Similar to a weight-loss plan, paying off debt requires dedication, determination and persistence. Trying to pay it down with drastic measures is not the wise way to go because you can’t really get to the root of the problem by doing so.
Don’t believe me? Just think about what happens to those who crash diet. Debt reduction works in the same manner; brief bouts of deprivation only make things worse.
Here are a few smart ways to pay off debt fast:
1. Stop using your cards
I hear people complaining all the time about how much debt they’re in and how they desperately want a way out. My response: Are you still using your credit cards?
The answer is typically yes, which presents a big problem. If you really want to get out of debt, you will have to stop using your cards. The more you swipe, the more the balance climbs.
Having a hard time letting go? Try freezing the cards in a cup of ice. By the time you are able to access them again, hopefully you’ve changed your mind. And if you feel as if you can’t afford to let go because of financial constraints, start by setting up a spending plan and building an emergency fund to get you through those tough situations without having to resort to debt.
2. Pay as much as you can afford to each month
Once you have an emergency fund intact, use any residual funds you have at your disposal to put toward debt, even if it’s only a few dollars. The more you pay, the faster you’ll get out of debt. Did you save money at the grocery store by stacking coupons with sales? Use the savings to pay off debt. Did you work some overtime last week? And if you find spare change lying around, use that as well.
3. Make cuts to your spending
This may be tough to accomplish, as you’ll have to take a good look at where your money is going and separate the necessities from the mere wants. I’m not suggesting that you cut every single expense in the book by 75 percent, because your well-being is of the utmost importance. However, you can go without the daily trips to the local coffee shop or to your favorite lunch spot. Over time, these savings can add up and dig you out of the hole much quicker than you probably expected.
4. Double up on payments
So you’ve paid off one credit card? Congratulations, but that doesn’t mean it’s party time. A small and reasonably priced reward for your accomplishment is OK, but you need to keep the momentum going by allocating those funds that are now freed up to the next balance in line.
5. Use nonrecurring sources of income to pay down balances
As tempting as it is to use nonrecurring income to buy something that you really want, bite the bullet and use a portion of the funds to pay off debt. Tax season is upon us, so here’s your opportunity if you will be receiving a refund. Or maybe you’re set to receive an inheritance? Be wise about where you spend your money; completely ignoring the debt to go on a shopping spree is definitely not a wise choice.
6. Freelance to earn extra money
Do you have a talent or skill in an area that people would be willing to pay you for? Try your hand at freelancing to make a few dollars on the side. In some instances, you may be able to generate a substantial amount of cash, all of which should be contributed to the debt-payoff fund to move things right along, unless you are behind on your bills or you barely have enough money in your possession to meet your basic needs.
7. Tackle those debts with the highest interest rates first
Although some prefer the debt snowball method, which suggests that you pay the debts with the lowest balances first to build momentum, I think it’s wiser to get those with the higher interest rates out of the way first. Even if the size of the balances is intimidating, just paying the minimum while you tackle smaller debts and letting the interest grow is not appealing.
But the ultimate goal is to pay off debt, so the choice is yours.
8. Don’t sacrifice the things you love the most
Paying off debt may require you to make a few lifestyle changes, but it doesn’t have to be depressing. If you have a difficult time adjusting to new circumstances, implement gradual changes so the process won’t become too overwhelming.
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