As of 2015, the average American with credit card debt owes $15,762 – and that’s just credit. Auto loans, student loans, and mortgages add thousands of dollars and years of repayment to your personal finances. However, debt doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Once you and your partner have made the commitment to work towards financial freedom, follow these steps from Timberwood Bank to begin eliminating debts.
- Establish an emergency fund immediately. Unexpected events can take a harder hit on your savings than unbudgeted spending habits ever could. Even if you’re juggling a current debt or two, work to set aside $1,000 as soon as you can in a separate emergency checking account. As you chip away at remaining debt, this cushion can protect repayment plans from being flattened by a faulty car battery or flooded basement.
- Adopt the debt snowball method. Instead of listing them highest to lowest by interest rates, arrange debts from smallest to largest. Paying off a handful of small debts in the same time it’d take to chip away at a large one eases burdens, yields immediate results, and provides motivation to continue saving.
- Reduce your rates. Refinancing your mortgage and negotiating lower interest rates on credit cards. Reevaluating your health, life, and auto insurance policies may reveal services you don’t need, or it can spur you to shop around for providers with lower rates.
- Chop extraneous expenses. Create a list of unavoidable monthly expenses – rent, utilities, gas, food. Create a second list of leisure expenses – gym memberships, cable, eating out, clothing. After budgeting for the necessities, pick a few discretionary categories you’d like to keep with reduced spending, but cut the rest. Putting your spending on a diet is easier when you allow yourself a few modest outlets.
- Evaluate progress monthly. Creating a multi-year financial plan for eliminating debt is the first step, not the only one. Perform a monthly check-up on your plan to continue spending within your budget. It can also provide a boost of encouragement when you see progress, and you might spot ways in your new financial routine to make your budget even more cost-effective.
It may be a long road to eliminate debt, but it’s within your ability to travel it. Don’t go it alone – contact one of our advisers today to help you create and stick to your financial plan.