The secret to being successful when you pay off debt is having a clear picture of where you want to go and roadmap that shows how to get there. Getting out of debt requires fundamental changes and hard choices, and we’ve created this Quick Start guide to the best techniques to achieve fundamental financial change.
1. Create a Debt Pay-Down Plan to Pay Off Debt
Having a personalized debt payment plan is the cornerstone of your financial health. Gather basic information about your debt accounts – balance, payment dates, what interest rate you are paying – and enter it into our SmartPayPlan tool.
This tool calculates the date you are likely to be debt free if you don’t make changes! (Be prepared – this date can be scary!) It also lets you choose a different date and tells you how much you’ll have to pay off each month to get there.
Having all your accounts organized in one place helps you see which of your loans charges the highest interest so you can focus on paying this one off first!
2. Know Your Debt Score
Your debt health is as important as your physical health. You schedule an annual checkup with your doctor, why not schedule a debt health checkup with your family? Use the free DebtScore tool to diagnose how healthy your levels of housing, lifestyle and education debt are. This helps you know where to focus your debt pay off efforts.
It’s ideal to have a DebtScore of zero (meaning none of your income is needed to pay off your debt) but it’s pretty unlikely!
3. Appoint a Family CFO
Now you know where to focus…you need to get to work. In order to really accomplish a goal, someone needs to take charge and ensure that everyone is doing their part. In a debt repayment scenario, the person that keeps the family interested and on track is the Family CFO.
4. Create a Financial Structure for Success
The way most people organize their accounts, makes it very hard to manage their finances. It can be useful to make a simple diagram that helps you visualize exactly how your money flows into, and out of, your pockets. We have some advice if you need help working out how to create a visual map of your cash inflow and outflow here.
5. Quit Spending on Credit Cards
Have you ever heard the saying “If you want to get out of trouble, quit digging?” You may have a goal to ’get out of debt’ but if you. There are techniques you can use to avoid continuing to rack up credit card debt just as you are working on paying it down.
6. Negotiate Lower Interest Rates
You can lower the interest rates on your credit cards. Most of the time, all it takes is a phone call. Our members have shared their tips for Successful Rate Reduction and their tips boil down to:
- Prepare for the call!
- Have facts about your financial situation to hand & realize they will ask you lots of direct questions about what you earn and what other obligations you have.
- Explain your financial hardship story in a clear and succinct way.
- While it’s useful to remind them how long you’ve been a loyal customer, you don’t necessarily have a ’right’ to new or improved rates on your existing balances. So approach it as a negotiation.
Be prepared for the fact that some credit card issuers will be easier to deal with than others, and don’t give up if the first card you call says no. The very next card may say yes – and that will be a phonecall worth making.
Refinance to a lower rate if you can. Mortgage interest rates are still historically low. If refinancing isn’t possible due to diminished property values or job loss, you may be eligible for programs to restructure your mortgage with your lender.
7. Making Hard Choices
Sometimes, simple fixes just aren’t enough. If you’re way over your head and debt has gotten the best of you, you may need to consider making hard choices like selling real estate, vacation property, second cars, and luxury items like boats and RVs.
Since 2009, SavvyMoney has been the #1 do-it-yourself debt payoff program in the US. We have helped thousands of borrowers pay off debt faster than they could on their own and save thousands of dollars in interest costs. Become a SavvyMoney member today.