Debt can cast a shadow over our lives, causing feelings of hopelessness as it keeps growing and growing. Aside from a great windfall of money, like winning the lottery, there is no quick fix for getting out of debt instantaneously. However, there are a few tips and tricks that can be used to get out of debt quicker if you are willing to put in the time and effort.
Confront Your Debt
First and foremost, if you have not done so already, confront your debt head on and really look at what you are dealing with. Figure out the total amount you owe and use a debt calculator to estimate how long it will take you to pay it off. Make a commitment to get out of debt by a certain date and work as hard as you can to make that happen. Create a realistic budget using your income, expenses, and debt and see if there’s anywhere you can cut corners.
Even if you are living paycheck to paycheck, there are still ways you can aggressively go after your debt. One of the easiest ways to get out of debt faster is by paying more than the minimum due each month. Doing so may require getting a side gig, second job, or higher paying job, but you’ll do whatever it takes to be debt-free, right? If you are able to pay double your minimum payment every month, you’ll cut down the time it takes to pay off your credit card or loan and reduce the total amount that’s compounded due to interest.
Lower Your Interest Rates
Speaking of interest, lowering your interest rates can help you get out of debt quicker as well. Amazingly, most of the time all you have to do is ask your creditors. You can call up the customer service number for your credit card, or even chat with a representative online who will see if there are any promotional rates available. Most of the time, the new interest rate will only apply to new purchases, but will greatly reduce the amount you owe over time especially with a large balance.
You could also do a balance transfer to a credit card with 0% APR in order to stop the accumulation of interest. While there is often a small fee for transfers, it’s usually worth it if you are able to pay off the amount before the promotional interest rate expires.
Changing your mentality regarding money and only using lending tools like loans and credit cards for extreme emergencies will also help you get out of debt sooner. Many of us use credit cards because we don’t have the money to pay for something, but doing so just creates a circle of debt as the amount we used on credit increases because we still don’t have the money to pay it off. If you can stop using credit and loans in place of cash, and only buy what you can afford, you can halt the vicious cycle of debt and begin to chip away at it.
Two of the most efficient ways of attacking debt are the stack and snowball methods. Stacking is when you rank your debt by interest rate and start with the highest interest rate first. It also includes paying at least the minimum amount on all of your debt. For the highest interest rate debt however, you gradually increase the amount you pay as you find more expenses to cut and your minimum payment gradually decreases. You keep adding on the difference from month to month, as the debt gets smaller and smaller, and therefore your payment gets larger and larger until you pay off the debt completely. It then starts all over with the next debt, using the last payment amount from the paid off debt.
The snowball method is similar because you are still paying at least the minimum on all your debt, but the focus is paying off the smallest debt first to get it out of the way. You then take that payment you were making and apply it to the next bill and so on and so forth. While either method is effective, many people prefer the former because you’ll usually pay less in interest over time.
Finally, if you are having a difficult time managing your money or your debt and need a little extra help, there are many free or low cost debt-counseling options available. The most well known organization that deals with debt counseling is the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or NFCC. The NFCC can connect you with a debt counselor who specializes in the type of debt you have, whether it’s student loans, a mortgage, or even if you’re facing bankruptcy. They also provide financial education resources and can help make your debt manageable based on your personal circumstances.
Don’t let debt get you down. Anyone can be debt free with the proper combination of self-education, self-discipline, and professional assistance. Make paying off your debt a priority.