Debt reduction can be a very daunting task, especially for younger people who have amassed credit card bills and student loans. Once your debt reaches five figures, it can be very tempting to push the biggest bills to the back of the pile and focus on everyday needs, but ignoring the numbers won’t make them go away (no matter how hard we try).
Whether it’s a new graduate who is looking for solid employment or a family who has found themselves in a little too deep, there are some strategies out there that will help with organization and prioritization, two biggies when it comes time to dig oneself out. According to Credit.com, there are five steps you should go through before you do anything else:
Go to the bill holder and gather all your paperwork. Even if your first urge is to burn it, it will help to see exactly where you are with your finances. Make a spreadsheet, or use an old-fashioned calculator and pen and paper to list all of your debts. Track any auto loans, credit card bills, interest rates, and the monthly amounts you’re required to pay.
Write down the amount needed for monthly groceries, child care expenses, gas, rent, utilities, etc. Is it more than what you bring in for the month? That’s not good. There are usually ways to cut back, and you might be surprised at where you can find a little extra dough. You may be able to bundle your cable, internet, and phone through your service provider, or carpool to save on gas. Little things add up.
Found a way to save a little? Recalculate your expenses against what you’re bringing in, and the number that’s left can be used to hit some of that debt. Try to stay on track every month; it helps if you can gradually add to the amount you’re putting towards the debt. Hit the one with the highest payment/interest amount first.
No one wants to talk to a debt collector over the phone, but sometimes if you call and ask about payment plans, they’ll help you figure out a way to pay down what you owe so you don’t have to lay out a lump sum. You can also see about moving some of your credit card debt to a card with a lower interest rate; just make sure you don’t add to your debt and keep it off limits for spending.
5. Follow Through With It!
It’s difficult to stay on task when it comes to credit card debt, especially when emergencies come up or when an awesome pair of shoes go on sale, but just remind yourself that even if you don’t immediately see the results you want, they will come. Get the biggest debt paid off, then move on to the next one. Trying to tackle them simultaneously can be overwhelming and eat into your budget.
According to consumer money expert Holly Perez, it’s also a good idea to check out other opportunities for income–such as freelance writing, which can be done from home–and set aside an emergency portion of your savings so that if you have to dip into it, there will still be a substantial amount left in case anything unforseen happens.
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