Source: Unsplash | Sabine Peters
Debt tends to feel unique to each of us. When you’re in the throes of dealing with debt, you may seem like you’re the only person you know who’s trying to tackle such a burden. One thing that really helps is knowing other people have gotten out of just as much debt as you’re going to — or maybe even more.
Start with these five strategies people have used to get out of debt before. They just might help you on your journey, too.
Cutting Expenses to the Bone
It’s a good idea for everyone to keep a budget, regardless of debt level. But there’s budgeting, and then there’s cutting expenses to the bone — leaving behind anything that isn’t absolutely essential to free up as much money for debt repayment as possible.
Frugality has even caught on as a trend and lifestyle over the past few years, its followers choosing to forgo anything non-essential so they can dedicate a larger percentage of their paychecks to long-term goals: paying off major debt, retiring early, saving for a down payment on a home, saving for retirement, etc.
The key here is really digging deep to find extra expenses you can cut, even things you enjoy but need to sacrifice for the sake of debt repayment.
Repaying by Snowball or Avalanche
You’ve decided to tackle debt on your own. So, you start researching and find that, while some people swear by the “snowball” method, others found success using the “avalanche” method. Whichever you choose, the most important thing is having a strategy rather than throwing random amounts at random debts as you go.
Using the snowball method means prioritizing your smallest debt first while paying the minimum balances on all others. Once the first debt is paid off, you throw money at the second-highest debt. This strategy is generally praised as a good way to build momentum with small victories so you’ll stay committed.
As CNBC reports, the snowball method helped one millennial pay off more than $68,000 in about three years. First, she started with a $50 Target balance. Then she moved onto a larger personal loan. Finally, she used that momentum to tackle significant student loans.
Another repayment approach is the “avalanche” method of targeting high-interest debts first, then moving down the line. There will likely be fewer quick victories with this method, but some consumers have found it motivating because it reduces how much interest you’ll pay overall.
Negotiating to Settle Debts
If your debt is feeling too steep to tackle with budgeting and do-it-yourself repayment alone, negotiating with creditors could help you reach a lower settlement. For instance, a creditor might accept $6,000 (or even less) on a $10,000 balance if you can demonstrate that you’re able to pay that sum in a timely manner.
Some people decide to communicate with creditors directly, asking for lower interest rates, a reduction in fees or a lower balance. Others enroll in a debt settlement program so they don’t have to handle negotiations alone. As many Freedom Debt Relief reviews point out, many find it helpful to have access to customer service specialists, an online dashboard that keeps them updated on progress and a team of trained negotiators to handle the back-and-forth with creditors.
Working with a Credit Counselor
Working with a counselor at a credit counseling agency can help you come up with a plan based on your unique financial situation, often at a free or affordable rate.
NerdWallet outlines how one Minnesota couple was drowning in $272,261 of mortgage, auto and credit card debt before working with a non-profit credit counseling agency to come up with a budget and work with creditors. They’re now current on all their payments, including a new mortgage and two vehicle loans.
Generating Extra Income
Depending on your lifestyle and skillset, you may be able to generate extra income with a part-time side hustle — money that can and should go directly toward debt repayment.
People have used all kinds of strategies to get out of debt, including these five and many more.