The lucky ones make it to their twenties without inuring an unfathomable amount of debt. It seems that these days the lucky ones are becoming fewer and father between. Although I was one of them, my fiancé was not so fortunate. Now his debt is quickly becoming my debt and we are both paying for it. Climbing out from underneath a soul-crushing debt load can be perilous, with many pitfalls along the way, to prevent you from ever completing the journey. There is one ray of hope for the tragic majority, the right way to quickly and efficiently pay off your debt.
The first step is easy said than done; stop spending. Whether your debt is a direct result of bad purchasing habits or not, in the case of student debt, you are going to need all the money you can possibly spare, contributed towards your debt repayment plan.
The next step is developing a debt repayment plan. Simply having a plan can shave decades of the time it would take you to pay off your debt if you just went about it haphazardly. To form a realistic plan, you need to first make a budget, so you know where all of your money is going, and just how much you can afford to put towards your debt every month. This is the time to evaluate your debts. You need to organize them by both, the size of the debt and the differing interest rates. Logic would tell you to pay off the debts with the highest interest rates first, but this is not always the best way to go about it. For example, if you have a debt of $5000 with an interest rate of 20% and a debt of $500 with an interest rate of 4%, it would be better to pay of the smaller debt first and the larger debt second. Say you planned to put $255 towards paying off your smaller debt every month, while still paying a $25 minimum payment on the larger debt. It will take you two months to pay it off and you will have only added approximately $120 to the larger debt in interest. Then you can that $25 minimum payment towards the debt repayment total. It will then take you 26 months to pay off the larger debt. Whereas, if you were to pay the larger debt first, with the same parameters, it would take you 30 months to pay it off, with $50 added to the smaller debt, which will take you an additional two months to pay off. In total, paying the off the smaller debt with the smaller interest rate first, and then focusing on the larger debt alone, will take you 28 months and cost $7670 to pay off $5500 worth of debt. Doing it the other way around, it will take you 32 months and cost $8050 to pay off a $5500 debt. Every situation is different, you need to sit down with the math and figure out what works best for you.
Some small steps can go a long way when it comes to paying off a debt. Occasionally, a credit card company will lower your interest rate, or even reduce the amount you owe, if you ask nicely, simply because they make a lot of money off of you and they would like to keep you as a customer. It doesn’t always work but it doesn’t hurt to try. Calculate how long it will take you to pay off your debt and mark the day on your calendar; this will encourage you to stick with your plan. Develop a method to make sure you pay your bills on time, if this is an area you struggle with. Tell your friends and family about your debt and your plan to pay it off, this way they will understand that you are going to need to change your lifestyle and they won’t knowingly pressure you to revert back to your old habits.
If you can’t find any extra money in your budget to put towards debt repayment, it’s time to make major cuts. Move to a smaller apartment; trade in your car for something less expensive; find sources of free entertainment to replace more costly adventures. Having a goal in mind, like living in a smaller apartment so you can buy a house sooner, will make it easier to give these things up. Money can’t buy happiness, but getting out of debt sure feels good.