It’s no secret that most people are dealing with some form of debt. The biggest culprits being mortgages, student loans and credit cards. Carrying a balance each month can feel like a never-ending cycle, but it is possible to get out of debt. You just need to make a plan and follow through. Here’s how you can pay off your debt quickly and regain control of your financial life.
Get rid of anything that tempts you to spend money
You’re never going to be debt-free if you don’t change the habits that got you into trouble in the first place. Therefore, you need stop using your credit cards. Cut them up or tuck them away. Next, go through your social media and unfollow every brand on your timeline. There’s no need to know about the latest product releases because you won’t be buying any of it. Unsubscribe from all retailer mailing lists too. If you have your credit card information saved anywhere, delete it so you can’t easily give in to a moment of weakness.
Make a list of your debts
You’ll never know how bad your debt really is until you crunch the numbers. So, it’s time to face the music. Gather your latest statements and create a list of your debts. Include everything listed on your credit reports as well as any money you may have borrowed from family or friends. Your list must clearly state who you owe, the amount, interest rate, due date and minimum monthly payments.
Start with the lowest balance if you’re unsure where to begin
Sometimes the hardest part of starting a debt free journey is knowing where to begin. Rather than get discouraged, start with the smallest balance and work your way up. This is known as the snowball method. How it works is you’ll focus most of your efforts on eliminating the smallest balance while making minimum payments on the rest of your bills. Once that’s out the way, you’ll move on to the second lowest bill and repeat the process until everything is paid off.
Save money by paying the highest interest rate first
A cheaper – and better – alternative is to start with the bills that are costing you the most money. Rank your bills from the highest to lowest interest rate. This is the order in which you’ll pay your monthly bills. Most of your money needs to go towards the debt with the highest interest rate but you still need to make the minimum payments on the rest of your bills. From there, you’ll just work your way down the list.
Use a credit card payoff calculator
Not everyone is struggling to pay off a mountain of debt. Some people just have a large credit card balance they’d like to get rid of. In that case, using a payoff calculator can be helpful. Simply enter your credit card balance along with the interest rate and when you’d like to be debt-free. Based on the information, they’ll tell you the monthly payment needed to eliminate your debt within the given time frame.
Create a budget and live within your means
You can’t get ahead if you’re foggy about your finances. A budget is most people’s least favorite “B” word, but most experts recommend having one because it works. Knowing how much money you have coming in versus going out each month makes it easier to keep your spending in check. You won’t have to play a guessing a game about where your money went because you’ll have all the facts in front of you. Having a budget can also help you come up with a solid payment plan. Open the calendar app in your phone and write down all your bill due dates. By doing so you can plan how each check will be spent and ensure the bills are paid on time.
Swap your credit cards for cash
Not everyone can be trusted with a credit card. Be honest with yourself and understand your limitations. A good way to stop impulsive shopping is to use the cash envelope system. From this point on you’ll be relying on cash for everything. Look at your budget to pinpoint your common spending areas. Each category will have its own envelope along with a dollar amount. The goal is stick to the allocated amount and not borrow from the other envelopes. We suggest keeping a tally on the front of each envelope so it’s easy to see when you’re starting to run low.
Get a side gig to earn more money
If you’re trying to get out of debt as quick as possible relying solely on your 9-5 won’t cut it. Earning more money will allow you to pay your debt off faster. There are plenty of ways you can easily earn an extra $500 a month. If you stick to the plan for an entire year, that’s $6,000 of debt eliminated. That’s not even considering the money from your full-time job. Some side hustles you can do to earn money are tutoring, fixing computers, detailing cars or event planning.
Turn your clutter into extra cash
According to Goodwill, 80% of the things we keep never get used. Therefore, it’s time to eliminate some of the clutter from your home. Go through your belongings, create a pile of everything you don’t mind parting with and put it up for sale. You can go the traditional route and have a yard sale or list the items online, whichever is more convenient for you. All your profits must go towards your debt repayment.
Ask for a lower interest rate on your credit cards
Don’t be scared to ask for what you want. Creditcards.com conducted a survey among credit card holders and found that 56 percent of people who requested a lower interest rate got it. Meanwhile, 84 percent of people were able to get their late fee waived just by asking.
See if you qualify for a balance transfer
If your credit is in decent shape, consider getting a balance transfer. This will allow you to move your balance from a high interest card to one with a lower rate. Ideally, you want one with a 0% introductory rate. For a limited time, you’ll be able to tackle your debt without accumulating additional interest. Only transfer what you know you can pay off within the allotted time frame because once the offer expires, the rates will shoot up. Balance transfers do come with a fee so do the math beforehand to make sure it’s worth it.
Check your credit reports for mistakes
A study by the Federal Trade Commission found that 26% of participants had an error on at least one of their credit reports. Negative marks can hurt your credit score and make you appear riskier to lenders. As a result, taking out a loan will be more expensive because you won’t get the best interest rate. Checking your credit reports annually is an easy way to catch mistakes before they become an expensive problem.