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Last Updated on June 1, 2020

How to Pay off Debt Fast Using the Stack Method (A Step-By-Step Guide)

How to Pay off Debt Fast Using the Stack Method (A Step-By-Step Guide)

Whether it’s consumer debt on credit cards, student loans[1], or a mortgage, most people find themselves weighed down by debt at some point in their lives. This can keep us working jobs we hate just to pay the bills and keep our heads above water. By learning how to pay off debt fast, you can release this burden and remove some of the stress from your life.

The Stack Method is one way to do this. Once you understand it, you too can learn how to pay off debt fast.

What Is the Stack Method?

The Stack Method, often referred to as “debt stacking,” requires making a list of all your sources of debt, starting with the debts that incur the highest interest. Then, you make the minimum payments for each source of debt, but when any extra money comes your way, you throw it at the debt at the top of the list. This way, you eliminate the debts with the most interest first, dropping extra costs to a manageable level in a fairly short amount of time.

To get started with the Stack Method, go through these steps and overcome those mountains of debt today.

1. Stop Creating New Debt

Most people do not receive training in handling money and how to live within their means. If you’re in debt, then you’re probably one of these people, and it’s time to bite the reality bullet.

It’s going to be impossible to get out of debt unless you retrain your financial habits right now.

You must make a stand against all the marketers trying to take your hard earned money or offering easy finance. You don’t need more stuff to make you happy. What you need is financial peace of mind.

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So cut up your credit cards or freeze them. I mean this literally. Put them in a container of water and stash them in your freezer. Then, when there’s an opportunity to spend, you have time to thaw out (you and the credit cards) and really decide if you need that purchase.

2. Rank Your Debt by Interest Rate

Make a list of all your debt with amounts and the interest rate. The highest interest rate should be at the top as this is what you’ll pay off first.

Paying off your high interest debt is the key to the Stack Method.

Interest is a powerful weapon, and right now the bank or other financial institutions are using it against you. Interest significantly increases the amount you need to pay back, and often we’re completely unaware of how much that is.

For example, if you have a $10,000 credit card debt at 20% interest where you pay a minimum payment of $200 a month, you will end up taking 9 years and 8 months to pay off the actual amount of $21,680 including $11,680 in interest!

3. Lower Your Interest Rates

You can often lower your credit card interest rates by doing a balance transfer. This means moving your credit card to another bank, where they will lower the interest rate to get your business[2].

Shop around and try to get the lowest interest rate for the longest duration (preferably until it’s paid off completely). Just make sure you’re reading the terms and conditions carefully so you don’t get stung by the new bank in other ways.

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Once you’ve done this, you can order your list of debt again if interest rates have shifted.

4. Create a Strategic Spending Plan

This is where we improve your financial control from Step 1. Take a piece of paper and write down your income after tax and all the expenses that you have. This will include the minimum payments on all your debt.

Look at your expenses, and then rank them in order of importance to you. Look at the items on the bottom of your list and decide whether you’d rather have them or be financially stable. The objective is to create a spending  plan where your expenses are lower than your income.

You also decide how much you are willing to spend on each area of your life. You can allocate amounts for rent, groceries, eating out, buying clothes, and other activities. However, realize that once you’ve spent your allocated money, there’s no dipping into other areas[3].

It also helps to have a “Fun Account” that you can spend on what you like, and an “Emergencies Account” in case your car breaks down or other unfortunate incidents come up.

You also want to include the extra amount you’re going to use to pay off debt in your spending plan.

Can you afford $20 a week? $50? $100? $200 or more? It’s important that you get a realistic number that you can commit to each week without fail, and this is your Stack Repayment.

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5. Create a Payment Schedule

The first part of the Stack Method is to cover the minimum payment on every single debt you have. Any time you miss a payment, you incur fees, and these add up quickly. This also includes making the minimum payment on the debt with the highest interest rate.

Then for the debt with the highest interest rate (your Target Debt), you’re going to add the Stack Repayment from your strategic spending plan. You apply this Stack Repayment and the minimum payment until that debt is paid off in full.

As your official minimum payment decreases, you add that extra amount to your Stack Repayment. So, as your minimum repayment drops, your Stack Repayment increases equally. This will compound how fast you pay off the Target Debt by adding even more to the payments you’re making.

6. Reward Your Progress

You want to track your Target Debt so you can see your progress along the way. You can also decide on milestones that you’re going to celebrate and reward yourself for.

A reward doesn’t have to cost money, but if it does then it comes from your previously allocated spending plan.

This is an important step as it will keep your motivation going when you feel your willpower fading.

Just like you’ve trained yourself to brush your teeth and shower, you can train yourself to manage your money. Feel great that you’re now entering the 10-20% of people who are actually responsible with money.

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7. Compound Your Results

Once you pay off your Target Debt, have a huge celebration and congratulate yourself. Then, you move the Stack Repayment (which includes the previous minimum payment now) to the next debt with the highest interest rate.

This becomes the new Target Debt, and you are using your Stack Repayment amount plus the minimum payment for the new debt.

This is why the Stack Method is so powerful. As you decrease a debt, you actually increase your Stack Repayment amount. This means the second debt will get paid off even faster, the third even faster than that, and so on and so on until you are completely debt free.

8. Be Kind to Yourself

During this process, your resolve is going to be tested multiple times. Maybe you’ll have an emergency like your car breaking down or the need to travel for a sick relative. The important thing is to not throw up your hands in despair and slipping back into your old habits.

Life will test your commitment to your new responsible money attitude, and it’s up to you how you respond. When things go wrong (and I guarantee they will), you need to shrug it off and get back on track.

Show compassion when you accidentally go over your target spending amount and decide to do better next week.

The Bottom Line

The Stack Method is a powerful tool, but it’s up to you whether you use it effectively. If you really want results, then bookmark this article immediately and start working through the steps.

It’s only by the decision you make right now that you will enjoy a debt-free future and live a financially responsible life.

More Tips on How to Pay off Debt Fast

Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

Reference

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Craig Dewe

Craig founded Lifestyle Outlaws, with the belief that everyone should have the time, money and health to do what they want with life.

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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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