Five things you can do to get out of debt
If you’re in debt — even a little bit — don’t worry, because you’re not alone. More than 80% of Americans are in debt, some with small and manageable debts, and some with debts that loom over them like a storm cloud.
Debt — either the manageable type or the storm cloud variety — can take many forms. It can be credit cards (often with shockingly high interest rates), student loans, auto loans, and/or a mortgage. Contrary to popular belief, not all debts are bad. Good debts come from things that appreciate in value, like education or real estate. Bad debts come from things that depreciate in value, like cars, clothes, and many other things that are easily purchased with the swipe of a credit card.
It’s easy to get into debt and harder to get out of it. But it’s not impossible. With hard work and determination (and the tips below), you can pay down your debts and join the lucky 20% of Americans who owe nothing to anyone.
- STOP BORROWING — The first step toward a debt-free future is to stop accumulating more debt. No more credit card charges; no more loans. Put yourself on a cash-only spending plan and you’re practically guaranteed to reduce your debt with each passing month.
- START BUDGETING — Start tracking your spending and eliminating wasteful expenditures. Get an app (there are plenty to choose from) and set aside time every day for a financial check-in.
- PAY MORE THAN THE MINIMUM — With high-interest debts (like many credit cards), making the minimum payment each month means you’re paying for a lot of interest and not much of the actual debt. When you pay more than the minimum, that extra payment goes directly toward the debt.
- CONSIDER DEBT CONSOLIDATION — Debt consolidation is when you roll multiple high-interest debts into one lower-interest debt. This can be accomplished with a balance transfer credit card (many of which offer zero interest for 12 to 18 months) or a debt consolidation loan.
- MAKE MORE MONEY — Not everyone has time for a second job, but if your debt is particularly daunting, it might be time to find some extra work in the evenings or weekends. And depending upon your skills, you might be able to find a freelance gig or work a side hustle from your home.
More lessons and tips can be found in the debt management lesson of our FiQ resource. The lesson includes a closer look at the optimal debt-to-income ratio, signs that you could benefit from credit counseling, and how to use the avalanche and snowball methods to pay off debt.
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