There are some tips and tricks to getting out of debt, but mostly, debt elimination is about patience and discipline. Unless you suddenly receive a large sum of money, paying off debt is a marathon, not a sprint.
It’s important to keep this in mind; it’s easy to get discouraged when you don’t see results right away. But just because you’re not immediately making a huge dent in your debt doesn’t mean you’re not chipping away at it.
Before you start chipping away, you should do two things.
First, create an emergency fund that will cover at least three months of your necessary expenses. This may seem counterproductive, but an emergency fund will reduce your chances of going into debt in the future.
Secondly, create a debt elimination plan. It’s easier to stay the course when you have a goal and a strategy. The best plan for you is one personalized for your situation, one that considers factors like your total debt, the types of debt, your income, and your needs and expenses. That said, there are some general debt repayment strategies that can help you get started such as the debt snowball method.
Once you have a plan in place, you’ll need to increase the money you have available to put towards debt; you’ll want to pay more than the minimum payment – as much as possible — on at least one of your debts every month.
Consider sacrificing some of the things you don’t need to free up extra cash, like cable TV, dining out, or anything you subscribe to. A second source of income can also help: this could be a part-time job, a hobby turned profitable venture, or a work-from-home opportunity. (Be sure to properly research any work-from-home opportunities — especially ones that require you to front any amount of money).
Do you usually get a large tax refund every year? If so, you can use your tax refund to pay down your debt. Alternatively, you can lower the amount of taxes taken out of your paycheck every pay period. You’ll get a smaller tax refund, but you’ll get a bigger paycheck which you can put towards your debts. (Before you do this, talk to your employer and/or tax consultant to determine what’s best in your tax situation).
Finally, consider using cash instead of a credit card for most if not all of your purchases. While the rewards some credit cards offer can help you save, it’s also a lot easier to spend more money when you use a credit card; you don’t see the money you’re spending, and your credit limit is likely higher than the amount of cash you would normally carry around. On the other hand, you can regulate your spending simply by leaving your credit card at home and carrying a limited amount of cash.
Ultimately, the most successful methods to pay down your debt will be the ones that you are able to stick with. Remember: it’s a marathon and not a sprint, so find a strategy that will keep you in the race for the long run, not just the short term.
Covenant Trust Company is a financial services company owned by the Evangelical Covenant Church and its affiliates. Our services are available to anyone in need of asset management, retirement planning, legacy planning, gift planning, or trust services. In addition, we seek opportunities to encourage and promote healthy financial habits, and keep a personal finance blog at www.covtrustblog.com.
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