Whether you’re dealing with a lot of debt or a little, it can be difficult to manage, especially if there are multiple places where you’re accumulating it.
Even the smallest bit can become a big hassle if you’re not keeping up with payments. Large amounts of debts can be even worse because you might have to pick and choose which ones to pay each month if you can’t afford them all.
Having a strategy to manage everything will make sure you don’t fall into a hole you can’t climb back out of.
Here are the easiest ways to devise a plan to get that debt managed and under control.
1. Know Your Debt
The best way to manage your debt is to know it inside and out.
There are excellent methodical ways that can help you track down everything you owe in a matter of minutes. You’ll want to take note of each debt owed, verify the amounts, your monthly payment, and the due date for each month’s payment.
From there, set a calendar reminder to review your progress every few months or quarterly to adjust the amounts owed as your make payments. Doing so also help you see the progress you’ve made and can motivate you to stay on track.
2. Pay On Time
This simply can’t be emphasized enough — if you have debt, it’s incredibly important to make payments toward paying it down on time! Now, of course, sometimes the unexpected comes up and you might miss a payment or two, but in general, paying on time and consistently should be a strong commitment to keeping your finances and credit under control.
Create a tracker after gathering your debts owed to help you remember due dates and see the overall effects of making late payments if it happens. Paying late can add more debt to your plate and your balance will be subject to earning more interest and penalty fees — something you’ll definitely want to avoid in order to increase your chances of getting out of debt fast.
To help me manage my own debt, I found that signing up for email alerts from my lender helps me stay on track. I get confirmations whenever I make payments so I can keep a record of making the payment and notifications when my account balance is ready each month. It’s even helped me get ahead on payments since I’ve started making the payment as soon as I receive the statement, instead of waiting for the formal due date. This quick action alone has proven to help my principal balance go down faster because less interest accumulates before the actual due date.
3. Budget & Payment Calendar
To make sure you’re allocating the right amount of money per paycheck to your monthly bills, create a calendar that lets you plan which bills get paid from each paycheck. For example, if you get paid on the 1st of the month, you could use the money from the paycheck to pay any bills that are due the first half of the month. You can use this management method even if your paychecks fall on different days each month.
This method can be used to track payments on credit cards and loans as well as other necessary bills like rent, electricity, insurance, and more. Plus, once you have it all in front of you, you’ll likely feel a sigh of relief knowing that each expense is accounted for and won’t be missed.
If you get paid bi-weekly, work out how you can pay all your bills with 24 checks. Twice a year you get a third check in a month. Wouldn’t it be awesome to pocket that extra money or make an extra-large payment on your debt? Absolutely.
At the very least, your plan should allow you to make the minimum payment each month. It will take longer to pay off your debt, but you’ll at least make small dents each month. Missing payments can be harder to catch up on than you realize, so at the very least, commit to paying the minimum.
4. Prioritize Your Debts
Of course, you want to make paying off your debt a priority, but prioritizing which ones you pay off first is an important strategy to pay everything off as quick as possible.
If you have an extra income stream that you can put toward debt, throw it at your debt with the highest interest rate. If you have two forms of debt with the same interest rate, pay off the one that has a higher balance first. This commonly used method for getting out of debt can help you make progress faster.
However, if any of your accounts are not in good standing, you’ll want to work extra hard to get them back on track regardless of the interest rate. You’ll want to avoid any of your debts going to collections. If they do get sent to a collections agency, focus on making it current while making the minimum payments on any other debts.
5. Start Saving
If you have disposable income after paying all your necessary bills, minimum payments on debt, and are able to afford other necessities, put some of the money into a high-yield savings account. You might only be able to put aside $10 today, but as your debts go down and get paid off, you may be putting $100 or more away each month, which is an excellent way to shape your future.
When creating your monthly budget, determine an amount that is comfortable for you to put away in savings. Make a small savings goal to start and watch it grow. Building this savings account will help you not go into more debt if you have an emergency in the future.
6. Ask for Help
It can be tough to ask for help, I completely understand, but if you could use a little bit of assistance or accountability, try your best to reach out to a trusted source. Knowing who to ask for help can be just as tricky. After you analyze your monthly income and expenses, you should know your financial position each month. Being in a situation where your expenses exceed your income is the sign that you should ask for help.
Some options for getting a grip on your debt are refinancing loans, debt consolidation, and bankruptcy. Sitting down with a financial advisor can help you understand which decision might be best for you and if you can avoid damaging your credit further.
If you find yourself continuously struggling with managing your spending, there are programs to help you. You can look into debt consolidation or even join a community or forum with others going through the same financial woes on managing debt. Whatever you do, remember that you don’t have to go through the hardships of managing debt on your own.