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14 Important Steps You Should Take To Free Yourself From Debt

14 Important Steps You Should Take To Free Yourself From Debt

Whether your current debt is large or small, the challenge of getting out from under bills and “I owe yous” can feel insurmountable.

Free yourself from the quicksand by doing the following.

1. Acknowledge that Houston, we do have a problem.

If you are in debt, you have a problem. The degree to which the problem is manageable depends on whether you are in planned, deliberate debt, such as student loans or the purchase of a specific type of vehicle for work; or in chaotic debt, such as the kind that results from taking too many pretty dates out for expensive drinks you can’t afford. You must accept that debt is a problem before you can fix it. So throw your hand in the air, state your name, affirm that you have a challenge before you, and commit to meeting that challenge and free yourself from debt.

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2. Take stock of the situation.

Why are you in debt? What are you spending money on? How much money are you making? Has your debt increased, or are you having trouble climbing out from under hefty interest payments? Are your expenses driving you further into debt, or is it the costs associated with caring for a family member? Don’t worry about finding solutions just yet—first, identify the problem areas.

3. Step back from your emotions.

Spending habits are deeply personal, because they reflect our priorities. There are often added layers of shame, guilt, and regret when discussing debt.  Recognize that none of those emotions will help you solve your current debt problem, and step away from them.  Focus on the fact that you are taking control, you are asserting yourself, and you are disciplined and focused enough to make this happen, all of which are positive emotions.

4. Break out your pen.

Dedicate a notebook or binder to your “get out of debt” plan. Write down anything you identified as a problem area. Be sure to list all debts, who or what you owe money to, and your current payment schedule.

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5. Stop flailing.

While you are evaluating your spending habits and developing a course of action to correct your debt, stop spending. It is much easier to evaluate how and why the boat is leaking without more water pouring in. When you make purchases again, you will be able to do so with deliberate intention.

6. Record all expenditures.

Create a section in your notebook, or an online spreadsheet, to evaluate all expenditures over the course of the last six months. Print credit card statements, online bank records, and dig those receipts out of your purse, car, and gym bag. You must gain an accurate picture of where your money is going, and if debt is a problem, you likely don’t have this picture as in focus as you would like.

7. Identify patterns.

Can you identify patterns in your spending? Do you, for instance, always break the bank when you visit certain stores, or the day you get your paycheck? Do you spend a great deal of money on certain activities?

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8. Categorize spending, and prioritize.

Food, water, basic shelter, simple transportation, and functional clothing are needs.  Everything else is a “want.”  Break your spending into categories, starting with “needs” and “wants.”  Cut out all unnecessary items, and realize this might mean your cable subscription, smart phone, high speed internet, and a slew of other high-tag luxuries modern man is accustomed to having at his fingertips.

9. Be willing to make big changes.

Is rent eating you alive, or are you spending high dollars in gas each month to commute? You may have to move, locally or to another state, to lower your cost of living. You may have to drastically downsize. You may have to put that hobby on hold for a while. Commit to doing whatever it takes to get out of debt.

10. Seek expert help.

You are not the only person to stagger under debt, nor will you be the last. Talk to a financial planner at your bank, or attend a debt management class. There are numerous resources available.

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11. Do your own research.

Anytime the subject is money, be sure to actively engage your brain, scrutinizing all information you receive to confirm or reject its application to your financial situation. Get a library card, and spend some quality time there getting smart on financial management basics, as well as any unique considerations you may have. Bonus: libraries often offer basic financial management classes

12. Get creative in boosting income.

An extra dollar earned is an extra dollar to pay off that debt.  No opportunity is too menial, too demanding, or too low-paying for your time; if you’re in debt, you literally cannot afford to pass up income opportunities. Take a formal second job, or babysit, walk dogs, shovel manure at a community barn, scrub dishes, freelance online—aggressively seek opportunities for additional income and seize them.

13. Pay the maximum monthly amount possible.

Does your lender have penalties for paying off your debt early? Pay the maximum monthly amount possible without penalty, on time, every month.

14. Stay the course.

It took you a while to accumulate debt, and it is going to take you a while to get out from under it. Remain patient, keep chipping away at it, and soon you will be debt free and relaxed.

Featured photo credit: LendingMemo.com via flickr.com

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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.

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Featured photo credit: Pepi Stojanovski via unsplash.com

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