November 25, 2014 by Leave a comment

Are you in debt and unsure how to start getting out? Or are you in debt, and unsure of if you want to find a way out? If so, that’s okay—tackling debt can be a little scary, but it’s in your best interests to start working your way out of financial trouble like this.

Don’t you want to reclaim your paycheck, and not have to send a portion of it off to a creditor? You should enjoy the money that you earn! If you’re tired of living paycheck to paycheck and having maxed out lines of credit, you can (and should) take action.

Read on to find out how you can get started making good financial decisions, and how to start making a debt repayment plan.

Making the Decision to Get Out of Debt

Deciding that you’ve had enough of debt can be empowering and overwhelming all at once. On one hand, you can’t wait to kick your debt to the curb. On the other, you’re worried about how to get there and the sacrifices it might require.

Let’s get this out of the way: there’s no wrong or right way to get out of debt. Everyone should go their own pace and choose a method that works for them. Some people are okay with giving up many possessions and “wants” while living meagerly. Others still want room to enjoy life.

Before you start on a plan to pay off your debt, you should outline what you want your journey to look like. It’s okay if it changes, but it helps to have a list to go off of when things get rough.

Make a list of your values, your goals, and your wants. Ask yourself what you’re willing to go without—and what you’re not willing to sacrifice to achieve debt freedom. Be honest with yourself about what’s truly worth it. Once you determine the parameters, you won’t have to question your priorities (or be upset if others do).

It’s also important to understand what you’ll be able to do once you’re debts are repaid. You can devote more money to your other financial goals. You can accelerate your progress to your retirement goals, for example, or save up for a big purchase. Maybe you want to take a round-the-world trip, or you’re ready to start paying down your mortgage.

Use these other financial goals as your motivation to repay consumer debts from credit cards and student loans as soon as possible. When you’re free of these burdens, you’ll be able to reach other money goals even faster!

What Are Your Numbers?

It’s difficult to face the reality of your debt situation. But in order to move forward with a plan, you need to know exactly where the numbers stand.

The easiest way to do this is to list out all the debts you have, like so:

Type Lender APR Balance Min. Payment Due Date
Credit Card Chase 11% $3,020.17 $75.00 4th
Credit Card Discover 8% $7,385.28 $130.00 8th
Student Loan Nelnet 8.5% $11,274.32 $220.00 11th
Car Loan Dealership 3% $21,295.23 $250.00 20th

You don’t have to follow a spreadsheet layout. This is just an example to help you get started. Some people like putting their numbers on a whiteboard, while others people have found creative ways to measure their success with paying off debt. Pick a method that will keep you motivated.

Creating a Repayment Plan

Now comes the fun part: strategizing! Again, there’s no wrong way to repay debt. All that matters is that you’re erasing the red on your balance sheets. There are a number of options you can choose from: pick the one that makes the most sense for your situation.

  1. The snowball method requires paying off the loan with the smallest balance. (In the example above, it’s the Chase card). This gives you a quick win and added motivation to keep going. Once Chase is paid off, you snowball the amount you were paying to Chase into the balance with the Discover card. If you paid the minimum amount, you’d be able to put $205 toward Discover from paying off Chase.
  2. The avalanche method requires paying off the loan with the highest interest rate first (in this case, Chase again). The reason for doing this is that the loan with the highest interest rate is going to cost you more down the road. Interest is ugly; the quicker you can get to paying off the principal balance, the better.
  3. You can also try a combination of both the snowball and the avalanche methods. Maybe you want to tackle the loan with the highest interest rate to get that out of the way, but then you want to target the loan with the lowest balance to get a quick win after all your hard work.
  4. The emotional method isn’t an official strategy, but it’s still an option worth covering. For some people, there is a certain debt that they absolutely despise. They would do anything to get it out of their lives. If you have one like that, feel free to attack it with a vengeance and let numbers go out the window. Then get down to strategy with the rest of what you owe.

At the end of the day, what matters is that you make progress and do what is best for you. Don’t be afraid to tweak things if one method isn’t working for you. Financial plans are rarely ever set in stone because life gets in the way.

The trick is to not give up and adapt to changes, no matter how hard it may seem at first. Share your plans with supportive friends and family members – this isn’t a journey you have to take alone.

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