How to Balance Saving and Paying Off Debt without Pulling Out Your Hair

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Before we start talking about money strategies to help you save more and get out of debt, let’s look at the definition of balance. It would make sense for us to define the goal that we are trying to accomplish right?

What Is Balance? According to Webster, the definition of balance is:


  1. An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. Synonyms: stability, equilibrium, steadiness, footing"

  2. A condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. Synonyms: fairness, justice, impartiality, egalitarianism, equal opportunity;              

Is it possible to live a balanced life? Realistically are we as women able to give equal attention and dedication to every area of our lives? Can we aggressively pay off debt and save without pulling out our hair and ignoring other areas in our lives?

Gary Keller, the author of The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results (a must read if you are trying to live your best life), made a statement that literally rocked my world in the best of ways:

“You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.”

So, what does this all have to do with saving more money and paying off debt aggressively at the same time? The whole unadulterated truth is, that by attempting to give everything your attention Queen, no ONE thing has your complete and undivided attention… which means you are getting sub-par results.

In my opinion balance, like multitasking is a myth. It is a word that is used to keep more people guilt-ridden and stressed out, slaves to schedules and to do lists.

So how do you balance paying off debt and saving at the same time? The answer is you don’t.

There is no balance when it comes to saving money and aggressively paying off debt. The moment you say yes to one thing (aggressively paying off debt), you are essentially saying no to plenty of other things (at least for a little while).

So instead of striving for balance, I recommend seeking a rhythm in your finances.

The Money Rhythm Strategy

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1. Take inventory of the Land

How much debt do you have? With who? How much money do you need to save? For what?

Your destination will always seem far if you are unaware of your starting point. Now I know seeing those numbers can be nerve-racking. Take a deep breath.

The hardest part of starting this journey is taking the first step. No goal begins outside of yourself.

I suggest first figuring out your debt. Why? Because those numbers are real, and they are already recorded under your social security number and calculated on your behalf. You don’t have to guess it. You just need to find it.

Application: For student loan debt, go on the Federal Student Aid site and retrieve your loan information. You will most likely have to retrieve or create your own FSA ID.

2. Trim off Dead Weight

After taking inventory of the land, you will have clearer vision for your journey.

Now that you have an idea of where you are going and what you are aiming for, your next step is to trim off anything that is causing a leak in your finances. Think of subscriptions and the little purchases that add up to be a big portion of your budget (Gym memberships, online subscriptions, vending machines expenses, app/book purchases). This will help the rhythm of your money flow better to reach that goal.

3. Build your Buffer

I believe firmly that before you can tackle debt you should build a buffer between you and life.

What does that mean? It means having an emergency fund in an “out of sight out of mind” account. This is so important because according to statistics about the financial health of Americans, 75% of citizens are living paycheck to paycheck and could not weather the storm of a financial emergency. This is not all right! We shouldn’t exist in crisis mode all the time.

I recommend an online savings account to grow your buffer. Check out this blog by Nerdwallet about the Best High-Yield Savings Accounts of 2019. The money that you trim from cutting off unnecessary subscriptions can be used to build your emergency fund.

Application: Open an online savings account and use your tax refund and tools like the cash back reward applications like Dosh (an application I personally use and love) to build your buffer. Aim for a goal of $2,000.

4. Be present in the Aggression

This is where I hope to tie a bow around the Money rhythm Strategy.

Remember our whole talk about balance above, this is how we put it all into practice. The objective is to flow through saving and paying off your debts in cycles. Acknowledge those cycle and be aggressive in accomplishing goals in bursts. If you are saving be aggressive and focus on reaching a fixed goal. If you are paying off a debt be aggressive and focus about getting it down to zero.

Now cycles are full of life moments (loss of loved of ones, the birth of babies, health transitions). Realistically life will happen as you attempt to save money and especially when you are trying to pay off debt. Instead of being derailed by the natural changes of life and the natural flow of human nature, let’s be strategic about it.

The Cycle of the Money Rhythm Strategy

So, what does it look like when we put all this together…?

Step 1: Build your buffer by putting away $1,000-$2,000

Step 2: Tackle your lowest 2-3 debts aggressively! (small loans, phone bills, medical bills that aren’t in collections)

Step 3: Save a percentage of your income 1-5% and add to your buffer, once you clear first set of debts..

Step 4: Tackle the next set of debts (2-3).

Step 5: Repeat the process   

What do you think would be your biggest obstacle in implementing the money rhythm strategy? Let’s talk about it!

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Written by: Jenny Geffrard the Founder & CEO of Surplus Financial Consultants, a personal finance consulting firm and credit repair company that specializes in taking the stress out of managing credit and money. She is also a proud financial contributor to Queens Co.