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Plan your way to a debt-proof financial life

March 30, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
For many people, having credit card debt is like falling into a black hole. They feel there is no hope of paying off their cards and living debt-free. But with the right plan, you can debt-proof your financial life.

A few years ago Mary Hunt let her credit cards drown her in debt.

"It nearly ruined my life. I almost lost my husband, I almost lost my kids, my home, everything -- and it was the wakeup call of my life when there was no more credit," said Hunt.

Today, she is debt-free and even has her home paid off. How did she do it? Hunt came up with several plans she says can get just about anyone on the road to a life without debt.

She wrote a book about it and started the website www.debtproofliving.com.

"Debt-proof living is a way of life where you are able to manage your life, to live below your means. So that no matter what happens in your life, you're not always running to credit as the bailout," Hunt said.

Although credit is what gets most people into financial trouble, it can also be a useful tool to those who know how to use it. But abuse is what ruins a person's life. Hunt said those who have spent too much on credit need a debt-repayment plan that works.

"We're going to put your smallest debt at the top. We're going to make the minimum payments until that one is paid off. As soon as it's paid off, its payment now is going to go to the guy next in line, in addition to the payment you've been sending in," Hunt said.

Next, Hunt said you have to prepare for the unexpected with a "Freedom savings account" plan.

"It's not your regular monthly bills that trip you up. It's all those things that happen irregular[ly]. It might be car trouble, it might be a car repair. It might having to take a trip to a loved one's funeral. It could be summer camp for the kids. It's things that don't happen on a regular basis," Hunt said.

Hunt said another plan to getting rid of debt is a spending plan, which is not quite a budget.

"A spending plan is a little different because it is tailor-made to fit your needs, and I teach people how to change it on a monthly basis," Hunt said.

Hunt also reminds us that more often than not, buying something on sale is not a way of saving money. She says it's really just a good way to spend less money and that you need to put the money you didn't spend into some sort of savings. Otherwise, you'll just spend the money on something else.