When you have a lot of bills for loans and credit cards on top of all your regular expenses, the idea of paying off your debt can be overwhelming. To get your debt under control, you need to start small. Pick one debt and stay laser-focused on paying it off, and you’ll build confidence and momentum as you reach your goal. Here’s how to knock out that first debt.
Step 1: Pick the Right Debt
The faster you pay off a debt, the less interest you pay in the long run. Start with the debt that has the highest interest rate, since knocking it out will save you the most money. The one exception to this rule is with tax-deductible debt; mortgage and student loan interest are often deductible, so they’re not as toxic as your other consumer debt.
Step 2: Make Extra Payments Each Month
If you pay the minimum required on your credit card, you could be paying for your fancy stuff for years after it’s gone out of style. Paying the minimum on a loan means being stuck with the monthly payment until the last possible date. Make every effort to add some extra cash to your monthly bill payment. Even just $50 more each month can make a big dent in your debt, save on interest and get the bill paid off much faster.
Step 3: Commit to Trimming Your Budget
To make those extra payments happen, decide right now what you can live without. It doesn’t have to be big; in fact, it’s best to make sure it’s a manageable change that doesn’t leave you feeling deprived. Is it one take-out dinner per week? No more Starbucks on the ride to work? Paring down to basic cable? It doesn’t matter what you cut. The important thing is that you know exactly how much money you’re saving each month so you can add that amount to your debt payment. This way, your savings won’t be lost in the shuffle; you’ll be committed to that extra payment instead.
What do you do when your debt is finally paid off? Take the monthly minimum payment, plus the extra payments you were making, and immediately start adding that as the extra payment to your next debt. That next one will get knocked out even more quickly, and soon you’ll be completely debt-free. If you stay focused on one debt at a time, you can make it happen.