There are plenty of reasons why people find themselves drowning in debt. While some point the finger at divorce, job loss or medical bills, others have no one to blame except themselves. Regardless of how you got there, chances are you don’t want to be stuck in debt forever. Luckily, we have six moves that are sure to help you pay it off quickly.
Stop borrowing money
You’re never going to get out of debt unless you stop borrowing money. Therefore, the first step is to lock away your credit cards and hide the key. Canceling them may make it easier to resist temptation but you’ll damage your credit score in the process. Aside from your payment history, lenders care deeply about your credit utilization ratio. In other words, the percentage of credit being used. The goal is to keep this number under 30 percent. By closing the account, you’re lowering your credit limit but still carrying the same balance so your credit utilization ratio will increase. If it jumps over the threshold, your score will go down. Save yourself the headache and just put the card away until you get your spending under control.
Create a list of your debts
If you’re like most people, you probably have a ballpark figure of how much you owe but nothing concrete. To ensure you cover all your bases, gather your bills for the last month and create a master list of your debt. Write down who you owe, how much, the interest rate and the due dates. Then organize your list from the highest to lowest interest rate. The game plan is to make minimum payments on all your bills but put extra towards the one with the highest interest. Once it’s paid off, continue making your way down the list. By paying your bills in this order, you’ll spend less money on interest fees.
Start using a budget
These days, there’s no excuse for not having a budget. Even if you hate doing the math yourself, there are too many smartphone budgeting apps available for you to say you can’t find at least one you like. Fan favorites include PocketGuard, You Need a Budget (YNAB) and Wally. Using a budget makes it easy to see where your money is going and areas where you’re overspending. Once you pinpoint the issue, you can take steps to plug the leaks and put the money to better use. In this case, it’s extra money you can use to pay off your debt.
Beef up your savings
More often than not, when an emergency pops up people just cover the expense with their credit card. While this temporarily gives them some breathing room, many are still left scrambling when their statement arrives. By building an emergency fund, you’ll already have money set aside just in case. Setting a $1,000 savings goal is a good place to start but you don’t want to stop there. The more money you keep in your account, the less likely you are to rely on credit cards when problems arise. Hitting your target doesn’t have to be difficult. You can save your loose change, sell your unwanted goods, take online surveys or bring your lunch to work.
Earn more money
Sometimes cutting your budget to the bare minimum just isn’t enough. If you’re still finding it hard to make ends meet, you need to find a way to earn more money. This may mean getting a better paying full-time job or looking for a part-time gig. There are going to be days when you hate juggling a 9-5 and a side job but remember, it’s only temporary. You just have to stick it out until you’re debt-free. The more money you put towards your bills, the faster you’ll be able to dig yourself out of the hole. Some side hustles that won’t eat up too much of your free time include teaching a fitness class, tutoring or pet sitting.
Transfer your balance
Have good credit? If so, try to get a balance transfer. This will allow you to move your balance from a high interest card to one with a lower rate. Depending on your score, you may even be approved for a card with a 0% introductory rate. By taking this approach, your payments will make a bigger dent and you’ll save money on interest. The downside is that there’s a fee attached. Typically, the balance transfer fee is around 3% of the transferred amount. So, before you make any moves, do the math to ensure the savings are worth it. Since the promotional rate won’t last forever, be mindful of when the rates increase and pay your balance before then.