There’s no shortage of ways to find yourself in debt. You might go overboard in credit card spending, take out a car loan, buy a house or use loans to fund your education. The amount you owe might be intimidating, but a solid debt management plan can help you budget to pay your balances down. Here are four debt management tips you need to know:
Use a Budget Calculator to Limit Your Spending
If you owe a lot of money, limit how much more debt you pile on. Use a simple budget calculator to create a spending plan for the month.
Experiment with living not just at your means, but below them. This means cutting expenses and living frugally. See how much you can save by cooking more and eating out less, holding off on travel, cutting out cable TV and even downsizing your home if you have the flexibility to move.
This might not be easy, but living frugally doesn’t mean never having fun. Get creative and find ways to enjoy life for less. Debt management might be challenging but it doesn’t have to be boring!
Invite friends over for a potluck dinner instead of meeting them at a pricey restaurant, or take a staycation and explore low-cost activities in your town instead of booking expensive flights. And if you’re struggling to choose the inexpensive options over the pricey ones, just ask yourself: How much faster will I pay off my debt if I can save an extra $200 a month to put toward that balance?
Ramp Up Your Earnings
If your salary doesn’t match the cost of living in your area or doesn’t leave you enough money at the end of the month to pay down credit card debt or student loans, it’s time to look for ways to increase your income. Make your case for a raise at work, seek out new job opportunities that pay more, or supplement your current salary with freelance or part-time work. Remember, an extra $500 or $1,000 a month from a part-time job can make a big dent in your debt.
The combination of cutting your budget and earning more money could potentially net you a few hundred dollars per month to apply toward your debt.
Debt Negotiation is an Option
First, if you’re having trouble keeping up on your minimum monthly credit card payments, you might want to look into debt negotiation. If you can manage the minimum payments and your debt only has one source—for example, you’re in the clear except for a balance you carry on your credit card—where to focus your repayment is easy. But what if you have multiple sources of debt, all with different terms? Where should you begin?
It may also be time to look at further lifestyle changes beyond just getting a little more frugal. Can your family make do with one fewer car, or can you trade in your current car for a less expensive one? Is moving to a smaller home, or a home in a less expensive neighborhood, an option?
Making choices like these can be tough, but if you’re overextending your budget to maintain a certain lifestyle, it’s worth it to consider what big changes you can make to save even more money.
Consider Interest Rates
Let’s say you carry both high-interest credit card debt and a low-interest student loan. Which one should you attack first?
Prioritize the high-interest debt first, because those interest rates will cost you more in the long run. Try to make more than the minimum monthly payment (much more, if you can afford it), while still making the minimum monthly payments on your lower-interest debt. It’s important to make at least the minimum payments on your federal student loans; if you put off paying them in favor of paying down credit card debt, the government can go after your wages.
You Can Do This
With your four-part debt-attack plan, freedom is well within sight. Just remember:
- Cut down on unnecessary spending to save up more money each month.
- Find ways to increase your income, and put your additional earnings (plus the money you’re saving by living more frugally) toward your debt.
- Prioritize your debt. Attack high-interest debt while still making minimum monthly payments on low-interest debt.
Whether paying off your debts takes you a few months or a few years, sticking to a plan can help to make it possible for you.