Living with debt isn’t easy, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. After all, eight out of 10 Americans are in debt, and many people live their entire lives in it. While you shouldn’t be ashamed of yourself for having debt, you are the only person responsible for getting yourself out of it. Simply letting it lie and accumulate is not something you simply cannot afford to do. Don’t be one of those people who pass away still in debt for thousands of dollars, check out these tips to help you get out of debt fast.
The first thing you have to do is commit yourself to getting out of debt. It sounds simple, but getting out of debt fast is still a process that will take some time and significant lifestyle changes. It’s a lot like getting fit; you have to adopt new practices, modify old ones, and stick to these new changes for a long time. Realize that you need to change your life, and make a commitment to do so. If it helps, consider drawing a contract for yourself and signing it. A physical reminder will help you keep sight of your goals.
2. Track Your Expenses and Draw Up A Budget
To get out of debt, you are going to need money. Before you can set aside some money to help you with this problem, you need to see where your money is going. That way, you know where you can trim spending and get an idea of your plan for the future. There are a lot of budget software and services out there that can help you keep track of your spending.
However, if you are diligent enough, you can accomplish a practical budget with a simple spreadsheet. Look for unnecessary or excessive expenditures that you can trim away. Buying more than you need and paying too much for what you do can be a huge drain on the cash you need to fight debt. Shoot for around 50 percent of your take-home pay going to your expenses. It shouldn’t be any more than that.
3. Visualize Your Debt
To understand the scope of your debt, you need to see it all in one place. Research all of your debt like credit cards, mortgages and student loans and put them on a spreadsheet. On the spreadsheet, list all of your debts, balances, interest rates and the minimum payments required for each debt. You can’t climb a mountain until you know where the top is.
4. Turn Off the Tap
As you’ve undoubtedly found out, debt easily accumulates and turns molehills into mountains. When you commit to getting debt free, you have to top the flow of incoming debt. With your spending plan, avoid using credit cards at all costs and try only to spend the money you have. If you have to, call your credit card companies and have them freeze your cards. It’s okay to have moments of weakness, but plan ahead, so you aren’t drowning in debt.
5. Don’t Just Pay the Minimum
Minimum payments on your debt are the best way for credit card companies to make money off of you. Interest rates will see your debt accumulating forever and even increase over the years. That $1,000 you owe can end up costing you $5,000 or more before all is said and done. Making only the minimum payment allowed the interest to grow the debt into a monster. Commit to your spending plan and find a way to pay more than the minimum.
6. Divide and Conquer
The best way to get out of debt is to attack the largest one first; spend the majority of the money you committed to paying down debt on the most significant amount you owe or the one with the highest interest rate.
Not only will eliminating one of the debts free up more money for the others and help them get paid down faster, but your feeling of accomplishment will also help you stay the course. The only time making the minimum payment on debt is acceptable is if you follow the “biggest first” strategy. Make the minimums if you have to, just as long as you are throwing everything you have into slaying the biggest beast around. Then move to the next.
7. Renegotiate and Restructure
Your debt doesn’t have to remain in its current state. Some lenders, for mortgages especially, will renegotiate your debt and get you a lower interest rate if you meet certain criteria. They do this because it’s easier for them to have you pay it back on time rather than declaring bankruptcy and them coming after you. Restructuring or refinancing your debt can also help you get your interest under control. This refinancing does not eliminate your debt; it just lowers your interest rate in some cases. Do your research though. Sometimes it will cost you fees that outweigh the benefits.
8. Change Your Habits
Overspending is one of the most common ways that puts us in debt. Look at your life and see what changes you can make to lower your spending and free up extra cash to go toward debt. Stay in on the weekends and don’t cave to peer pressure to go out. Buy in bulk and prepare your own lunches instead of eating out every lunch break.
Any bonuses, gifts or unexpected income should be put towards your debt and not an expensive treat. Drop the gym membership and exercise outside, cut out your phone bill and use data only with VoIP services to communicate, there are countless little things you can do to shave off expenses here and there to get more money towards making you debt free.
9. Start Saving, Don’t Let It Happen Again
Once the day finally comes when you are debt free, your fight isn’t over. Just like getting fit, you can gain the debt back if you go back to your old ways. You made the change and enriched your life by getting out of debt; it’s now time to keep it that way. Stick to your lifestyle changes and open a savings account for all that extra money. Don’t let history repeat itself.