Create a Game Plan for Attacking Your Debt
Paying off your debt is a lot like scoring a game-winning touchdown. You start with a solid plan and end with an over-the-top victory dance.
Whether you’re a beginning budgeter or you’ve been budgeting for years, everyone tackles debt the same way: one yard at a time. So get out there and start running!
Here are three straightforward steps to help you pay off your debt once and for all.
1. Create Your Game Plan.
Figure out exactly what you owe on credit cards, student loans or car payments—everything except the house. Don’t guess! Crank up the computer and review your credit statements (with your spouse if you’re married). It’s important to have an accurate picture of what you’re about to repay. And while you’re listing, be sure to rank your debts in order from smallest to largest balance—regardless of interest rates (we’ll explain why in #2). Here’s an example:
- Credit Card $250
- Car Loan $3,000
- Student Loan 1 $5,000
- Student Loan 2 $7,000
2. Set Up and Run the Play.
Once you’ve listed all your debts, write down the minimum monthly payment for each. Continue paying this amount on each loan, no matter what. After you’ve budgeted your minimum payments, focus on the smallest debt first—in this case that’s your $250 credit card balance. Don’t worry about interest rates because it’s more important to pay off your debts as fast as possible. This gives you small wins along the way and motivates you to keep going.
Now, apply any extra money in your budget toward the credit card debt. Maybe you even get a side job or sell some stuff. The point is that you don’t stop until you take it down. Need a little coaching on how to go crazy on those debt payments? Try these plays:
- Have a community yard sale with friends or neighbors. It’s a tried-and-true way to get paid for cleaning house.
- You know some of your kids’ clothes aren’t going to fit again next season. Why not sell them online or at a pop-up consignment sale?
- Increase your income by working a side job (on your own terms, of course) and putting the additional money toward your debt payment.
3. Don’t Get Blindsided.
Once you start overtaking your debts, you may get tired and begin to slow down. Maybe you start eating out more and paying debts less. It’s easy to do. But stay focused over time and revisit your budget each and every month. Keep your head in the game until you’re actually dancing in that end zone.
Once you’ve paid off your last debt (and you will!) feel free to all the backflips, moonwalks and Heisman poses you like. Then start putting the money you used to pay to creditors toward something fun—like a trip to see your favorite team in action.
Want a little coaching throughout the process? Let EveryDollar help! With a free EveryDollar account, you can set up a budget in less than 10 minutes that helps you focus your money on tackling your debt.