For some people, debt can be a very big burden. They get to a point where they feel like no matter what they do, they can’t get out. So many people carry around this burden, paying only the minimum payment, and they don’t know how to get ahead enough to get the ball rolling on their debt situation. But there is good news! With a little bit of planning and a whole lot of self-discipline, you can get out of your debt. Here’s five steps to take to start paying off debt quicker.
Stop the Debt
This may seem like a no-brainer, but the first step to getting out of debt is to stop adding to the debt. For some people, this may be easier said than done. A lot of people are in debt because they use credit cards or personal loans to make ends meet when their paychecks fail to do so. They have more expenses than money, so they just get by on credit. If this is your situation, you are going to to have to start living below your means. Cut out as much expenses as you can to get your expenses to where you can cover them with your income, and stop adding to your debt.
Other people might live beyond their means, not out of necessity, but because they like extra things or experiences. If this is your situation, just stop spending the extra money. If you are truly serious about getting out of debt, you have to stop adding to it. Just stick to this rule: if you have to charge it on credit, you can’t afford it.
Establish a Budget
Now that you have stopped adding to your debt, it’s time to take a look at your finances. Setting up a budget and sticking to it will be your key to debt elimination. Budgeting doesn’t have to be a complicated process, just write down your income and subtract your expenses from it. If you find that you don’t have enough at the end, it’s time to start figuring out how to take out some expenses until you reach a total you can work with. Make sure to schedule some extra money towards debt repayment in your budget if you can. Sure, you can pay the minimum payments and still get out of debt, but the process will take a lot longer than if you were to find room to schedule extra payments toward debt in your budget.
If you’ve heard of Dave Ramsey then you know what the debt snowball method is. For those of you who aren’t familiar, a debt snowball is where you write down your debts starting with the smallest amount and going up to the largest. Once you have assessed the totals of all of your debts, you work toward paying the smallest off as quick as possible. In the process of paying off that debt, you are still paying off the minimum payment on the other debts. So then, when that debt is paid off, you add what you were paying on that previous debt to the next one along with the minimum payment you’ve been paying. So with each larger debt, you are tacking on the previous payment amount plus the minimum on that debt. By the time you reach your larger debt, you are paying way more than the minimum amount, thus you will pay off your debt faster. It’s a very simple way to get a hold of your debt without actually spending extra money out of your budget.
A “windfall” is a term used for a time when you may come into an unexpected or unplanned amount of money. Say you get a large income tax refund, a settlement from a will, or even just finding a $20 bill on the street. Anytime you get some money that you weren’t planning for in your budget counts as a windfall. The most tempting thing to do with a windfall is treat yourself to something fun. A vacation, a special meal out, or an item you may not normally buy yourself–that’s what most people like to do with the extra money. But what if you put all that extra money towards your debt repayment plan? Sure, it’s boring now, but think about how good it will feel to get out of your debt you’ve been working so hard on. A windfall, even a small one, can help you get to your goal faster by speeding up the debt snowball.
Making Extra Income
If windfalls aren’t really in your immediate future, the next best way to speed up the debt repayment process is to make a little extra money. This can happen in many different ways. If you are hard core, you can get a part-time job to make extra. If time doesn’t allow that, then look at what you have to work with. Can you de-clutter your home and sell the extra clothes, toys or furniture you no longer need? Do you have any special skills or talents that you could use to work a little from home to get some extra money? If you play a musical instrument you could teach lessons. You could tutor kids after school, become a virtual assistant or do data entry from home, or even start your own photography business. Whatever your hobbies or passions are, see if you can turn them into a way to make a little money on the side. Take all this extra income and put it all on your debt. When you are debt free, then you can assess the situation and see if you want to continue your money making efforts for fun or if you want to call it a day on your side hustle.
These tips are just a few of the things you can do to get going on your debt repayment plan. If you can find ways to pay more than the minimum payment and stay self-disciplined enough to stick to the budget and the pay-off plan, you will be out of debt in no time.