By Brent Gallagher, AFS Community Expert
Over 10 years ago, I took the hardest yet most gratifying step of my career: Getting out of debt.
At just 26, my wife and I accumulated over $220,000 in personal and business debt. My future outlook was bleak to say the least since we just opened Avenu, had a handful of clients and rent was due soon.
The 1st Step - Monthly budget
We set up a monthly budget on paper that showed us where every incoming dollar was going. We wrote out all our reoccurring bills and estimated others to the best of our abilities. Then we simply assigned every dollar to a specific payment or account before the end of the month.
We talked about the “extra fat” in our monthly spending we could cut - you know, the “I can’t live without” wants vs your true needs (hard).
To jog your memory of a few things we can live without, here are a few:
- Cutting cable TV in favor of Netflix’s and reading more
- Only eating what you cook at home vs eating out
- Biking to work vs excuses it’s too far (I biked 6 miles)
- Inviting friends over to your home vs going out on the weekends
- Bringing lunch to work vs picking up something at the store
- Purchasing used / refurbished equipment vs new
- Cleaning your facility yourself vs hiring a cleaning service (I cleaned toilets for 8 years)
- Asking clients to use online bill pay vs getting slammed with huge credit card fees
- Cutting out monthly subscriptions (music, magazines, education platforms, etc) for now, but not for ever. Just until you get the debt paid off.
The 2nd Step - Debt Payments
We devised a simple plan on paper to pay off our debt. It was also a plan that was going to test our grit and ability to delay gratification to see through till the end.
We listed all our debts out on paper from smallest to largest (simple).
We put any extra income we earned towards the smallest debt. As soon as we paid it off, we took that payment and began applying it to our next debt.
Next we started tackling the smallest payment with the same intensity we took towards living fit. We put any extra income we earned towards the smallest debt. As soon as we paid it off, we took that payment and began applying it to our next debt. And on and on the journey went, taking the debt payments and adding them to the next.
Again, it’s a simple plan on paper. The struggle comes with sticking to it over the course of a few months or year(s).
The 3rd and final step - sticking to it
When my daughter is tested with delaying gratification, she can get a little moody. But I’d expect that from a 6 year old. When the initial excitement passed with getting out of debt, reality sat in: It’s going to be a couple year process.
Yes I got moody. Yes I wanted to splurge when all my friends were living large. Yes I wanted to buy the latest and greatest equipment. Yes I wanted and wanted, right then and there.
If it wasn’t for my awesome accountability partner and wife reminding me that one day we were going to be able to build a business worth telling a story about, I believe we would be still paying off the debt.
She reminded me how important it was to stick with the plan because one day, we would have a family and team to take care of. She reminded me that one day we would want to reward our team and pay them the best, and we would have to follow our own path and do things differently.
So to remain focused throughout your journey of paying off your debt, you need two things:
- An accountability partner who’s willing to meet with you monthly. One who’s willing to call you out if your spending goes A-wall or you fall off course.
- A significant reason - a purpose - for achieving this life changing outcome…
As I write this today, I haven’t stressed over money in 8 years. Living and operating a business debt free allows me to sleep peacefully every night knowing I’m in a position to leave a lasting legacy for my family, my team and the community we serve.
Brent Gallagher is the owner of Avenu Fitness & Lifestyle, a brand measuring the quality of life one can live, not just their biceps and waistlines. Over the last 10 years Brent has grown from zero clients and zero teammates in 1,200 sq ft to an all-star 14-person team generating over 7 figures annually, serving 465+ clients in 4,500 sq ft. He has created a one-of-a-kind, unorthodox, 30 minute approach to training, nutrition and life that’s an unsuspecting experience from the typical workout. Brent invests time coaching high performing leaders and challenging fitness businesses to come to blows with the status quo by redefining what's possible for the communities they serve. www.BrentGallagher.com