Are you sick and tired of being in debt?  Well then it’s time to get your finances in order.  With a few months left in the year, there’s still plenty of time for you to pay off your debt and start 2018 off with a clean slate.  It won’t be easy but with our tips and your commitment, you’ll be debt-free in no time.

Calculate your debt

You can’t conquer your debt if you’re not sure how much you actually owe.  To get started, gather all of your bills and receipts for the last month and total it all up.  Remember to include any annual expenses as well. From there, create a list and divide your expenses into two categories; fixed and variable.  Under the variable expenses, list any bills that change on a monthly basis.  Gifts, entertainment and clothing all fall into this category.  On the fixed expenses side, list the bills that remain the same every month.  This includes your mortgage, car note, insurance and things of that nature.  By creating two categories, it will be easier to see which expenses you can live without.  Typically, variable expenses will include more “wants” than “needs”.

Reduce your expenses

Now that you can clearly see how much you’re spending, it’s time to see how much money you’re bringing in.  Gather your pay stubs for the last month and calculate your take home pay.  Compare this figure to your total debt.  If your expenses are close to or exceed your monthly income, it’s time to make some budget cuts.  Go through your list of variable expenses and start looking for ways to reduce your spending.  If you spend a considerable amount eating out for lunch, start bringing your meals from home.  Not only will you save money, it’s a lot healthier.  Spending too much on cable?  Consider getting Netflix or Hulu instead.  Making small changes can have a big effect on your budget.  Any extra money you’re able to free up needs to go towards your debt repayment.

Stop the bleeding

To stop your credit card balance from growing, there are two things you need to do.  First and foremost, you need to stop spending.  Whether you cut your card up, hide it or leave it at home, do whatever it takes to stop buying things impulsively.  Secondly, transfer your balance from a high interest card to one with a zero percent introductory rate.  This will give you at least six months to pay down your debt without accumulating additional interest.  Introductory periods vary from card to card so make sure you read the fine print.

Double your payments

Making the minimum payment on your credit card bill is better than not paying it at all but it won’t get you out of debt anytime soon.  You can speed up the process and save money on interest by doubling your monthly payments.  Let’s say you have a credit card with a $2,000 balance and 10% interest rate which you pay $50 towards every month.  Not only will it take you 49 months to become debt-free, you’ll pay about $443 in interest.  However, if you bump up your payments to $100 a month, you’ll be debt-free in 22 months and only pay about $197 in interest.

Build an emergency fund

While some people get themselves into debt because of their bad spending habits, others face the same fate simply because they failed to save for a rainy day.  According to Bankrate, 28 percent of Americans don’t have any money saved for emergencies.  This is a big no-no.  Ideally, you want to have 3 to 6 months’ worth of living expenses saved just in case you lose your job or an expensive repair pops up.  Every time you get paid, put aside a portion of your check.  Even if it’s only $5, every little bit helps.

Increase your income

Sometimes cutting your expenses just isn’t enough.  If you’ve done all you can and are still having trouble making ends meet, look for ways to increase your income.  This may mean getting an additional part-time job or looking for a better paying full-time job.  Once you start bringing in extra cash, don’t use it as an excuse to start shopping again.  Stay focused and use the money to pay off the debt you’ve already accumulated.