Are you struggling to manage your debt? You’re far from alone.
As of the second quarter of 2023, American households had $17.1 trillion in debt, with an average household debt of $101,915
Additionally, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports Americans’ total credit card debt was $1.031 trillion in the second quarter of 2023. Compared to the first quarter of 2023, that’s the highest balance since the New York Fed started tracking in 1999.
While there is no quick fix to getting out of debt, but you can eliminate debt from your life. And, even when it seems impossible, there are a number of smart money moves you can take to reduce your debt, lower your credit card APR, and put you on the road to debt-free living.
1. Put an end to borrowing.
What is the first and most important step to getting out of debt? Put an end to borrowing money. In other words, no more swiping plastic or new loans.
One of the most fundamental changes you need to make is the way you view money and debt. It is important to understand the true cost of using a credit card and taking out a loan in order to avoid digging yourself deeper into debt.
Consider living on a cash basis during this time. It’s still early in the process, so you shouldn’t worry about debt consolidation and balance transfers yet. Unless you understand your situation and have a plan, you shouldn’t trade one kind of debt for another.
2. Assess your personal finances.
It’s also important to know how much you owe. Get your credit card statements, car loan statements, and medical bills together. From there, make a list of the following information for each balance;
- What is the amount you owe?
- Your interest rate.
- The annual percentage rate (APR) for your loan.
- The minimum amount you must pay each month.
Setting attainable goals becomes easier once you know how much debt you have. “As you think about different debt management strategies, the first and most important thing to do is sit down and make a plan,” says Matt Lattman, vice president of Discover® Personal Loans.
You could, for example, work toward saving more for retirement sooner rather than later. You could also reduce your debt by paying off your credit cards.
3. Remove credit card details from online stores.
You shouldn’t just take your credit card out of your wallet. You should also delete your credit card information from sites like Amazon as part of your self-control measures.
The reason? Approximately 218.8 million Americans will shop online in 2023, spending a typical $5,381 per person. Over the next few years, digital shoppers are expected to increase.
According to experts, there will be 223 million e-commerce shoppers in 2024. By the end of the year, there are forecast to be 226.8 million e-commerce shoppers in the US. It is predicted that 230.6 million people will shop in the US by 2026, and the average person will spend $7,250.
The bottom line is that online shopping can be a real barrier to eliminating debt, so make sure you kick this bad habit.
4. Revise (and update) your budget.
Do you know where you’re wasting money? You can figure this out by setting up a budget. As a result, you will be able to pay off your debt more quickly.
Start tracking your spending for a few weeks and then take an honest look at how things are going. You can reduce your spending by identifying items you are wasting money on.
In addition to helping you keep track of your monthly bills, a budget can help you find ways to cut costs on some necessary purchases. For instance, when comparing car insurance quotes or bundling coverage for a discount, you can save considerable money each month if you need a car for transportation.
You can then use all of your budget-savvy savings to pay down your debt. The speed at which your debt balances disappear might just surprise you.
5. Prioritize one debt at a time.
Do you have more than one credit card balance? Be sure to pay at least the minimum on each card if that is the case. After that, pay off one card at a time until the balance is zero.
There are two ways to choose which card to target:
- The snowball method involves paying down your smallest debt first until it’s fully paid off. As you move on to the next smallest debt, you move on to the next smallest debt, and so on. Your goal here is to build momentum as you repay your debt.
- In the avalanche method, you pay down your highest interest debt first. After that, you move on to the next-highest interest-rate debt. In the long run, you may be able to save money in interest payments if you pay more toward your highest interest debts.
6. Make more than the minimum payment.
If you’re only paying the minimum on all your credit cards, getting out of debt will take decades. This is especially true if your credit card has a high APR. Also, if you use your credit cards for purchases while carrying debt, you almost certainly won’t be able to catch up.
Let’s say you owe $6,569 on your credit card. The minimum monthly payment may be around $131. With an APR of 19%, it will take 101 months to pay off this debt by paying $131 a month. With interest of $6,604 accumulated along the way, it will take more than eight years for the balance to be paid off.
In contrast, if you raised your monthly payment to $170, you could be debt-free in just 61 months. And, your interest costs would be reduced by nearly half to $3,672.
7. Make multiple payments a month.
Whenever you can, pay more than once a month on your credit cards. By doing so, you may be able to keep track of how much you owe.
Also, if you pay your credit card bill regularly, your balance/utilization ratio may decrease. An individual’s credit utilization ratio indicates what percentage of their total available credit they are currently using. Credit reporting agencies use the utilization ratio as one of the components to calculate credit scores.
8. Round up your loan payments.
Although it may seem like a small change, rounding up your minimum payment each month can help you pay off your debt faster. Due to its small size, you probably won’t notice the extra amount since you don’t need much extra cash.
The next time you pay, round up a couple of dollars. For example, if you have a $73 credit card payment, add $7 to make it an even $80. An extra 84 dollars will be tacked on within a year.
9. Get a part-time job.
If you have the time, consider some easy ways to earn extra income. Consider driving for Uber or Lyft. Or, deliver pizzas at night to earn extra income. Alternatively, you can deliver food for Grubhub or Uber Eats in your spare time.
If getting a second job sounds exhausting, just work until you’re debt-free.
10. Work some side hustles.
If you have any skills you can offer to earn extra money, such as web design or coding, consider offering them. Additionally, you can sell old clothes online or rent an Airbnb room from home.
When it comes to side hustles, the sky is the limit. And, maybe it could become a consistent passive income stream.
11. Let go of unwanted items.
How long has it been since you wore that shirt or picked up that tennis racket? You might be able to sell some of your belongings if you go through them.
Your unwanted items may be able to be sold on eBay or Facebook Marketplace. Besides these outlets, there are plenty of others that can assist you today. With Decluttr, you can recycle used electronics and Blu-rays as well. If you have a closet full of clothes you won’t wear, list them on Poshmark.
There’s always the option of holding a yard sale as well.
12. Renegotiate your credit card debt.
Some consumers are unaware that they can renegotiate their credit card contracts to pay a lump sum amount instead of monthly charges. It is called debt settlement. What is the best way to negotiate debt settlement?
It’s just a matter of asking. Contact your creditors and lenders and ask them to lower your credit card interest rate. There is a chance of getting some relief if your payment history is good.
It is also possible to negotiate credit card fees. The company may be willing to waive some of your fees and recurring charges if your creditor refuses to lower your interest rate.
With a simple phone call, you can lower other bills as well. Many companies will offer other options to lower your monthly payment as a way to keep your business.
There are a number of bills you could consider lowering, including:
- Cable bills
- Phone bills
If you want to find lower rates from competitors, don’t be afraid to shop around. Keep making payments on your debts in the meantime, and you will soon see a difference. Also, don’t get upset if a company says “no.”
13. Negotiate debt settlements.
Contact your credit card company or collection agency if you are able to make a large one-time payment. They may be willing to consider settling your debt for less than what you owe.
FYI, the forgiven amount may be subject to taxes, though.
14. Look into debt consolidation.
By consolidating multiple high-interest credit card or loan balances into one lower-interest loan, you can save on interest and streamline debt repayment. You may be able to pay down the principal more easily if your interest expenses are reduced. This is especially true if you have pricey student loans.
When considering debt consolidation loans to streamline your payments and reduce your interest rates, choose a lender offering competitive annual percentage rates (APRs). Also, keep in mind that consolidation of debt may require a longer repayment schedule.
15. Apply for a home equity line of credit (HELOC).
A HELOC can help borrowers consolidate high-interest debt like credit cards if they have substantial equity in their homes.
It is common for HELOCs to have a 10-year draw period and a 20-year repayment period, which together equals a 30-year term. It is possible for borrowers to withdraw as much or as little money as they choose during the draw period. However, when the repayment period begins, withdrawals are no longer permitted and the principal loan plus interest must be repaid.
Depending on how much equity one has in their home, a HELOC borrower will have access to varying amounts of money. To qualify, you may also need a high credit score, a low debt-to-income ratio, and substantial equity in your home.
16. Transfer your balance to a card with 0% APR and pay it off promptly.
A good alternative to paying off credit cards as fast as possible is to open a 0% APR balance transfer card.
You can transfer balances from another issuer to these cards for a period that lasts 12 months or longer at 0% APR. In other words, you can transfer your debt to the card without accruing interest and have 100% of your payments go toward reducing your principal balance. To avoid reverting to your normal interest rate after the introductory period, you need to pay it all off before the introductory period ends.
Additionally, you will be required to pay a one-time balance transfer fee of around 3% during the intro period, even though you won’t pay interest. Still, it’s likely worth it if you think the interest savings will exceed the fee.
17. Take advantage of your company’s programs.
One of the best ways to pay off your student debt? Your employer.
You might not believe it, but many companies now offer repayment programs for student loans.
Often called student loan forgiveness programs, these programs give you the chance to get rid of or “forgive” some of your student loan debt as an incentive to take a particular job.
It is primarily associated with government jobs, such as teaching or serving in the military. However, private companies, like Aetna, Ally Finanical, Google, and Estée Lauder, are also beginning to offer student loan forgiveness programs.
In order to qualify for a forgiveness program, you’ll need to maintain your position for a set period of time.
18. Put the brakes on investing.
Your eyes didn’t deceive you. Stop investing. And, I even mean everything, including your 401(k) or IRA. Your current goal is to get out of debt with all of your income.
As soon as you have paid off your debts and saved up 3-6 months of expenses in an emergency fund, you can begin investing for retirement. After that, you can start saving 15% of your income for retirement.
19. Pay with cash.
Purchasing items with cash can help you manage your overall debt. You can avoid overspending or impulse purchases by using cash or a debit card. Additionally, you avoid any extra fees associated with plastic payments. Moreover, you will know exactly how much is going out and what is coming in each week or month.
20. Make use of financial windfalls.
Instead of adding raises, bonuses, tax returns, or other financial windfalls to your monthly budget, use them to reduce debt. If you use “extra” money to pay down your debt, you’ll be able to reach your repayment goals sooner.
21. Limit unnecessary spending.
Cutting unnecessary expenditures, also called discretionary spending, is another way to find extra money for debt repayment. For those unfamiliar, discretionary spending is anything other than essential. Concert tickets, video games, and spa treatments are all examples of discretionary spending.
Some spending, however, may be more difficult to quantify.
For example, maybe you are a fan of one or two streaming services. However, more than that, especially if you don’t use them on a daily basis, would be considered discretionary. Despite the fact that you need to eat, eating out frequently or ordering in is not a necessity. Remember you will only be avoiding discretionary spending for a short time when it becomes difficult or monotonous.
22. Limit the number of credit cards you own.
Having fewer credit cards is one way to reduce credit card debt. After all, if you’re buried under debt, you don’t need five or ten credit cards.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to credit cards, but most people have at least three. When used correctly, credit cards can be useful. It is even possible to simplify your life and save money with credit cards.
With three cards, you can carry two and leave one at home as long as you learn to stop spending money. To avoid relying on your credit card if an emergency arises, you should have a rainy day fund.
23. Avoid late fees by paying on time.
You are less likely to pay off your debt on time if you make late payments. In addition to making double payments next month, you’ll have to pay a late fee money you could have used to reduce your balance. The typical late fee ranges between $25 and $50.
In addition, two late credit card payments will result in a penalty rate, making it more difficult to pay off your debt.
Setting up automatic payments on your accounts is the easiest way to avoid late fees. You will be automatically charged each month on the payment date you specify by your card company.
24. Keep your debt out of collections.
In the event that you fall behind on your loan payments or default, your debt may be collected. Costs associated with collection can be high. Interest rates and fees are typically higher when payments are late.
If your creditor decides to pursue legal action against you or passes your debt on to a collection agency, you may face collection agency fees and legal costs. It is possible that your wages will be garnished, and your credit score will come crashing down, making it nearly impossible to get another loan in the future.
25. Take advantage of credit counseling.
A credit counseling program could be the best solution for people who are drowning in debt. In addition to providing professional advice and guidance, a certified credit counselor at a nonprofit agency can review your financial situation and offer professional advice.
Among them are:
- Debt Management Plan (DMP). An official debt management program (DMP) can also be enrolled through your credit counselor. This is a voluntary agreement between you and your creditors that consolidates certain debt payments and reduces your monthly payment amount and/or interest rate. It is even possible for them to forgive debts in some cases.
- Bankruptcy counseling. If you are considering bankruptcy as a solution for your debt, you will need to speak to a certified credit counselor.
In addition, credit counselors can offer insight into the credit card industry through their expertise. With their advice and recommendations, they might even be able to save your credit score.
For-profit counseling agencies should be avoided when seeking counseling services, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Rather, it suggests going through an established nonprofit like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Financial Counseling Association of America.
You can also get free credit counseling through your credit union.
It’s inevitable that everyone will encounter debt at some point in their lives, regardless of their income. Make sure you carefully plan your expenses as well as the amount you use each month to pay back your debts. Whether you’re consolidating your debt or paying off one account at a time, be organized and develop a clear plan for eliminating your debt.
What is debt?
Having a debt means owing someone money. Financial obligations can take the form of loans, credit card balances, or other types.
What are the different types of debt?
Basically, there are two types of debt: secured and unsecured.
- A secured debt is backed by an asset, like a car or home. In case of default, the lender can seize the asset.
- Unsecured debt doesn’t have an asset backing it, like a credit card balance or a personal loan. Defaulting on an unsecured loan leaves your lender with fewer options.
Is debt good or bad?
Major purchases, like a house, education, or starting a business can be financed with debt. Also, it can help you build credit.
Debt, however, can also be dangerous if you’re not careful. Financial hardship and even bankruptcy can happen when you have too much debt.
How does debt affect our lives?
There are a lot of negative consequences to debt:
- Financial stress. Stress can be caused by debt, especially if you’re having trouble paying it off.
- Damaged credit score. If you miss a payment, it can hurt your credit score. In the future, borrowing money might be harder and more expensive.
- Bankruptcy. In the event that you can’t pay off your debts, you might have to file bankruptcy. If this happens to you, it can have a serious impact on your finances and credit history.
What if I can’t afford to make my debt payments?
There are several things you can do if you have difficulty making your debt payments. The first thing you should do is contact your creditors and see if they are willing to work with you. A payment plan, a lower interest rate, or an extended repayment period might be available to you.
Debt consolidation may also be an option for you. In this situation, you will have to take out a new loan in order to pay off your existing debts. In addition to simplifying your payments, it can also reduce your overall interest rate.