses had less debt than the year before, and just 20 percent had more debt. The remaining 47 percent had about the same amount of debt.
I kept digging; 2012 wasn’t recent enough for me. Then, I discovered this survey by financial information company Sageworks. Know what they found? In 2014, three out of four businesses less than 10 years old say they have never applied for a loan for their companies. A majority of those people said it was simply because they didn’t want to take on the debt, and found alternate means to get their company off the ground.
In a world where debt is normal, it’s refreshing to see both individuals and businesses giving it a second look and saying debt is not necessary for success. Getting your business out of debt, and yourself out of debt, carry similar principles.
1. Free up extra cash. Make a true budget, accounting for everything. Once you’ve done that, find some wiggle room – cut back where you can cut back. Have extra equipment laying around? Hello Craigslist! Sell, sell, sell! Use that extra "moolah" to throw at your debt. When it comes to personally getting out of debt, Dave Ramsey jokes you should sell so much stuff the kids think they’re next.
2. Take a second look. Budgets usually don’t work out the first time around, but don’t give up. If your budget fails the first time around, use it as a learning experience, address the issues, and move on. An article in Entrepreneur suggests making sure your revenue can cover fixed monthly costs like revenue and utility bills, then figure out how much you need for variable expenses like equipment, materials, etc.
3. List all your debts – and start cracking away at them. This is as simple as it sounds. List out all your debts, on paper. It might be hard to look at, but it will make you accountable and realistic. There are a few ways you can tackle the debt now – either start with the loan with the least amount owed, or the highest interest rate. Different financial experts have different opinions on this. But really the goal is to be paying as much as you can toward the debt you choose to tackle first. In the meantime, make the minimum payments on the rest of your debts. Once the first debt is paid off, roll that payment in with the minimum on the next debt – so every time you reach a new item on your debt list, the amount you have to throw at it has grown. Dave Ramsey calls this the debt snowball.
4. Look at other options to lower payments & balances. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your creditors to see if they’d be willing to “cut you a deal” on a loan. However, if you go that route it may mean you need a lump sum to pay off the remainder of the loan if they’re willing to give you a break. You do not have to be harassed by collectors and creditors. There are a number of debt services out there that can help if your financial situation has deteriorated quickly. Find a good, reliable financial counselor or planner in your area who can help you.
Is your business debt free, or working toward being debt free? Share your story in the comments section below! Your success story might help a fellow restorer in their own journey.