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The strains of modern-day capitalism have forced countless people in a perpetual state of debt. Some people are better at managing their finances than others and pay their bills off before they become a problem. Others only continue to fall deeper into the rabbit hole until the debt reaches up to their eyeballs – that’s when you need an escape plan. Sometimes, it is not a question of bad money management. Medical bills can pile up and force you to consolidate medical debt that you never wanted in the first place.
The rule of thumb when it comes to paying off debt is that it’s never too late, and there’s always a way out. The trick is to find it.
How to Pay Off Debt
It’s true, some people are just one paycheck away from getting into debt. The important thing to do is to stay steadfast in situations that are beyond your control. For the majority of debt situations, a debt bill can be managed by exercising discipline and commitment. Slow and steady, as they say.
Whether it’s due to unexpected expenses or just plain old carelessness, it’s relatively easy to get into a huge debt without having a plan for it. Learning how to pay off debt requires a strategy. Below are 6 ways to pay off your debt.
1. The Debt Snowball Method
Every giant snowball that rolls down a hill start out small and slow before it picks up pace and gains momentum. The same principle can be applied to your debt; start by paying off the smallest debts before moving to the bigger ones. It helps to list down all your debts according to their size and then paying off the smallest ones. As for the larger bills, prioritize paying off their minimums and if possible, send in some extra money into the smaller debt to help it disappear faster.
Now, all you have to do is repeat this strategy with the rest of your debts. The best part is that once you’ve cleared out a few bills, you’ll have more disposable money to put into wiping out your next debt. It’s extremely encouraging to see tangible progress. Before you know it, you’ll have wiped out most of your debts.
2. Tackling Debt by Interest Rate – Debt Avalanche
The debt avalanche method is just like the previous strategy but instead of listing debts by size, you’re focusing on debts by interest rate. For most people, their biggest problem isn’t the size of the debt itself, it's how to pay off debt and the massive interest rates on it because failure to pay those off is only going to make things worse.
To start off, simply list down all your debts from the highest rate of interest rate to the lowest.
Try to pay the minimums on the lower interest rate debt and concentrate your leftover income on paying off the debts with the higher interest rates first. This frees up your income to focus on other debts.
3. Debt Consolidation
If you’re dealing with too many bills and have a hard time tracking due dates, your next best option is to get into debt consolidation. This is a strategy where your lender clears off all your existing debt and sums them into one new loan with a single payment plan. The only problem is that the interest rate could be higher than some of your other debts. But if debt consolidation goes according to plan, which it should, then you stand to save money by avoiding late payment fees.
More importantly, debt consolidation makes it much more easy to manage all your bills. Some people struggle when they’re faced with lots of bills; debt consolidation helps by rolling them all into a single payment.
Most nonprofit debt counseling companies help set up debt management plans with debtors. They negotiate with debtors and arrange for reasonable repayment plans and sometimes even manage to secure debt forgiveness.
4. Create a Budget
The biggest reason why most people need help in learning how to pay off debt is a lack of budgeting. Most people are unable to properly allocate their finances without a budget since it’s extremely easy to veer off track. But sticking to an optimized budget designed for your specific circumstances allows you to track where each dollar goes. This ability to monitor cash flow will help you spot areas in your debt strategy that may be counterintuitive to your finances. Plus, you can also identify areas where you could cut costs and save money.
There are various ways to do this; most people use an app or a spreadsheet to create their budget. An app works best because it adds more transparency and accountability to your financial plan. Once you have a lowdown on your expenses and incomes, you can start planning on how to pay off the debt. Your free cash flow is the fixed expenses minus your income. This is the money you use to pay off debt and various other expenditures.
5. Start an Emergency Fund
If you don’t already have one, then make sure to start an emergency fund to pay off unexpected expenses. With so many variables to account for, one cannot predict unexpected expenses in the near future. And when that out-of-the-norm health bill or costly car repair comes along, it could undo your debt plan entirely.
Regular life will go on and your debt will continue to climb up while you struggle to deal with your new unexpected expense. An emergency fund can rescue you when you really need some rescuing.
6. Earn Some More Income
Having a side income is the best way to speed up debt repayment. Many people now utilize their free time by freelancing or having a side hustle. Whether that includes babysitting or driving for a ride-hailing app – there are a ton of ways to make some extra cash. And if you become creative, you probably won’t even have to break a sweat.
Hint: Focus on a hobby.