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How to Use Debt Snowball to Get out from a Financial Avalanche

How to Use Debt Snowball to Get out from a Financial Avalanche

Today was a great day. You were productive, spent time with your family, and went to bed on time. You close your eyes ready for tomorrow, only to find yourself awake 4 hours later… This is the time that your brain ruminates your revolving debt as you desperately try to get some rest.

If your financial situation doesn’t change, you know you won’t be able to retire with enough money. You then start to wonder if you’d ever be debt free.

Being in debt is one of the worst places you can be, but you’re not alone.

I and thousands of others have been there. Those who were lucky managed to pay off their entire balances.

You can too. But, you need to take action fast.

The good news is that there are clever ways to be debt free — the debt snowball method. It’s not easy, but if you’re ready for change–here’s how you can get your financial future back in order:

Kickstarting to Get out of Debt

First and foremost, you need to get yourself mentally prepared to before you start your debt-free plan.

1. Commit for a Worthy Cause

There are stories of people having a “magical moment” when they’d decided to become debt free.

The reality is that you don’t need this magical moment. What you need is commitment.

Instead of telling yourself that you want to be debt free, find a reason worth fighting for. Think of what having zero debt would bring to your life.

Would you be able to travel more? Would you be able to sleep better at night?

Despite most Americans carrying some type of debt, having debt isn’t normal.[1] You’ll put yourself in the never-ending “rat race”–living an unfulfilled life. One where you’ll be dependent on a job you hate to sustain a lifestyle you can’t afford.

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By having a clear purpose, you’ll focus on reaching your goal despite the obstacles that come your way.

I’d hit rock bottom when I realized that I was living paycheck-to-paycheck. It was at this moment that I became determined to pay off $6,000 of credit card debt. Because I had a purpose I was able to make an extra $500 principle payment each month–paying off my entire balance off in 18 months.

The same can happen to you, but find a reason worth chasing.

2. Create Your Financial Blueprint

Even after committing, you can still fail at paying down debt.

Why?

Because once you do pay it off, you’d be likely to go back into debt if there’s no direction. It’s easy to stay motivated when you’re first starting off. But, when the going gets tough, it’s here where you’ll need something to keep you motivated.

So how do you stay motivated?

Write down your financial goals. For example, if you want to pay down $3,000 of credit card debt, set a due date.

Bad goal: I want to pay off all my credit card debt

Good goal: I want to pay off my $5,000 credit card balance in 18 months

The second goal is better than the first because you can break it down. You’d need to pay $278 each month to pay off your entire $5,000 balance.

But, you don’t break down a specific goal and forget about it. You need to check on it daily to be sure that you’re on track. A great tool to help you do this is a journal.

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After setting your specific goal, break it down into daily tasks. This could mean bringing your lunch to work so that you have extra money to pay down your debt. Then at the end of each day, check to see if you’ve hit your daily target.

Learning the Debt Snowball Method

Committing to becoming debt free is great, but you need a plan. The debt snowball method is a great place to start.

This strategy boils down to paying your smallest balance first, disregarding interest rate. This is an effective approach because you’ll get momentum going.

For example, if you had $1,000 of debt to pay off: credit card 1: $300 credit card 2: $500 credit card 3: $200

You’d make the smallest payment to credit cards 1 & 2. Then pay as much as possible to pay off credit card 3. In this scenario, it can be tempting to pay the highest balance first.

The problem with paying off your highest balance first is that it’ll take longer. This will increase your odds at giving up because it’ll feel like you’re making no progress at times.

By paying the smallest balance first you’ll get a quick win and stay committed.

So how to use the snowball method?

List all your debts on a spreadsheet. Then figure out how cash you’ll have available at the end of each month using Personal Capital. Get your total expenses and subtract this amount from your monthly income.

    Use as much of this extra money as possible to pay down your debt.

    Unless you have a large debt, don’t worry about accruing interest in your other balances. Pay down your smallest debt, then work towards the next smallest.

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    More important, stop using your credit cards and don’t make unnecessary purchases. Doing this will only prolong the time it’ll take for you to pay down all your debt.

    Should You Use the Snowball Method?

    Many debates whether the snowball method is the best way to pay off debt.

    The answers is–it depends.

    Whatever will help you be debt free is the right choice for you. Using the snowball method carries a cost. Since this method doesn’t take into account interest rates, you may end up paying more in the long run.

    First, calculate how much interest you’d pay to make the smallest payment. If you don’t carry large balances, then it won’t matter how you pay off your debt.

    Another important factor to consider is what will help you be consistent. For example, if you’re someone who needs to get motivation, pay down your smallest debt first. But, if you’re one who likes to be efficient, pay your highest interest credit card first.

    There’s no right way to do this since everyone is different. Paying interest is never a good idea, but if this means that you’d be debt free, go for it.

    Exponentially Eliminate Debt Using an Extra Income

    An issue that most people face when paying down debt is the rate at which they do so.

    The only way to change this rate is by decreasing your expenses or increasing your income. The problem with decreasing your expenses is that you can only do it to a certain point. But, increasing your income is limitless.

    Still cut your expenses as much as possible using tools like Trimm and BillCutterz. Once you do you’re ready to increase your income. Starting a side-hustle is the best way to do this.

    Great side-hustles to start are:

    1. Freelance writing[2]
    2. Affiliate marketing
    3. Start a blog[3]

    None of these side-hustles are easy to create. But, once you earn income from a side-hustle your finances will improve.

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    Whether you love your job or not, having a side-hustle is a great way to pay down your debt faster. You’ll also feel confident knowing that you’re not dependent one income.

    Bonus Strategies to Crush Debt

    The debt snowball method is only one of the many ways you can pay down your debt.

    If you carry a large amount of debt, then you need to explore your other options. Other options include consolidating your debt for a lower interest rate.[4] For example, if you carry balances on many credit cards, you can combine your debt into one single balance.

    Be sure to review your financial goals before making this decision. Credit card companies will offer a 12 to 18 zero interest promotion. Afterward, the interest rate will spike. This can do more harm than good if you’re still carrying a large balance after the promotion is over.

    Like balance transfers for your credit cards, you can apply for a personal loan. Here you’d combine other types of debt you carry into one single loan. This helps you save money on interest and makes your monthly payments easier to make. Crunch your numbers to be sure that you’d be saving money.

    Final Thoughts

    “The best time to plant a tree ”is or was“ was twenty years ago. The second best time is today.” – anonymous

    Imagine going to bed and not worrying about money. You’d have zero debt and better money habits. You’d sleep and feel happier.

    Wouldn’t you want this to be your reality?

    The truth is that such a reality can be yours, but you have to be willing to pay the price. It will take hard work and sacrifice to pay down all your debt. And, despite being on track setbacks are inevitable.

    You already know about a few debt strategies you can use to crush your debt. But, you first need to commit. Then, set clear financial goals and take action.

    Social pressure and other factors led you to accumulate a lot of debt. Although you’re not where you’d like to be today, you can still change your financial future for the better.

    Life is too short to let financial setbacks stop you from being happy. Now go crush your debt. A happier life, one with better sleep awaits.

    More Resources About Financial Management

    Featured photo credit: Jack Harner via unsplash.com

    Reference

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    Christopher Alarcon

    Finance Analyst and Founder of the Financially Well Off Blog & Podcast

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Definitive Guide to Get out of Debt Fast (and Forever)

    The Definitive Guide to Get out of Debt Fast (and Forever)

    Debt can feel crushing, like a weight that is always weighing you down. Looking at those numbers, it can feel as if you’ll never get out from under it. However, if you really want to learn how to get out of debt, it is possible with a great deal of focus and self-control.

    Getting out of debt isn’t impossible. Like any big goal, all that it takes is an action plan to identify where you are and creating a plan to zero out your debt.

    Identifying All of Your Debts

    The first part of paying off your debt is getting a complete picture of what you owe. When you have everything written out in front of you, it makes it much easier to create an action plan. Depending on how much you owe, it might also help you realize it’s not as bad you might have originally thought.

    Here’s how you can get started identifying your debts:

    1. Own Your Debt

    Before you start identifying all of your debts, take a moment to process that you have debt but want to get out of it.

    Forgive yourself for any past mistakes, missed payments, or overspending. It might be painful to accept how much debt you have at first, but you must own it.

    2. Make a Debt Tracker

    It’s astonishing how few people ever created a tracker to understand their total debts. Most likely, it comes from not wanting to accept the guilt of having debt, but, if avoided, it can make it nearly impossible to get out of debt.

    Open up a new Google or Microsoft Excel sheet and list out all of your debts. Start with the name of the creditor, interest rates, total balance, loan term length (if any), and the minimum amount due each payment. This will include student loans, credit cards, and any other type of debt owed.

    3. Get Your Debt Number

    Once you’ve made your debt tracker and taken the other steps, identify your total payoff number. This is crucial, as you will have a starting point and a clear goal that you are trying to achieve.

    Prioritizing Your Debts

    All debt is not created equal. It’s imperative to understand that there are different types of debt.

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    1. Understand Bad and Good Debts

    Bad debts are usually paying for things you want instead of always need. While there might be some emergencies that max out your credit cards, often times it’s excessive spending[1].

    There are three main types of bad debt:

    • Credit Card Debt: The average American household owes over $16,000 in credit card debt!
    • Auto Loan Debt: According to CNBC , the average auto loan in the US is $30,032!
    • Consumer Loan Debt: Consumer loan debt isn’t as common as credit card and auto loan debt, but it’s still considered bad as interest rates are usually between 10-28%.

    Good debt is identified as investments in your future. Here are three common types of good debt:

    • Student Loan Debt
    • Mortgage Loan
    • Business Loans

    2. Decide Which Debt to Pay off First

    Once you know each type of debt and their interest rates, you can begin to pay off debt quickly.

    Focus on paying off bad debt first, regardless of if it is a credit card or auto loan. Start by paying off the loan with the highest interest rate first.

    If you have several credit cards with different interest rates, you want to focus on the one with a higher APR. You will actually save more money by eliminating the card with the highest interest rate.

    3. Don’t Pay the Minimum Amount

    Paying the minimum amount digs you into a hole as interest rates will offset your payment. Even a small amount more than the minimum can help you pay off debt much faster.

    Removing Obstacles to Pay off Debt Quickly

    Creating a debt tracker and prioritizing a plan is simple, but avoiding temptation can be difficult.

    1. Set a Reminder to Track Your Debt

    “If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” -Peter Drucker

    It’s so important to track your debt to ensure that you get it paid off quickly. Similar to working out and measuring your results, you need to track your debt constantly. Start with a weekly reminder, where you sign on and log your updated number. Did you increase, decrease, or stay the same?

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    Regularly tracking your student loan balance can be incredibly motivating, as well. You will get a huge confidence boost each time you see your total debt amount decreases.

    Set weekly and monthly goals so you can have short term wins and keep the momentum going.

    2. Hide Your Credit Cards

    If your biggest debt is credit cards, you need to eliminate temptation and remove them from your wallet.

    Some people have gone to extreme measures by freezing their credit cards. Why? This would create an ice block around your card, which would require you to chip away at it slowly. This will give you time to think if it’s the best idea to buy that thing you’re about to buy.

    3. Automate Everything

    Willpower can be a huge downfall to paying off your debt. By automating your bills each month, you will ensure that willpower isn’t involved.

    4. Plan Ahead

    Getting out of debt will require some sacrifices, but with enough planning, you can make it work.

    For example, if you know that you have a friend’s birthday or family dinner coming up, plan ahead for the costs. Whether you need to cut back on spending the week before, pick up a side job, or meet them after dinner, do what is needed.

    5. Live Cheaply

    The only way to get out of debt is to make some sacrifices on your spending habits. Find ways to save money each month so you can apply that amount to your outstanding debts. Here are some ways to save money each month:

    • Live with roommates
    • Cook dinners and prepare lunches for work instead of eating out
    • Cut cable and choose Netflix or Amazon Prime
    • Take public transit or bike to work

    Finding the Lowest Interest Rates

    The higher your interest rates, the harder (and longer) it will take you to pay off any debt.

    If possible, you want to find ways to lower your interest rates to help get out of debt quickly. Here’s how you can get started:

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    1. Maintain a High Credit Score

    Your credit score will have a large impact on your ability to refinance your loans and receive a lower interest rate. If you have a low credit score, it’s unlikely you will be able to refinance your loans. Use these credit tips to increase and maintain an excellent score:

    • Never miss a payment
    • Don’t exceed 30% of your credit limit
    • Don’t sign up for more than one card at once
    • Limit hard inquires, like auto-loans and new credit cards
    • Monitor frequently with free credit-tracking software

    2. Find Balance Transfer Offers

    Start by opening a free account on credit.com. Credit.com offers you the chance to open a free account and see what type of balance transfer offers you can receive. Some of your existing credit cards might already have 0% or lower APR balance transfer offers available.

    Contact each of your credit card providers to ask about lowering your rate for a one-time balance transfer offer[2].

    If you do take advantage of this option, make sure that you use a balance transfer and not a cash advance. Cash advances have a ton of high interest fees (15-25%, depending on your credit card) and will only compound your debt problem.

    How to Get Rid of Debt Forever

    Setting up a plan, removing temptations, and getting the lowest interest rates is the first step to get out of debt.

    1. Keep Monitoring and Adjusting

    Once you have a plan, don’t get comfortable. Track your debt payoff plan and make the necessary adjustments when needed.

    Monitor your credit scores with a free site like CreditKarma. The higher your credit score climbs, the more likely you will be to secure a new, lower-interest loan.

    2. Earn More Money

    There are only so many ways to save money. Instead of clipping another coupon or making sacrifices for your morning coffee, find ways to earn more money!

    Think about it…it is much easier to find ways to earn an extra $1,000 per month than find $1,000 to cut from your budget.

    Here are some examples of ways to earn more money:

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    Talk to Your Boss

    Have a conversation with your boss about current salary and/or commission rates. If you’re not satisfied or want a change, don’t be afraid to look around at other positions. Some of them might even have a student loan debt reimbursement plan!

    Start a Side Hustle

    This could be coaching students on the weekends, driving for Uber, or taking paid online surveys. There are tons of ways to make money outside your 9-5. Now that you have a clear plan to pay off your debts, you’ll be more motivated than ever to figure out creative new ways to earn money.

    Build an Online Business

    There are so many websites and blogs that earn money from ads, affiliates, and other online products. Find your niche and get started.

    3. Celebrate Your Wins

    As you progress in your debt payoff journey, don’t forget to celebrate your wins. You need to always reward yourself for the hard work and discipline that is required to get out of debt.

    While you shouldn’t celebrate so big that it increases debt, make sure to factor in little rewards to keep you motivated.

    4. Set New Financial Goals

    Eventually, with a plan and these steps, you can rid yourself of your debt. Once you do, make sure to celebrate your monumental achievement, but don’t stop there.

    Now, you can focus on acquiring wealth and increasing your net worth. Set new financial goals so you have a new target to aim toward. Here’s how to set financial goals and actually meet them.

    These could be anything now that you are debt free! Think about where you want to travel, buying your first home, or saving for your future retirement. Just like before, make sure that your goals are specific, measurable, and achievable.

    Conclusion

    Congrats, you can now set a plan in motion to finally pay off your debt quickly (and hopefully forever)!

    Remember, if you want to get out of debt quickly, it’s not always easy. Just like any big goal, there will be sacrifices, challenges, and problems to overcome.

    More Tips on Getting out of Debt

    Featured photo credit: Pepi Stojanovski via unsplash.com

    Reference

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