11 Habits of Debt-Free Families



“We’re debt freeeeeeee!” Anyone who listens to a Dave Ramsey broadcast knows the sound individuals, couples and families shout on the radio after paying off their last debt. Freedom from debt. What an amazing thought. But how did they get there and what can we learn from their journey? More than that, what do they do that we can do that will allow us that same jump-up-and-down feeling? Want to experience the elation for yourself? These habits will lead you there:

1. They Communicate

We hear it all the time. Communication is key in a relationship. This is so true, especially when it comes to money. A family who has learned to live without debt – or is in the process of doing so – is a family that shares hopes and dreams and worries and fears. By communicating with one another, a lot of misunderstandings can be eliminated. Understanding that we are different with unique personalities and perspectives can be truly revolutionary. Ask any nerd who has come to appreciate their free-spirit spouse. Not sure what that means? Check out Dave Ramsey’s book.

2. They Set Goals

You don’t become debt-free by accident. You reach financial independence by setting goals and working to reach them. Do you want to go on a vacation to Italy? Have the whole family discuss ways to make that happen. Want to retire early at 55? Then establish goals to get out of debt, save, and invest to make it a reality. Debt-free families accomplish great things when they set goals and follow through.

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3. Maintain a Solid Budget and Record Expenses

No matter which way you cut it, you need a budget or spending plan to become debt-free. Your budget sets forth (on paper or in a spreadsheet) where your money is going, namely how you plan to use it for bills, allocate for food, clothing, gas, and housing, what you will save, and if you will invest. With a budget, you tell your money where it is going so you are not left wondering where it went.

A budget will declutter your financial life. Many make it more difficult than it needs to be. Identify all of your income, list out all of your expenses, and make sure you spend less than you bring in. This becomes a pathway to taking control of your finances so you can reach that debt-free status.

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4. They Research and Comparison Shop

When you’re out and about, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and make an impulse buy. Before you fork over your hard-earned cash, remember not all purchases are created equal. Ask yourself if you really need it and if you have the money in the budget. If so, do some research before you buy to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible and keeping more of your money.

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5. They Wait to Buy and Exercise Self-Control 

Who hasn’t been in a store and seen something that you just gotta have? In times like this, debt-free families have learned to tell their inner toddler “No.” While not easy, delaying gratification helps strengthen your self-control and keeps you from destroying a well-planned budget. Before buying a new phone, TV, computer, appliance, or car spend some time contemplating if you really need it, your bank account will thank you.

6. They Created an Emergency Fund

Emergencies happen; it’s just a fact of life. The U.S. government estimates that a majority of families will experience at least one financial emergency in a given year [source]. When was the last time you faced a financial hardship, whether being laid off, unemployed, a major car repair, or a serious health issue? More importantly, did you have the resources to get through it? When you make it a goal to reserve some of your cash in a fund for life’s unexpected events, you will prevent emergencies from becoming catastrophic.

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7. They Have Patience and They Think Long Term

Unfortunately, going into debt takes no time at all. A swipe of a card or a signature on a form and BAM!, you’re in debt. A debt-free family knows that it takes time and perseverance to get out of that bondage. As there are no “get rich quick” schemes that really work, there are also no “get rid of debt quick” programs.

Becoming debt-free requires a step-by-step, month-by-month process. If debt-free is your goal, then be a tortoise and not a hare: Steadily pay down debt and spend less than you earn. Eventually, your debt will be erased.

8. They Make Smart Choices with Their Money

If you decide to spend your money hitting your favorite restaurants, then you cannot use that money for anything else. A debt-free family knows there is only so much money to go around each month. If you want to enjoy a debt-free life, then you will need to make smart choices with your money. A night on the town is nice, but so is buying a car with cash. It’s just a matter of prioritizing, which is a habit you can learn.

9. They Value a Home-Cooked Meal

Would you rather spend $50 on a delicious meal for two at your favorite restaurant or $7 on the same thing but at home? A debt-free family has learned that eating at home is much more economical. My husband and I just had a steak dinner that would have cost at least $50 at a restaurant with drinks and tips. Because we bought sirloin on sale, our steak dinner at home cost about $7 at home.

$5 Meal Plan Makes Dinner Decisions Easy and Inexpensive

Cooking at home is great, but many say planning dinner every night is the worst! If this sounds like you, there is a simple solution: The $5 Meal Plan. You won’t have to worry about what to cook, what ingredients to buy, or how to cook the meals. The $5 Meal Plan is a weekly service that sends you the recipes, a detailed shopping list, and recipes. They do the thinking for you, so all you have to do is follow the plan. Each meal will cost around $2 or less. Get started with a $5 Meal Plan so you can eat better for less.

10. They Have Multiple Income Streams

Do you worry about having enough money for bills and groceries? Are you concerned about your employer letting you go because of the economy? Create multiple streams of income to ensure you never go broke. You can deliver food with Instacart, deliver people as a Lyft driver, you can write a book and sell digital copies in Amazon’s Kindle Store, you can record music and sell it on Bandcamp, you can sell crafts on Etsy, and sell items you no longer need on eBay. 

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11. Don’t Carry a Balance on Your Credit Cards

Many people love to take advantage of rewards credit cards by using them to make purchases and paying them off each month. But, if you don’t pay off the balance when the bill comes, then you will be stuck paying interest charges. Instead of depositing those cash-back rewards into your bank, you will be paying more than what you owe because of the finance charges from the credit card company. If you want to fully enjoy the benefits of rewards cards, pay off the balances monthly.

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