Borrowing can help you satisfy your immediate needs but when you borrow more than you can pay over and over again, it can accumulate into a huge debt. Getting out of your debt is not so easy, it takes a lot of planning and discipline.
Most debts stem from overindulging and overborrowing but some are completely unplanned such as medical bills, divorce and so on. It’s actually pretty easy to get into debt but not easy to get out. You can — and should — make getting out of your present debt a priority. Here are some practical steps you can take.
1. Change Your Bad Spending Habits
Getting out of debt — and staying out — requires that you change the habits or circumstances that led you to debt in the first place.
Coming to terms with bad spending habits is tough. However you’ve been spending money, you probably have (what feels like) a good reason for spending it. But, if your spending habits are ruining your financial future, you must get rid of them. Stop spending too much money, create a budget, and start an emergency fund.
Identify Bad Spending Habits. Bring your spending into control by tracking all your expenses for at least a month. Then, put your expenses into categories and total up each category. This lets you know exactly where your money is going.
Once you’ve analyzed your spending it’s time to make changes to where your money goes.
2. Figure Out How Much Debt You Have
Make a list of all your debts, the amount you owe, the interest rate, and the minimum payment. Use recent billing statements, canceled checks or bank statements, and your credit report to get a complete list of everyone you owe and the amount you owe.
3. Decide How Much You Can Afford to Pay
If you’re currently paying the minimum every month, it will take you several years, maybe even decades to finally pay off all you owe. You’ll have to send more than the minimum payment to at least one of your accounts each month to pay off faster.
You can use your monthly budget to help you figure out what you’re able to spend on debt each month. Total your income from all reliable sources including wages, alimony, child support payments, bonuses, or dividends. Then, subtract what you spend each month on required expenses, those items you need for survival. Required expenses include mortgage or rent, utilities, food, transportation, medical expenses, and your current debt (minimum) payments.
What’s leftover after you’ve covered all your necessary expenses is the amount you can spend on your debt. Use this amount in your plan and pay extra whenever you can. This will help you pay off your debts faster.
4. Put Together a Plan To Getting Out Of Debt
The next step is to prioritize your debts, either by interest rate or by the balance or some other criteria that you choose. Once you’ve prioritized your debts, decide how much you’re going to pay every month. It’s typically best to make a lump-sum payment to one of your debts while paying the minimum on all the other accounts. Then, once you’ve paid off one debt, redirect your lump-sum payment to the next debt on your list.
You can see how your plan will play out and estimate the time it will take you to become debt free by using a debt repayment calculator. Some let you enter a specific monthly payment or a debt-free deadline to customize your repayment plan. Note that your debt repayment time may fluctuate depending on the amount you’re paying toward your debt and whether you create additional debts. Revisit the debt repayment calculator once or twice a year to see how you’re progressing toward your debt free timeline.
5. Start Making Payments
With a plan and a monthly payment amount, what you have to do next is send your payments judiciously every month. This part of the plan will take the longest, several years depending on the amount of debt you have and the payments you make. Consistency with your payments is a necessary part of you moving out of debt.
6. Don’t Create More Debt
You can’t use your credit cards if you want to get out of debt. Creating debts while you’re trying to pay off debt will only hurt your progress.
It’s not necessary to close your credit card accounts unless you think you won’t be able to resist the temptation to use them. You can also freeze your credit cards to prevent yourself from using them.