Financial freedom might seem out of reach while staring up at a mountain of debt, but no one appears at the top of Mt. Everest. You get there one step at a time.
“Right now, many Americans are a medical emergency or a natural disaster away from bankruptcy,” says Debt.com chairman Howard Dvorkin, CPA. “Their finances are so precarious, any income disruption or debt addition would push them over a cliff.”
You’ll be much more successful if you have a thorough attack plan for your debt. Once you pay off your debt, you can put your money towards other things and find a sense of stability. Let’s get started!
The Big Picture
In a period of high inflation and interest rates, it’s more important than ever to kick down debt and build up savings. Debt.com found that 35 percent of people owe more debt than they have in their emergency savings.
This makes it all the more vital to take stock of your debt today. Before you can start, you need a clear picture of your situation. Then you can figure out the best way to get out of debt for your situation.
Add Up Your Debt
Do you have loans, credit cards, fines, child support payments, or anything in collections? Comb through your accounts and get an accurate assessment of what you owe. Take note of the debt amount, interest rates, and how many payments you’re behind on. Debt.com even has a free debt worksheet to help you track it all. This list will help you figure out how you should prioritize your debt.
Review your credit and budget
This might seem basic, but having these numbers down can help you. With your up-to-date credit report, you can gauge what kind of debt repayment plans you might qualify for. And when you write out your budget, you’re more likely to spot areas where you can be more frugal. You can also note how much money you’ll have for debt repayment plans.
Pick a Method of Attack
Once you know how the money you have coming in compares to what you owe, you can devise a perfect plan. And if you read this list and aren’t sure, it’s always a good idea to talk to a financial adviser. They can help go over your finances and help you find the best option.
Snowball vs. Avalanche Method
To use the snowball method, list your debts from smallest to largest. Start by paying off your lower debts, then slowly work up to the larger ones. For example, if you have a credit card with $1000 on it and a bill in collections worth $200, focus first on the collections bill.
The avalanche method asks you to list your debts from highest to lowest interest rates. Since interest rates and APR compound on your original debt, it makes sense to pay them off before your bill keeps growing. First, clear the debts with high-interest rates, then work your way down the list.
Consolidation is a type of debt refinancing that puts everything into one account. This is perfect for people with multiple debts and high-interest rates. Paying interest on one bill could be cheaper than paying on numerous. Rolling your debt into one account makes organizing it manageable.
Make Multiple Payments
Regardless of how you plan to tackle your debt, only making the monthly minimum payment won’t help you. It could just result in more debt because of interest. Always pay above the minimum; when you can, making multiple monthly payments is a great idea. If you have $20 to spare on a coffee weekly, make your own at home instead and throw that money at your debt.
Debt settlement is an agreement between you and your creditors to pay less than what you owe – and you’ll need a professional to negotiate it for you. Debt Settlement doesn’t erase your debt, but it will shrink it. This option is a bit more extreme. It can hurt your credit score and stay on your report for seven years. Still, it’s better than leaving your bill with collections.
Finding the Cash to Pay Up
Even with a general plan, finding the money to pay off debt is still stressful. Here are some extra tips to help you along the way.
1. Call Your Creditors
Believe it or not, a simple phone call could reduce your interest rates. Take note of your credit score, last late payment, and current interest rates compare to the national average. Once you have that, give your lender a call. Interest can fill up the dents you’ve been making in debt – don’t let them.
2. Avoid Forbearance
Forbearance is an agreement with a lender that gives you a temporary pause on loan payments. However, though payments are paused, interest isn’t. Forbearance will only increase your bill and cost you money in the long run.
3. Find a Roommate
Nothing can eat up a hard-earned check like utility bills and rent. If you’re in the position to do so, find someone you can split those responsibilities with. Give yourself plenty of time; you don’t want to rush and end up living with a nightmare. Social media groups and websites like Roomster.com can help you along the way.
4. Increase Your Income
There are plenty of ways to do this, though it might not be fun. You can pick up a second job or a side gig like UberEats. Or, sell the items in your home that aren’t getting much love. Do you have an old Wii or Xbox collecting dust in your living room? That kind of stuff can sell for $100+.
Related: 300+ New Side Hustle and Small Business Ideas
5. Skip out on Happiness
I’m kidding… sort of.
While trying to pay off your debt, you should avoid some of the luxuries you’ve gotten used to. You could save a lot of money by pausing your Netflix subscription or skipping your weekend trips to the bar.
Instead of eating out for lunch or dinner, cook at home. Take a break from things you don’t need and put that money towards your debt.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.