Getting out of debt may seem impossible, but with some planning, discipline, and a few lifestyle changes, you can do it! Here’s a simple guide to help you take control of your finances and get back on track.
Assess Your Situation
The first step is understanding exactly where you stand. Make a list of all your debts—credit cards, medical bills, student loans, etc. For each one, write down the amount owed, interest rate, and minimum monthly payment. This gives you a bird’s-eye view of what you’re dealing with.
Next, look at your income and expenses. How much are you bringing in each month, and where is it going? Track your spending for 1-2 months using an app like Mint to identify areas where you may be able to cut back, like eating out, entertainment, or impulse purchases.
Having all this information in one place will make it easier to come up with a solid debt payoff plan.
Get on a Budget
A budget is essential for getting out of debt. It helps you align your spending with your priorities so more money can go toward paying off what you owe. Here are some budgeting tips:
- Categorize expenses as “needs” (rent, utilities, groceries) or “wants” (dining out, movies)
- Look for ways to cut discretionary spending on wants
- Aim to put any extra income after expenses toward debt payoff
- Use a budget worksheet or app to track spending
- Revisit your budget frequently and adjust as needed
Having a budget takes dedication, but it’s a powerful tool for taking control of your finances.
Increase Your Income
Bringing in more money each month can go a long way toward getting out of debt faster. Here are some ideas to boost your income:
- Ask for a raise at your current job
- Look for part-time gigs with a flexible schedule, like rideshare driving or tutoring
- Sell unused items around the house
- Develop a side hustle, like freelance writing, web design, or selling crafts
Even an extra $200-500 a month can make a difference in how quickly you can pay down debt. The key is finding options that work with your schedule.
Pay Off Debts Methodically
There are a few different approaches to decide which debts to pay off first:
- Snowball method: Focus on paying off your smallest debts first. Once the first one is paid off, roll that payment amount into the next smallest debt. This gives you quick wins and keeps you motivated.
- Avalanche method: Prioritize paying off debts with the highest interest rates first, while making minimum payments on the others. This saves you the most money overall.
- Balance transfer: Transfer high interest credit card balances to a 0% APR card. This minimizes interest costs in the short term.
Automate payments on your debts to avoid late fees. As you pay off each one, reroute those funds to tackle the next debt. Maintaining this discipline is key!
Consider Debt Consolidation
Debt consolidation combines multiple debts into one new loan with a lower monthly payment. This can make managing payments easier, but watch out for high fees. Options include:
- Balance transfer credit card: Transfer balances from high-interest cards onto a card with a 0% intro APR.
- Debt management plan: A credit counseling agency works with creditors to lower interest rates and create a single payment.
- Debt consolidation loan: Banks, credit unions, and online lenders offer debt consolidation loans.
- Home equity loan: Lets you borrow against home equity at a lower rate to pay off higher-interest debts.
Make sure to comparison shop across multiple lenders and read the fine print before choosing a debt consolidation option.
Avoid Quick-Fix Scams
When you’re desperate to get out of debt, shady companies may promise fast help – for an upfront fee. Avoid “solutions” that seem too good to be true, like debt settlement or debt relief that require large payments before settling debts. These plans often leave people deeper in debt!
Stick to reputable, nonprofit credit counseling agencies like the NFCC if you need guidance managing debt. And never pay an upfront fee – good services are pay-as-you-go.
Make Lifestyle Changes
Getting your debt under control may require some sacrifices and changes:
- Cut expenses like cable TV, gym memberships, or vacations
- Downsize your home, vehicle, or other expensive items
- Pick up a side gig for extra income
- Limit use of credit cards and only buy essentials
- Cook at home more instead of eating out
- Find free activities like hiking or library events
Living frugally for a while can help you get out of debt faster. And developing smart money habits now will keep you out of debt in the future.
Debt can negatively impact mental health. Connecting with others helps:
- Join a support group like Debtors Anonymous
- Talk to trusted friends or family about your challenges
- Seek free credit counseling for guidance
- Share your story on forums like r/Debt
You don’t have to tackle debt alone. Support from people who understand can make the process less stressful.
Don’t Give Up!
Getting out of debt takes time, but developing a plan and sticking to it pays off. Avoid discouragement by tracking small wins, like hitting savings goals or paying off the first credit card. Celebrate your progress, and know there is a light at the end of the tunnel! With focus and determination, you can take control of your finances and break free of debt.