Do you remember what it was like the first time you tried to drive a car? Did you just hop in the car, put the keys in, and drive away effortlessly? Or was it a little bit nerve racking? If you are a normal human being, you probably weren’t a perfect driver on your very first try. And it was probably at least a little bit scary getting started and learning what to do. At a minimum, it probably took a little practice. You probably needed to learn a few simple things– like which pedal is for the brakes, which is for the gas. And you probably needed to get a little feel for the steering wheel, and learn related laws, like using a turn indicator before you turn. That is exactly what getting started paying off debt is like. It can be a little confusing and scary when you are starting out. So if you’re wondering how to start paying off debt, you are in the right place.
HOW TO START TO PAYING OFF DEBT
(1) TALLY UP YOUR TOTAL DEBT.
The first thing you should do to start paying off debt is to count up exactly how much you have. This is kind of like if you were trying to lose weight. It’s difficult to lose weight if you don’t know your starting weight. Just like stepping on the scale can be painful, counting up your total debt may sting a little. But you can’t make progress without knowing where you are. Find out exactly how much debt you have. You may have student loans, a mortgage, a car payment, credit card debt, a personal loan, or maybe even all of the above. List every single debt you owe. An easy and free way to do this is in the Paidback app, which will keep track of your debt for you (including payments that you’ll make). It’s motivating to be able to see all of your debt in one place as well as the progress that you are making on your debt. So that’s the first thing– tally up all of your debt.
(2) CREATE A PLAN.
The next thing you need to do to get started paying off debt is to come up with a custom debt payoff plan. One problem I personally found when I was getting started paying off $650,000 in student loan debt, was that there is TONS of conflicting advice about the method you should use to pay off debt. There are many methods that you can choose. I will highlight three very effective ones here.
Debt avalanche: the debt avalanche method is where you prioritize paying off highest interest debt first.
Debt snowball: the debt snowball method is where you pay off your smallest balance debt first and then move on to your bigger debt balance. The idea is that paying off the smaller balances will give you the motivation you need to pay off the bigger balances. This is well supported in social psychology, however, this method will actually cost you more money than paying off your highest interest debt first.
Worst debt: the worst debt method is a method of debt repayment where you pay it off based on how much the debt balance bothers you. Say for example, you took on a personal loan to pay for an engagement ring and your fiance ended up calling off the wedding but kept the ring. Now you are stuck with paying off the debt with no fiance to show for it. That debt would probably bother you a lot. The more it bothers you, the higher priority it is to pay off.
Any of these methods will work for you to start paying off debt. If there is one thing that is true about debt payoff, it’s that all of us are on unique financial journeys. Not all of us have the exact same circumstances or the same financial goals. So if you have a question or need a little help coming up with a debt payoff plan, please reach out to our vetted money coaches who you can text your burning questions to. It’s completely free to try for 30 days– no credit card required. They are all really nice and non-judgmental andwill
(3) SET A BUDGET.
The next thing you need to do is to set a budget. Sticking to a budget will will allow you to make extra debt payments and help you get started paying off debt.
Start by listing out your income from every source. Then move on to listing out all of your expenses. You can use a fancy app like YNAB, or simply write it down on a piece of paper or in an excel sheet. If you need an example, here is one.
I am privy to keeping a budget as simple as possible. You can learn about the easiest budgeting method here.
(4) ADJUST YOUR INCOME AND EXPENSES TO MAKE DEBT PAYOFF A PRIORITY
Once you know how much debt you have, how much your expenses are per month, and how much income you have coming in, compare all of these numbers. Do you have enough income coming in each month so that you can meet all of your expenses, including making extra debt payments? If not, you will need to either increase your income, or cut some expenses, or most likely, both. Do so until you have enough money each month to not only make ends meet, but to direct extra money towards paying off debt.
You can use our debt payoff calculators to see how much money you’ll need to put towards debt each month to reach debt freedom.
Taking on other jobs and otherwise increasing your income might take a lot of extra work and sacrifice on your part, but remember, it is only temporary until you get out of debt. Remember, the interest on your debt is working hard against you, so you must work hard against it.
Getting started paying off debt isn’t as scary as it might seem. Just like driving a car for the first time may have been a little nerve racking, eventually, you will be so comfortable crushing your debt payoff journey it will feel like second nature. You got this! I created the Debt Payoff Starter Kit to help you get started paying off debt. It is a free guide, and I’ll walk you through exactly how to get started paying off debt. You will learn how to set (and crush) financial goals, create a budget, and eliminate your debt for good. I break things up over the course of 4 days to help ease that overwhelming feeling that you might have about your debt. DOWNLOAD THE FREE DEBT PAYOFF STARTER KIT HERE.