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Pay Down Your Debt Fast: The Snowball Effect

Pay Down Your Debt Fast: The Snowball Effect

    Paying for school sucks.

    You end up getting a decent education (maybe), but come to quickly find out that most of what you learned is not exactly everything you need in the real world. In fact, you may find that you learn more in the first six months at your new job than you did during your entire time at school!

    What hurts worse is that most people, at least in the US, are paying more every year for school. This means larger and larger amounts of education debt as well as consumer debt. Think of all that pizza!

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    But, the size of your debt doesn’t have to scare you. Trust me; it scared the hell out of me for a while. This is how I dealt and continue to deal with it.

    Budget

    A debt snowball doesn’t work without a good budget in place. I know that this may be the last thing that you want to hear about getting rid of your debt, but seriously, it won’t work without a budget. I didn’t realize the strength of budgeting until I got on the You Need a Budget bandwagon and followed that “system.” This helped me see my life in the form of item buckets and a “Buffer” so I could get close to being a month ahead on all my bills.

    Having this leeway in your money is the first step to trying to find the little extra each month to pay down your debt fast. When you have the month buffer sitting in front of you, you can more realistically and with less fear, approach paying down your debts.

    Make the list

    Next, you need to know the exact amount of each of your debts as well as their interest rates and minimum payments. After you get this information you can make the list in either two forms:

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    1. In order from lowest to highest amount.
    2. In order from highest to lowest interest rate.

    To be honest, most people will tell you to pay the highest interest rate debts first. That makes sense for the most part, especially if you want to save money with some debts with ridiculously high interest rates. But, I chose to pick my lowest amount first.

    Why?

    Because I could get satisfaction of paying off one of my debts and see the effects of the debt snowball faster. That’s all.

    You should take it by a case to case basis though. Try to weigh how much you owe against the interest rate to see which method is better. You may even need to approach it a different way, like if you have a very low debt amount with a super high interest rate and a huge debt amount with a mediocre interest rate. You have to see which way you are paying more money in the long run, then avoid that way.

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    The law of three

    After you know your minimums and add them and everything else you need in your life to your budget, you should have some shillings left. If you don’t, this isn’t the post to tell you how to make more money. Instead, try to stick to the absolute essentials in your budget. If you have entertainment money; cut it. We will create some of that shortly.

    Now that you have some extra money un-budgeted for the month, you have to split it into three equal pieces for:

    1. Savings
    2. Debt
    3. Fun money

    Some debt gurus will say that you shouldn’t have any fun money, you should strictly concentrate on paying down debt and saving. I say, “screw that,” that is unless you are in dire straights and need out of debt in a hurry.

    This extra money you have for debt, that is the money that you will put on top of your minimum payment to your first debt in the list you made above. Once that first debt is payed off then you will move the minimum plus the extra money for debt to the next debt payment and so one.

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    See it? A snowball!

    Here is what is awesome. None of this accounts for you making more money during the month. As soon as you start pulling in any more money, you can throw it towards you debt, or use it as more play money, or buy some pizza. It doesn’t necessarily matter.

    Now calculate

    You can do this on paper, if you are like a crazy mathematics ninja, but I prefer the digital way because it is easier to keep track of and idiot proof. One of the best ways that I have found that works on Mac and PC is with the trusty ol’ Vertex42 Debt Reduction Calculator Spreadsheet. I first saw this thing mentioned on Get Rich Slowly in 2006, but it still holds true today. Since then I have migrated to an iPhone app called DebtPayoff Pro that is great. There are many more out there, but these are the ones that have worked well for me in the past and present.

    Now that you have a tool you can enter all your debt information, how much money you are going to throw extra toward your debt, and the starting balance date. Then you can get an idea of when certain debts will be paid off as well as when the total debt will be paid off. If you are putting away a decent amount of money extra toward debt, you are going to be very surprised at just how fast your debt diminishes.

    Now party

    Paying down your debt fast can feel like the biggest burden in your life, especially if you have a lot of it. The truth of the matter is, if you can cover your minimum payments right now and have a little money extra every month, you can put a serious hurtin’ on your debt.

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    CM Smith

    A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get things done.

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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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