This post is part of a larger series on financial health and wellness. Be sure to check out all of our content throughout the week and save it for future reference!
As someone who has been paying off their nearly $200,000 in consumer debt (i.e., we don’t own a home), the amount of time that I think about paying off debt is absurd. Seriously. My husband and I personally use the debt snowball method, which I will explain below, along with a few other methods you can use to get out of debt.
If you are ready to start paying off debt, check out a few ways below!
Pay More than the Minimum
This might be a no-brainer to some, but foreign to others. Have you ever noticed that the average credit card statement tells you that if you pay the minimum amount due that, it will take YEARS to pay off? On top of that, the interest you pay is not INCREDIBLY high. Whereas if you pay more than the minimum, it significantly reduces the amount of time you will be paying on your credit card. Start by looking at your budget to see what additional funds you can put towards your debt.
This is the method for paying off debt that we have used for about 85% of our debt-free journey. Write out all of your debt. This can include credit cards, personal loans, student loans, car notes, medical bills, 401(K) loans, etc. Now put it in order of smallest to largest. Using Excel makes this quick and easy.
The goal of the debt snowball method is to pay the minimum on all of your bills, but every extra dollar that you have goes towards the smallest bill. It is meant to give you momentum. Get rid of some small bills fast and see those quick wins. My husband and I started with 36 debts, most of which were our student loans broken down individually, and it was amazing to see some really quick wins. It got us energized to pay off our debt.
Settle for Less than You Owe
Let me first be clear here that I do not have a lot of firsthand knowledge here. One recent example I have is when my son had surgery. We had a $4250 bill due (our deductible). I called the office, and they said that if I waited until I received a bill two months in a row without making payment, that they could offer me a 20% discount. That saved me nearly $1,000.
I do know that if you have some bills in collections, that you can settle. But before you give someone your account information, do the following:
- Confirm the debt – Call your debtors and have them confirm the amount that you owe.
- Request to settle – Start low. If you owe $2000, offer $400. Make them counter offer. See where you can get them to meet you.
- Get it in writing – Before you pay anything, you get that settlement amount in writing. You want to have proof that you paid exactly what they were settling for.
- Pay them directly (bill pay, wire, etc.) – Don’t give them access to your account. I’ve heard horror stories of people giving their bank information without verifying anything, and then next thing they know, they are getting money pulled from their account.
The debt avalanche is another method for paying off debt, fairly similar to the debt snowball, except instead of focusing on the smallest to largest, you focus on the highest interest rate. If you are interested in finding out if the debt snowball or debt avalanche method is right for you, then go to Undebt.it. You create an account, type in all of your debt (i.e., balance, interest, due date, etc.), and it will give you an estimated debt-free date.
Getting out of debt is not an easy task, nor is it one that you might even like to think about. It could be overwhelming, to say the least. Take it from someone who had almost $200,000 of debt, without even owning a home. I get it. But, the first step is realizing that you acknowledge it’s time to start paying off debt. Sit down, review your debt, and take it one day and one bill at a time. If you need a cheerleader, or even someone to just bounce some ideas off of, just let me know! I’m very active in the #debtfreecommunity on Instagram.