If you’re like a lot of Americans, a portion of your paycheck each month goes toward debt—whether it’s credit card debt, student loan debt, a car loan or some other financial obligation.
But if you want to do more than just pay the minimums each month, here are three strategies to help you decrease your debt and—hopefully—become debt free:
1. Debt snowball. With this approach, you focus on aggressively paying off debt with the smallest balance, while just paying the minimum payment on all other debts. Then when the first debt is paid off, you take the money you had been paying on that and apply it to the next lowest balance until that is paid off. You continue with this strategy until you are debt free.
Financial expert Dave Ramsey is adamant about this approach being the best strategy, because as he says, “Getting out of debt isn’t about math; it’s about changing behavior.”
Ramsey also mentions the importance of creating small wins by paying off lower balance debts as quickly as possible—to keep motivated.
2. Debt avalanche. Start by focusing on your debt with the highest interest rate. Then after this debt is paid off, move to the next highest rate. If you use this strategy, some suggest factoring in whether the interest on a debt is tax-deductible.
3. Debt forgiveness. If you have student loan debt and are committed to working in teaching or public service for the long run, you may be eligible for debt forgiveness programs. If that is the case, it might make sense to just make the minimum payments on these until you complete your teaching or public service commitment period.
Regardless of which option serves you best, it’s important to develop a plan that will help you get out of debt after a certain time. If possible, don’t take on additional debt while you are working to erase your current obligations.
Also, while staying committed to your debt reduction program, be sure to also embrace forgiveness for yourself if you fall behind or you encounter a bump in the road. Just realize it for what it is and then get back on the debt reduction train.
You’ll ultimately thank yourself when you see your debts disappearing and your cash flow growing.
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