By Thomas Erikson
Debt reduction doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience. Who wants to deal with a cure that’s more painful than the ailment? Mounting debt is stressful enough – then you have to face the task of figuring out just where to start if you want to get rid of it. Then there are all the different angles of attack you can take and that just adds to the frustration.
So here’s a simplified approach that will get you started in the right direction for debt reduction. After all, sometimes the simplest approach is the most effective. This 9 step plan can help you get out of debt and stay out.
Spend Less Than You Make: Easier said than done, right? I agree, but this is the very first step in any debt reduction effort. And there’s no getting around it. The only way to get out of debt is to spend less than you make. The key is to get determined to make it happen.
Make A Budget: Your budget is your plan. Follow it and it will get you where you want to go. Most people don’t like the budgeting part but it’s absolutely necessary. The key to a budget is don’t make it too complicated. You don’t need to account for every single penny.
To find your starting point, determine how much you spend each month and what you spend it on. Make a list of all your typical expenses you would have over a one month period. Then you see where you can make cuts and adjustments. Keep finding ways to reduce those expenses until you are spending less than you make. Laying it all out in a budget and sticking to it will help keep your spending under control.
Know the Difference Between Good Debt And Bad Debt: Good debt helps you make money in the long run or at least won’t help you lose money. Your mortgage and student loans are examples of good debt. Your house usually appreciates over time and an education usually helps you get better paying jobs.
A car loan is neither good nor bad. They tend to be lower interest loans but cars typically don’t appreciate in value. So the best thing is to make sure your car loan is manageable and fits within your budget.
All other debt is bad debt. This includes credit card debt, payday advances, and all high interest credit or loans. These are the things that don’t appreciate in value and now that you have put them on credit or loan, you just continue to pay for them month after month in the form of interest. So you want to tackle these debts head on in your debt reduction efforts.
Choose The Lowest Interest Rate Credit Card: Make sure the monthly spending limit is within your monthly budget and use this card for emergencies only. Then cut up the rest of your credit cards. Now that you have your lowest interest rate card, never take it with you when you go shopping. Use cash or your debit card only.
Take A Look At All Your “Bad Debt”: Find out how much you owe by adding up all the minimum monthly payments. You’ll want to pay this and more each month in order to pay off all that bad debt. Make sure you don’t just pay the minimum or it’ll never go away. After all, the name of the game is debt reduction. If this doesn’t realistically fit into your monthly budget, then step 6 will help tackle the problem.
Consolidate Your Debt: Getting a debt consolidation loan can make your debt reduction efforts much easier. First, it lumps all of your loans into one loan so your monthly payments are lower and fit within your budget. Second, you can probably get a much lower interest rate than what you’re currently paying (especially on credit card debt). Third, it simplifies things. Debt consolidation bundles it all into one loan with one monthly payment which means it’s easier to keep on top of it.
Stack Your Bill Payments: What is this? It happens to be one of the most important things you can do when it comes to debt reduction. Stacking (or snowballing) is a way of accelerating your effectiveness when paying off your debt. This is how it works.
Take your ‘bad debt’ bills from step 5, and put them in order from highest interest rate charged to lowest. Choose the highest interest rate bill and pay the minimum plus as much extra as you can on that bill, while paying the minimum payments on the rest of the lower interest rate bills. Keep doing that until the highest interest rate bill is completely paid off. Then repeat the process with the next highest interest bill, paying the minimum plus as much extra as possible while paying the minimum payments on the rest of your lower interest rate bills. Because you no longer have that first bill to pay, the extra monthly savings help pay off the second highest bill even faster. Then just keep repeating until they are all paid off.
Ask For A Lower Interest Rate: With each of your outstanding credit card bills, call the company and ask for a lower rate. You can explain that you are a loyal customer but you’re being offered much lower rates from other companies. This includes the bills for the cards you have already cut up. They don’t need to know that you cut up their card. The goal is to pay as little interest as possible while you are trying to get rid of the debt. That way you have more money each month for your debt reduction efforts.
Make Sure You Have Enough For Emergencies: It’s great to be aggressively paying off your debt but you need to plan for the unexpected. You don’t want to be on such a tight budget each month that it doesn’t allow for a misstep. You need to be in a position where you can make your mortgage payment or car loan payment.
Each of these debt reduction steps is achievable if you put your mind to it. A little willpower and this 9 step plan and instead of stressing about your debts you may find yourself trying to figure out what to do with all your savings.
Thomas Erikson is co-founder of Your-Debt-Consolidation-Loan.com which provides debt consolidation and credit information and solutions.
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