Americans owe a whopping amount of debt.
Total consumer debt, for example, tops $4 trillion,¹ and the average household owes $6,741 on credit cards alone.²
Debt can cause a serious drain on your financial life, not to mention increase your stress levels. You may be parting with a big slice of your income just to service the debt—money that could be put to better use to fund things like a home, your own business, or a healthy retirement account.
Fortunately, there are lots of ways to get out of debt. Here are 3 of them…
Create a budget <br> Before you can start digging yourself out of debt, you need to know how you stand with your income versus your outgo every month. Otherwise, you may be sliding deeper into debt as each week passes.
The solution? Create a budget.
First, start tracking your expenses—there are apps you can get on your phone, or even just a notebook and pencil will do. Divide your expenses into categories. This doesn’t have to be complicated. Food, utilities, rent, entertainment, misc. Add them together every week and then every month.
Then, review your spending and compare it with your income. Spending more than you make? That has to be reversed before you’ll ever be able to get out of debt. Make a plan to either reduce your expenses or find a way to raise your income.
If debt payments are driving your expenses above your income, call your lender to see if you can get a plan with lower monthly payments.
Seek out lower interest rates <br> If you’re paying a high interest rate on credit card debt, a good portion of your monthly payment may be going towards interest alone. That means you may not be reducing the principal—the amount you originally borrowed—as much as you could with a lower interest rate. The lower your interest rate, the more your monthly payments can lower your debt—and eventually help you get out of it.
Find out the annual percentage rate (APR) on your current credit card debt by looking at the monthly statements. Then shop around to find any lower interest rates that might be out there. The next step would be to transfer your credit card debt to that new account with the lower rate. The caveat, however, is if any fees you may be charged now or after an introductory period would nullify the savings in interest. Always make sure you understand the terms on a new card before you transfer a balance.
Another option is to apply to a lender for a personal loan to consolidate your high interest rate debt. Personal loans can have interest rates significantly below those on credit cards. Again, make sure you understand any fees, penalties, and terms before you sign up.
Increase your monthly debt payments <br> Now that you’ve got your spending under control, it’s time to see if you can raise your debt payments every month. There are two primary methods to do this.
First, review your expenses to see if you can cut back in some categories. Can you spend a little time each week clipping coupons to reduce your grocery bill? Can you make coffee at home rather than purchasing it at the coffee shop every day? These changes can add up! Review entertainment costs, too. Can you cut out one or more streaming or cable services? It might be a good idea to find introductory offers that can reduce your monthly payments. Check into introductory cell phone offers, too, but always read the fine print so you don’t have any surprise fees or costs down the road.
Second, make a plan to increase your income. Can you ask for a raise at work, make a case for a promotion, or find a higher paying job? If that’s not in the cards, consider working a side gig. A few extra hours a week may increase your monthly income significantly—and help get you out of debt a little faster.
Are you struggling with debt? Get in touch with me and we can work on a strategy for a debt-free future.
¹ “Consumer debt hits $4 trillion,” Jessica Dickler, CNBC, Feb 21 2019, https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/21/consumer-debt-hits-4-trillion.html
² “2020 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa, Nerdwallet, Jan. 12, 2021, https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/