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Paying off debt

he average U.S. household has over $200,000 of debt, so don’t feel alone! Debt is overwhelming and a lot of people avoid dealing with it because it’s too stressful.

The sooner you start, the easier it will be.

 

Create a budget

A monthly budget will show you where your money is going, and help you to cut back spending to put it toward paying your debt.

budget

 

Start an emergency fund

Before you begin, you should secure yourself so you won’t go further into debt during the process. Setting aside a small emergency fund now will give you some flexibility if an unexpected cost arises. A good amount is $1,000.

emergency fund

 

Negotiate your debt as low as possible

If you have a large amount of debt, you can sometimes negotiate it down. Call and see what they’ll offer you. Sometimes you can pay half of it, if you have funds immediately available. Sometimes they’ll lower it just because they know they have a small possibility of getting the entire debt back from you.

NOTE: Negotiating your debt down may have negative ramifications on your credit score, so that’s something to keep in mind.

negotiating debt

What debt do you pay first?

One option is to pay the smallest debt first. If you have a credit card with only $200 compared to thousands of dollars on other debts, then paying off the credit card first will give you extra money each month to put toward the others. The idea is that you keep momentum by paying off smallest first because it’s more satisfying to see your progress.

Dave Ramsey supports this method (“the debt-snowball”) because personal finance is “20 percent head knowledge and 80 percent behavior.” This method keeps you motivated.

Another, more mathematically logical, option is to pay the most expensive debt first. This makes sense because the faster you get rid of the higher interest rate, the less money you will inevitably spend.

paying debt in order

 

Start paying the first debt

Once you decide on an order, pay the minimum on every debt except for the one you’re targeting. When that’s paid off, move to the next one.

Sell stuff

If you have unwanted or unneeded items around your house, try to sell them. Since this is extra income, all of it can go toward debt.

selling to pay debt

Get a part-time job

Get a part-time job or do freelance on the side. Cutting grass, babysitting, selling crafts on Etsy, filling out surveys, etc. Again, since this is technically extra income, all of it should go toward paying your debts.

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Finish your emergency fund

Once you’re debt-free, finish off your emergency fund. This should be between 2 and 6 months of expenses. In case of an unexpected illness or injury, you’re set for a while without an income, so you won’t have to accumulate more debt.

Be patient with yourself!

Paying off debt could take years, especially with student loans. Keep yourself on track and do it as fast as you can, but your physical and mental health are the most important things. Take care of yourself while you strive for financial freedom.

What’s your biggest struggle with debt? Do you have any tips?

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