I’ve been receiving some comments and emails asking where do you start when it comes to reducing debt so I thought I would write a post telling what we did.
First things first, we calculated the total damage. This is a sobering step, but once you finish it you have a better idea of where you stand. We listed all of our debts with columns for creditor, balance due, interest rate and minimum monthly payment. This can be done on the computer or with pencil and paper.
I also took a look at how much we were paying for finance charges. When I first started this blog, we were paying over $400/month in finance charges. That was $400 a month that we could have for other things in life if we didn’t have our credit cards. I used that as motivation.
Once you have all of your debts listed, there are two popular ways to start paying them off.
1.) List your debts from the highest interest rate to the lowest interest rate. Pay the minimum payment for all debts except for the one with the highest interest rate. That debt you pay as much as you can towards. Once that debt with the highest interest rate is paid off, you tackle the next debt in the list.
2.) List your debts from the smallest to the largest balance. Pay the minimum payment for all debts except for the one with the smallest balance. Pay as much as you can to that debt. Once that debt with the lowest balance is paid off, you takle the next debt in the list.
If you choose to go with #1, you will end up paying less interest in the long run because you are getting rid of the balances with the higher rates first. But sometimes the balance with the highest interest may be your largest balance. It may seem like its taking forever to get it paid off.
That’s the appeal of #2. By paying off the smaller balances first, you are seeing progress quickly by paying off entire balances. That can be a big boost to your self-esteem with your debt reduction plan.
For us, we are doing a combination of the two. For the most part, we have been tackling the debt with the highest rates but we have paid off other debts first. I think the main thing is to decide on a plan that works for you and you stick with it. Committment to becoming debt-free is a big factor. Without that, both of the plans above will not work.
I’ll talk about where my motivation comes from in a later post. I started making a list, and I am amazed where all I am pulling inspiration/motivation from.