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Earlier this year, we brought you the first nine of twelve steps toward living a debt-free life.

Have you ever gotten in your car to go to the food store, but started driving toward your workplace — in the opposite direction — instead?
It's called "autopilot" when you do things out of habit and routine without even thinking about them. Sometimes it's good — like when it comes to paying off debts. But, sometimes it's not good... like when you have to turn the car around because you forgot to take a left.

If you're trying to get out of debt, making savings and payments automatic is a tool you should definitely use. It also happens to be step 10 of the 12 steps toward a debt-free life that we've been telling you about all year.

Here's a review of what we've talked about:

• Step 1: Take stock of your debt by writing down exactly how much you owe to whom, plus information on payment amounts and interest rates. Put that information into a spreadsheet.

• Step 2: Assess your spending, and work hard on not incurring any more debt than you already have.

• Step 3: Call your credit card and loan companies and ask if you can have your interest rates lowered!

• Step 4: Create an emergency fund so that unexpected expenses like car repairs or medical bills don't completely derail your finances.

• Step 5: Organize your finances by really keeping track of every expense during the course of the month — from that morning latte to utility bills. It’s critical that you know where your money is going so you can get more control over it.

• Step 6: Trim your expenses by taking a look at the money you spend and figure out what you can cut — from subscriptions to take-out dinners. Put that money toward paying down your debt, instead.

• Step 7: Start paying down more debt using the "snowball" method.

• Step 8: Find ways to make more money — and throw it at your debt, too!

• Step 9: When you get an unexpected windfall, consider your options carefully about saving that money or putting it toward debt before you do anything else with it.

Financial technology has grown a lot in the past decade, allowing you to do things like automatically divert part of your paycheck into a savings account each month. This is an option that CommonWealth One offers and something you should definitely take advantage of. If you don't need to remember to manually transfer money from checking to savings, your savings will probably grow faster.

In addition, you can easily set up automatic payments for various bills each month so you don't forget to pay them, which can save you from paying late fees and unnecessary interest.

But, like with driving, financial autopilot has its downsides. You really should reassess your automatic savings and payments every few months to ensure that what you're doing is keeping you on the right track. When you hit $0 due on one of your debts, you'll want to remember to switch the automatic payment you set up so you can use that money to pay off something else, for example.

In addition, as you move through different stages of your life, your savings needs and debt obligations may change, so a periodic reassessment is definitely something you should put on your calendar. (You can set an automatic reminder for that, too!)

Stay tuned for next month's tip on living a debt-free life! And in the meantime, be sure to sign up for our webinar "Adulting 101: Budgeting Basics" on Tuesday, October 12. You have two opportunities to attend this free-but-valuable event, at 10:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. online. Sign up at cofcu.org/events.

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