One of the best ways to create a more stable financial future is to overcome debt. Many people carry some level of debt throughout their lives, but if your monthly debt payments are becoming a source of stress, it might be time to reevaluate the way you’re managing your money.
Here are seven tips for how to get out of debt as quickly as possible:
1. Write Down All of Your Debts
The first step to overcome debt is to take a look at the total amount that you owe. If you have multiple loans, credit card balances and other forms of debt, it helps to figure out how much you’re paying each month, and which debts are worse than others in terms of the overall interest rate, minimum monthly payments and more.
Sort your debts by highest interest rate and total loan balance. Which debts are your “worst” ones? Make a plan to prioritize which debts to pay off first.
2. Track Your Spending
The next step to getting out of debt is to keep track of how much you’re spending each month, and then figure out where you can reduce. Online tools and budgeting software (check out apps as well) can help you track your spending. Or, if you prefer a more hands-on method, simply use paper and pen or set up a spreadsheet to track your spending for 30 days.
Figure out whether your bills are fixed expenses or variable expenses — fixed include rent/mortgage, insurance premiums and utilities, while variable expenses include changing expenses such as groceries, car maintenance. Beyond bills, what does your discretionary spending look like? This could be on things like restaurant meals and entertainment. Once you have this outlined, you can start to strategize how to reduce spending in certain areas.
3. Make a “Road Map” for Getting out of Debt
Look for a debt payoff calculator to figure out how much you have to pay each month to get out of debt faster. For example, this debt payoff calculator will let you analyze multiple debt payments, including the total amount, your monthly payment and interest rates to figure out how soon you can be debt-free and how much money you will pay in interest along the way.
4. Cut Spending on Small Items
Once you have a road map in mind, it’s time to start changing your monthly (and daily) spending habits. Could you save $500 per month by eating out less, by canceling a gym membership that you never use or by canceling some subscriptions?
It pays to take a closer look — many people are surprised to see how much they’re spending on unwatched TV shows or premium app subscriptions. Cut down on the small spending and you can often find a big chunk of money to put toward overcoming debt.
5. Cut Spending on One Big Thing
In addition to the small spending, it helps to think bigger and be ready to make one major change in your monthly budget. How much do you spend each month on rent or on your car payment? Could you consider moving to a more affordable place or finding a roommate, if it meant getting out of debt sooner?
Don’t be afraid to consider making changes in your lifestyle to get out of debt. Sometimes you need to make a short-term sacrifice in order to achieve financial stability.
6. Consider Ways to Earn Additional Money
Most people think that getting out of debt is all about spending less. While cutting spending is a good strategy, it’s not the only one — you also have the option of working to earn more money.
Where could you make some extra money? Can you get a part-time job, sell some items at a garage sale or on an online marketplace, do some freelance work or otherwise boost your income to help get out of debt? Don’t be afraid to think creatively and be willing to work hard in the short term in order to get to a better financial position.
7. Consolidate Your Debts
Another option to help overcome debt is through debt consolidation options. With a personal loan, if you qualify, you can combine multiple debts into one monthly payment and get out of debt faster by reducing your interest rates and simplifying your monthly debt payment schedule — instead of having multiple debts with separate due dates each month. A credit card balance transfer with an introductory APR may also be a helpful option.
For more details, check out this debt consolidation calculator from Discover.
Overcoming debt doesn’t happen overnight, but with careful planning and a willingness to think creatively and to make some sacrifices, you can get back on the right track for a stronger financial future. There are lots of great tools and options available to help people get out of debt, with debt payoff calculators, debt consolidation loans, budget tracking tools and other resources to help you along the way.