A new decade without debt: 3 things you can do right now to become debt free

We love growth.

It’s what we do, why we work – to bring you the best tools we can to help you grow.

But what if you are not quite there yet? What if you are somewhere behind on that road to financial independence that your concern is not how much you can save, but how will you free yourself from what seems like an ever-growing financial hole?

Credit cards, mortgages, personal loans, car payments…

In one word: debt.

All those increasing payments and interests can really eat away your income and savings efforts.

It’s time to tackle that monster. And while we are no experts in dealing with debt, these are 3 steps you can take immediately to get you started.

1 – Take inventory

Simple question: how much do you owe?

If that question stops you at your tracks, you are not alone. Just because it’s a simple question, doesn’t mean it’s easy, and it can carry quite some hard to deal feelings.

Give yourself a break.

Your situation may not be ideal, but you are addressing the issue.

So sit down, look through all your payments and figure this out. You should know a) your total debt and b) a break down of your debt, listing who you owe to, how much, and respective interest rate.

Remember that you can only solve a problem if you know exactly what the problem is.

(If at any moment you realise that it is all too much, it may be worth considering to get some help. There are a number of associations that provide assistance to those over-indebted. There is no shame in wanting to honor your commitments.)

2 – Negotiate

Some people may feel conflicted about this. They never asked for a discount and feel that what was agreed can never change.

Well things change all the time, and you can too.

There are a couple of ways you could go about this.

i) Go to market

Things change all the time, remember? From the time you first got into a particular loan or credit, things have probably changed, and players offering better rates could be a good option for a balance transfer. Just be sure to look up in your conditions if you could be subject to a penalty.

Even if you are, check with your potential new provider, as they sometimes may offer to cover these charges in order to acquire new business.

An interesting move to consider when going to market is whether you may be eligible for a debt consolidation, combining different loans and credits into one. This could be interesting in order to get a lower interest rate. Research and consult with the appropriate financial institutions to see if you could qualify.

ii) Go to your creditors

Yes, the people you owe in the first place.

This may seem odd at first, until you give yourself some time to think about one thing: what don’t they want?

For one, they don’t want you to be unable to pay, because that would make them unable to receive.

They also don’t want you to go to a competitor, as this takes away their business.

So what can you do? Ask if there’s a way to renegotiate, hint that other players are more competitive in the market, enquire about good opportunities.

In short: since you are their client, what can they do for you?

You’d be surprised at what this can achieve.

3 – Make an attack plan

You know what you owe – check.

You reduced it how you could – check.

Now what is left is for you to pay – aggressively.

You may have to resort to different tools, from a budget to other sources of income you may think of. But that is all about the means you have at your disposal.

You still need to figure out something first: where will you focus your efforts?

Assuming you didn’t end up with a single credit from the previous step, what debt do you pay first?

There are two schools of thought at play here.

You could use the Avalanche Method or the Snowball Method.

With the Avalanche, you basically rank your debts by interest rate, and start throwing everything at the one with the highest rate until it is paid off. In the meantime, make the minimum payments towards the rest. You then move your way down.

While it makes the most rational, logical sense to get a lower payment over time, human beings aren’t completely rational and logical.

If you feel like there is no way to move forward, you could consider going Snowball: attack your smallest debt first, regardless of interest rate. Get some small wins under your belt to keep you going.

BONUS

It really should go without saying, but there is also the very first step: stop getting into unnecessary debt.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

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