Guidelines for Tackling Debt

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Hey Taylor - I’m feeling extra motivated to get out of debt and think this year’s my year. I want to make sure I don’t get discouraged (I’ve got a long way to go), so I’m wondering if you have any tips that will help me through the process. - Monte

Hey Monte - Glad to hear you’re taking the plunge! When you get to the other side of this, you’ll feel like a hero and wonder why you didn’t start sooner.

The right mindset is important for tackling debt, so here are some guidelines that will hopefully keep you on track.

1. Commit to a change in spending. You will spin your wheels and give up way too quickly if you don’t put a freeze on extraneous spending. This seems obvious, and yet so many people fail to get out of debt because they can’t stop going out to dinner, taking trips and buying non-essential items. Know that you can do without a lot of your monthly expenditures and saving $5 here or there makes a huge difference. You can also change your cell phone plan, drop cable, use less water, drive fewer places, etc. Any of these changes will help you pay down debt more quickly, and after a month or so you won’t miss whatever it was you used to spend too much money on.

2. Organize your debt. It sounds like you have a fair amount of debt and that probably consists of multiple account balances. Attacking your debt as one lump sum is like charging up Everest in weighted boots – you’ll pretty much fail before you start. You need to look at each account balance, know which ones have the highest interest rates and which can be paid down the fastest. When you see the money you owe as individual battles which you might be able to win, you’ll feel more optimistic about the whole process.

3. Be patient. As you said, you have a long way to go. Since large amounts of debt mean hefty interest payments, it takes a little bit of time before you start to see results. This is why a plan is so important - give yourself a strategy you can stick to that will keep you on course even when your goals seem completely out of reach. After a few months of reduced spending and tactical repayments, the difference will be noticeable and each payment will have a little more power. Before long, you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel.

A lot of people have success by choosing between a debt snowball and a debt avalanche, and you can read about those strategies at Find your method, keep your head up, and sooner than later that debt will be a thing of the past. Good luck, Monte!