Are you in debt? If you’re an average American, the chances are good that you are carrying some debt. And you need a way to pay that debt off faster.
To pay your debt fast, you must take aggressive action. In this article, we’ll give you some tips on building a debt management plan that will help you, no matter how much debt you owe.
Debt and Your Credit
Your debt and your credit are forever linked. The amount of debt that you have is a big part of your credit report. Your credit report is a financial profile that details how much debt you have and how well you repay it. Potential lenders use your credit report and credit score to determine if they want to do business with you. You can get your credit report from any of the major credit bureaus—Expedia, Experian, or TransUnion. You can get a loan with bad credit, but they will have less favorable terms than those for good credit score holders. Keeping your credit strong gives you financial options, so eliminating debt ASAP is best for your present and future financial situation.
1. Create a Budget
If you want to repay debt fast, the first and most crucial step you must take is to build a budget that works for you.
A budget is a plan that details your income and how you spend it. It is the foundation upon you which you build your financial activity. A budget ensures that you are paying on essential bills and debt before anything else. That way, necessary funds aren’t used for any unnecessary expenses.
The thought of building a budget can be overwhelming. Many people don’t think they can budget money on a low income, or that budgeting will leave them less financially nimble and constrict their spending.
However, budgeting will give you the best understanding of where you owe money. With that knowledge, you can set budgeting plans for the things you want.
You should review your budget at the end of every month to make adjustments for the next month. Your budget can and will change over time; new expenses come up, and expenses will decrease as you pay off debt. Whatever happens, stay committed to using your budget.
2. Cut Your Spending
After creating your budget, you may discover that you are spending more than you’re making—which is, frankly, one of the biggest reasons you are in debt. Budgets can be full of items that can either be eliminated or fulfilled at less of a cost. For example, if you spend $100 on dining out each week, it’s time to start bringing lunch to work. Do you get to keep your streaming channels? Sure! But perhaps you don’t need to have every network’s ad-free, fully-loaded package. To get debt-free fast, you need to redirect every dollar available to fund your debt repayment plan.
3. Pay More than the Minimum Due
With many loans—particularly with credit card bills—creditors may only require a minimum payment on your account each month. Although paying a relatively low amount may seem convenient, know that your minimum payment is doing very little to eliminate your debt. A minimum payment on a credit card barely covers the interest accrued during each cycle.
When you pay more than the minimum, you are guaranteed to eliminate debt faster. Additionally, you decrease your credit utilization, which means that your credit score will stay strong or improve if it’s low. And since you’ll eliminate the balance sooner, paying more than the minimum means paying less interest.
4. Pay More than Once a Month
Although your credit card bills may come once a month, that doesn’t mean that you can only make one monthly payment. If you get paid weekly or bi-monthly, consider making an additional payment on your debt between billing cycles. Multiple monthly payments move the needle on your debt quicker than sticking to the conventional schedule.
5. Put. The Credit Card. Down.
Do you want to pay off debt fast? Then stop creating more debt immediately. It’s excellent that credit card companies offer cashback incentives and reward points, but you’re still going to be paying interest on every purchase. So until you can get your spending under control, stop using your credit card.
When you see an item you want, use your budget to allocate funds to pay for it in cash. It may take a little more time to get what you want, but spending money is better than charging.
6. Consolidate Your Debt
When you have debt (like high-interest credit cards) scattered across multiple accounts, managing your repayment plan can be overwhelming and expensive. If you have more than one credit account, consider taking advantage of the relief that consolidation provides.
Debt consolidation is a financial strategy that combines multiple credit accounts to pay them off with a single loan. Debt consolidation loans typically offer lower interest rates and manageable terms than the accounts they are consolidating. Since consolidation closes the original accounts, you will save money on interest.
There are debt consolidation loans available for many types of debt.
Consolidating Credit Card Debt
With the average APR on a credit card sitting around 17%, it’s a wise move to get rid of your credit card debt as soon as possible. If you have a strong credit score, explore the benefits that balance transfer credit cards provide. Balance transfer cards are credit cards that come with lower interest rates, and many provide a 0%APR for the first year of use. If approved for the card, you would use it to pay off your other credit card debt and then pay down the transfer card balance.
One thing to keep in mind with a balance transfer loan is the added cost. The balance transfer process usually incurs a fee of about 3% of each balance transferred to the card. However, the benefits of debt consolidation—improved credit utilization ratio and a shorter path to being debt-free—may be worth it.
Consolidating Student Loans
Even though your student loan may come from a single loan company, you may have multiple student loans. Some loans register every disbursement as a new loan. Fortunately, there are consolidation loans for most of the major federal loans offered.
Rolling all of your student loan debt into a single loan is a great move to rebuild your credit. Your loan payment may not get spread over all the loan accounts in time. Those payments could be registered as late and ultimately appear on your credit report.
Consolidating Personal Loans
Personal loans are another type of loan you can consolidate. Getting high-interest personal loan debt paid off quickly will help you save money. Your best bet is to find a new personal loan with a lower APR than any of your old loans.
Fortunately, many options deal specifically with consolidation issues. Additionally, installment loans for bad credit can provide consolidation relief for those with less than perfect scores. Be sure to shop around and compare interest rates before you make a final decision.
7. Consider the Debt Snowball Method
Debt can be the most overwhelming when it’s spread across many different accounts. An excellent way to start your attack on your debt is by using the debt snowball method.
The snowball method is a debt management plan that focuses the bulk of your debt budget on paying off your smallest debt amount first. This is an ideal plan for issues like credit card debt spread out over several cards.
Here’s how the debt snowball works:
First, look at all of your accounts, and total the amount of money needed to make your minimum monthly payments. Sort them from the smallest debt to the largest.
Make each minimum monthly payment on each account—except the smallest one. Use all the remaining money you have available for debt for that account. The bigger your monthly payment, the sooner you’ll get that balance eliminated. Then, you reconfigure your budget and repeat the process with the next smallest debt. And since you have more money to put towards debt, your efforts will grow and gain momentum, like a snowball rolling down a hill!
While you want to throw everything you can at this debt, the snowball method shouldn’t pull cash from other parts of your budget. Make sure that your basic living needs and expenses are still covered.
8. Get a Side Hustle
To pay off debt, you need money. And when you don’t have enough of it, you need to make more. Picking up a part-time job is a fast way to put extra money in your pocket.
In the wake of the current pandemic, grocery stores, warehouses, retail outlets, restaurants are all clamoring for people to fill positions. These places operate around the clock, so it’s easy to find a shift that can complement your full-time job. Many businesses hire applicants within a week or, in some instances, the same day. Some of the most in-demand positions—like delivery drivers and cooks—offer incentives, like signing bonuses and getting paid at the end of every workday.
If you consider a side hustle, think about how your current skills can earn you more money. In almost every industry, freelancers take on projects for individuals and clients. For example, a journalist may work as an editor or ghostwriter for a blog, or a chef could provide in-home cooking classes. Websites like Fiverr and TaskRabbit are excellent places to see jobs posted by people who may need your certifications and special skills.
Do you think that you don’t have any special skills that people need? We guarantee you that you’re wrong! Many people are full of know-how that others don’t have, from dog walking to babysitting to changing a car’s motor oil.
Make a list of your skills, reach out to your neighbors and social media and find someone that needs your help. With a bit of marketing, you may be able to turn your skills into money!
9. Sell Your Stuff
The chances are slim that you’re hiding money or jewels in your garage. But, your next yard sale could line your pockets with some extra money to pay down your debt. Since there are no overhead costs on things you already own, selling your old, unwanted stuff is a highly profitable hustle.
If haggling with your neighbors over the price of your old records doesn’t sound fun (and we don’t blame you), you should consider getting some help from the professionals. Consignment shop owners will take your old clothes, call them “vintage,” and put them up for sale in their boutique. When your items sell, you and the shop share the profits.
And, of course, you can sell just about anything online. Auction and resale sites like eBay, Poshmark, and OfferUp are great resources for savvy resellers. Online sellers can build up a good reputation and make great money with the proper listing, quality items in good shape, and customer feedback.
Creating a plan to pay off your existing debt is a big step on the road to financial freedom. It is very easy to be overwhelmed by debt; it can come on quickly and add up even faster. But, with a disciplined approach, you can manage debt quickly while you continue to work toward your financial goals.