Climbing Out of a Debtor’s Rut: Try It Yourself

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Triumphant bride standing on solid ground

Who else is ready to get out of debt?

To do this, you’ll need to know a few things about each of your debt accounts: current balance, interest rate and the current minimum payment.

Now:

  • Step 1: Put them in order, highest balance to lowest.
  • Step 2: Look at your budget for the month (make one if this isn’t something you already do) and figure out how much you can spare, in addition to your minimum payments listed above, towards paying off your debt.
  • Step 3: Add that additional amount to your lowest credit card, etc. each month. So if your lowest card has a minimum payment of $15 and you decided you can spare $20 more towards paying off your debt each month, you’d pay $35 towards that bill each month until it’s paid off.
  • Step 4: When you pay off the first card, roll that total payment into the next lowest bill. If, say, your next lowest bill has a minimum payment of $25, rolling that $35 that you no longer owe to Company A means you’re now payment Company B $60 a month and you haven’t affected your monthly budget at all.
  • Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4 until all your debts are paid.

It might seem slow going at first, especially if you’re stretched kinda thin to begin with and can’t afford a lot extra towards your debt, but after you get a couple of small balances paid off you’ll start to see dramatic results.

At least I think they’re kind of dramatic. I’m a numbers girl, after all, but seeing that balance start to go down chunk by chunk instead of pebble by pebble is a pretty cool feeling.

To see just how this will affect your own personal finance, I’ve put together a little spreadsheet you can download, plug-in your info and see the difference a little strategy can make.

CC Payoff Projector (just right click and save as to download a copy)

This isn’t, of course, exact, but it’ll give you a good idea of what to expect.

And depending on the card and the balance, you may need to update your plan from time to time.

A couple things to remember, though, to make this work the best:

  • Once you start to pay off a card, don’t use it! I know, it’s kind of obvious, but it’s worth saying that any charges made against it means longer to pay it off.
  • If the interest rate changes (an unfortunate reality, I’m afraid) make sure to update your spreadsheet so you can see what it’ll do to your pay-off plans. If it skyrockets, maybe call the company and ask for a rate review.

Now, why not just save up this extra bit and pay off the bill all at once? Easy! While you’re earning a percent or two per year (if you’re lucky!) in a savings account, that credit card balance is costing you up to 20% (or more). It just doesn’t make sense to save at a loss, you know?

Also, by concentrating your “extra” on one card at a time, you’re seeing results quicker (which is why I like to start with the store cards first–they tend to have higher interest rates and lower balances) and will then have a larger amount to roll onto your major card minimum payment when the time comes. Obviously if you’ve got a card that is in danger of going over your credit limit, it’s a good idea to get it down to a more reasonable level first, but we’re working from the idea that things aren’t quite that dire just yet.

This isn’t going to work for everyone, of course, but it is working for me, so I thought it was worth sharing. I don’t think I’ll be completely debt free by the wedding, but I’ll be in a lot better shape than if I didn’t do anything!

Pretty Book and Flower Icon

 

What’s your plan for debt management?

Climbing Out of a Debtor’s Rut: Old Dog, Meet New Tricks

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

Bride climbing her way out of a rutNow, before you can tackle a problem–debt or otherwise–you have to know exactly what you’re dealing with.

Come on, I can’t be the only girl guilty of looking only at the minimum payment and remaining credit balance and totally ignoring the bottom line, can I?

Frankly, listing out your balances on credit cards, cars, student loans and whatever other debt you may have can make even the strongest girl want to run for the hills. Or the ice cream hidden in the back of the freezer.

I know, I had to do it. And I’m ashamed to say the tally (not counting my student loans) was already in the 5 figures. Ouch! How did this happen?

Oh, right. Lots of dinners out, that cruise I was going to pay off in 3 months that I kept putting off. The shopping on said cruise. More dinners out. Clothes. Shoes. A new laptop, laser printer, Wii and Wii Fit. Throw a few parties and you’ve pretty much got it.

Frivolous? Maybe. Do I regret any of the purchases or experiences? Not really.

The important thing is to not beat ourselves up too much over this because self-loathing is counter productive. Instead, we can be grateful for the past and keep moving forward!

So, now that we know the problem, what’s the solution?

Ages ago (or at least it feels like it, I suppose it was more like 12 years ago) I had a friend involved with a certain multi-level financial services company and, for a while, so did I. While it was a great learning experience (wherein one of the biggest things I learned was that I’m NOT made to be a salesperson) it wasn’t the best fit for me so I walked away. But not without learning a lot!

Tomorrow I’m going to go into the details of the how-to. It’s not a huge secret or anything, and if you’re familiar with Dave Ramsey you may have already heard of it. (He calls it snowballing. We called it Debt Stacking. I didn’t know who Dave Ramsey was until a few months ago, so take what you will from it.)

I do want to point out that last year I paid off 1 store card and will be paying off a second store card next month. This year I’ll also be paying off my car and that, plus the funds that’d been put towards the 2 now-paid-off cards will make it possible to pay off the remaining 2 store cards and get started on one of my major credit cards by the end of this year.

And that I’m pretty doggone pleased about!

Pretty Book and Flower Icon

Have you ever sat down and totaled-up your debt?
Did it shock you or have you always kept up with the total? 

Climbing Out of the Debt Rut: Debtor’s History

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

A Bride digging her way out of a rut
Whether it happened due to a little too much retail therapy, some emergency expenses or just a lack of a good relationship with money and credit, it’s not unheard-of that you have a bit of debt to pay off.

Or maybe more than a bit.

Wanting to start the next chapter of your life debt-free (so you can turn right around and get a mortgage, right?) is an admirable goal and, depending on the size of your debt and how much time you’ve got before that page turns, it may even be possible!

After my first divorce (the one where we divided up liabilities as we had no real assets to speak of) I had a couple of credit cards, a new car payment and a small loan from my boss we’d taken out to pay for car repairs (for the now-ex’s car… somehow that got forgotten in the divvying up process, but whatever). And then I decided it was time to go back to school and incurred quite the student loan balance over those 2 years. After finishing school and going into my chosen field I was so upside down it was scary.

Threatening to repossess my car scary.

Because I wasn’t making enough to pay both my rent and my car payment in the same month on top of my other bills (and I’d run out of extensions) I did two very important things: I went back to my old job making a steadier paycheck and sought the help of one of those Debt Management Companies.

The upside of that last bit was that they got my interest rates reduced and negotiated a payment plan that got the various companies off my back so I could pay the other bits without sweating so much. The downside is that those cards would be cancelled the moment they were paid off and my credit rating took a hit because of the negotiations. At that point, though, I figured my credit couldn’t get much worse and I had time to rebuild.

And rebuild I did! I even got pretty good at living within my means with no credit cards for many years. And then I got a little cocky, got approved for a couple of accounts and got myself a bit topsy turvy again.

Some lessons take more than one time to learn, huh?

While I could bore you with the details, it’s enough to say I didn’t manage my funds as well as I could have. That, plus losing a contract job that cut my monthly income by 25% put me into a bit of a tailspin. I could make the minimum payments on everything, plus a little more spread around, so the situation wasn’t/isn’t dire, but I finally got to the point where I was fed up and ready to change things.

With the wedding coming up it strengthened my resolve to dig myself out of the pit I’d dug over the last however-many years without needing outside help or jeopardizing my credit report.

Pretty Book and Flower Icon

 

Does this sound at all familiar to you?
How much are you willing to do to get out of debt?