The Best Ways to Pay Off Debt
Do you have a debt pay-off plan? If you’re only making the minimum payments on some of your debts, you’ll likely be paying way more over the life of the debt than if you chose a specific method. In order to figure out how to pay off debt, you need to have a solid budget first, so you know how much cash flow you have to work with. Here are some of the best-known methods to help you tackle your debt head-on.
The Snowball Method
With this method, you focus on paying off your smallest debt amount first. You still continue to pay the minimums on the rest of your debts. When you finish paying off that first debt, you take the money you budgeted toward it into the next debt. The idea is that you get motivated by eliminating one debt to keep paying off others, gaining momentum like a snowball rolling down a hill.
It’s a great method to see results fast. Feeling the relief of completely eliminating one debt can really keep you focused on reaching your financial goals. Having that momentum can come at a cost, as we’ll see with the next debt repayment method.
The Avalanche Method
Paying off debt with the avalanche method requires a little bit more discipline. You still pay the minimum on all your debts, focusing any extra cash on the debt with the highest interest rate. Once you pay off that debt, you go to the one with the next highest interest.
With this method, you can save more money on interest and can pay off your debt faster. But compared to the snowball method, it will definitely take longer to feel like you’re making any tangible progress.
You can plug your own numbers into a debt calculator to get an idea of what each method might look like for you.
Consider Consolidating Debts
If you have a lot of different types of debt, all with varying interest rates, you might benefit from combining them all in one place. The only downside is that this method only works if you already have a good credit score.
Essentially, you take your high-interest debts and transfer them onto a lower interest credit card, or take out a personal loan to pay them. It’s also important to keep in mind that you may have to pay a transfer fee when transferring over the debt. Make sure that the savings you would get from having the lower interest rate would actually be better than the transfer fee.
Debt consolidation is probably not a good idea if your monthly debt payments are over half your income. It is also probably not worth it to consolidate your debts if you will be able to pay them off in the relatively near future.
Once you have a clear budget, it’s easier to see where you can cut back on spending to commit money to longer-term financial goals. You can pay off debt faster if you also plan to put any extra income, like raises or tax returns towards your debts.