You’ve made the decision to pay off your mountain of debt. But you’d like to see some immediate results. Is this even possible? Can you pay down your credit card and other debt quickly?
That depends on how you define “quickly.” Financial experts have tips for how you can start making an immediate dent in your debt. Don’t expect miracles, though. These tips will help you pay off your debt faster. But remember that building up your debt took time; eliminating it will, too.
Go After Those Credit Cards
Credit cards are often the debt that most weighs us down. It makes sense, then, to pay off your cards as quickly as you can.
Deborah Sweeney, chief executive officer of MyCorporation Business Services in Calabasas, Calif., recommends that consumers follow the stack – often called the debt avalanche – method of paying off credit card debt.
In this method, you first pay off your credit card with the highest interest rate and devote any extra money you have each month to paying down that plastic’s debt, all the while making sure to pay the minimum required monthly payments on your other cards. Once you’ve paid off that first card, now apply that money each month to the card with the next highest interest rate.
Doing this, and eliminating your credit card debt as fast as you can, comes with another financial bonus, Sweeney said. “This method allows you to pay off debt quickly,” she said. “And once your cards are paid off, your credit score will improve.”
Build a Better Snowball
There is another method that financial experts recommend for paying off credit card debt quickly. It works similar to the stack (or debt avalanche) method. Instead, you pay off the credit card with the lowest balance first, sending any extra money you have each month to reducing that balance while making your minimum monthly payments on your other cards. Once that’s paid in full, you then focus on the card with the next highest balance.
This method is called the debt snowball approach. Paying off cards by interest makes more financial sense because you’ll spend less money during the process, but some cardholders need the more immediate satisfaction that comes with paying off a card with the lowest balance first.
Make a Budget
Julio Hoyos, an accountant with Dover, N.J.-based Julio Hoyos & Co., said that people will struggle to pay down debt quickly if they don’t first create a household budget that shows how much money they make each month and how much they spend.
“By tracking every expense, people will be able to identify where the money is going,” said Hoyos. “By knowing where the money is going, they are able to identify which expenses they can reduce and, in some cases, even eliminate altogether.”
You might think that a budget can’t help you pay down your debts at a faster clip, but consider this: When people eliminate certain expenses, this leaves them with extra money each month that they can put toward reducing their debt. With the help of a household budget, you’ll have an easier time pinpointing those expenses that you can eliminate to free up those extra dollars.
Hoyos points to cable TV packages: If you subscribe to cable but don’t actually watch much TV, you can cancel this subscription and save $80 – $100 a month. You can then use these savings to pay down your debt faster.
“When people track their expenses, they are able to identify many money-saving opportunities,” Hoyos added. “It’s very important to stay committed to develop the discipline to stick to the changes. Once you learn and practice, it will become automatic, and you will do it without even thinking about it.”
Set Goals – Don’t Be Afraid To Be Ambitious
For Phil Risher, founder of YoungAdultSurvivalGuide.com, the key is to set a goal for how quickly you want to pay off your debt. Once you do this and calculate how much you’ll have to pay each month, it’s easier to justify skipping the restaurant meals and trips to the movie theater to save your dollars.
Risher said that he paid off $30,000 in student loan debt in 12 months, all while making $48,000 a year. Risher said that because his goal was to pay off $30,000 in a year, he knew he had to pay off $2,500 in debt each month.
“That leads me to the next step: Live on a budget,” Risher said. “Since I knew I had to pay $2,500 a month and I was making $3,000 a month, I had to figure out how I was going to live off $500 a month. If you want something bad enough, you will find a way. If not, you will find an excuse.”
Boost Your Income
There’s another approach to take: One way to pay down debt quicker is to earn more money to put toward that debt. Harriette Halepis, content manager for Fort Myers, Fla.-based Dellutri Law Group, says that you can take on a part-time job, ask for more hours from your current employer or take on freelance or consulting work to help boost the income you bring home each month.
Halepis recommends that you use the extra money to pay down your debt with the highest interest rate first. She also suggests that you create a spreadsheet listing your monthly expenses, spending expenses and monthly income. You can then analyze these numbers to make changes in your monthly spending. If you discover, for instance, that you are spending too much for utilities each month, call the companies and try to negotiate lower monthly fees.
Maybe you’ll discover that you’re spending too much on frivolous activities such as coffee, clothing and restaurant meals. Cut back on these expenses and use the extra dollars that you save each month to pay down your debts faster.
“Don’t cut so much that you can’t enjoy life, but cut enough to have extra dollars to spend to reduce your debt,” Halepis said.
Have you had success paying down debt quickly? Which tactics did you use to get it done? Let us know in the comments below.
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