The average household carries $137,063 in debt, while the median household income is less than $60,000, according to data from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Labor Department. While it's easy to get into debt, it can be hard to get out. Here are five tips personal finance experts recommend to lower your debt burden:
List and Prioritize
Create a list all of your debts by amount owed and the interest rate you are paying. Then prioritize your repayment based on one of two strategies:
- The Avalanche. Focus on paying the debt with the highest interest rate first, to minimize the total interest you'll pay.
- The Snowball. Focus on paying the debt with the smallest balance first. While this may seem counterintuitive, it's recommended for those who have difficulty sticking to a repayment plan. The smallest balance gets paid off sooner and then its debt repayments can be devoted to the next debt. This gives you a powerful psychological boost and sense of achievement.
Pay more than the minimum amount due. Your lender receives more interest income from you if you pay the minimum, but that's not what you want. Think of ways you can increase your income to make the extra payments, such as:
- Taking a second job or freelancing.
- Asking for a raise at work.
- Devoting extra cash to debt repayment, such as your refund check.
Review your monthly expenses to find things that you can eliminate to increase your debt repayment. You can reward yourself by renewing these luxuries, but only after you've paid off what you owe. You could cut spending on things like:
- Cable TV
- Gym fees
Downsize and Declutter
Not only does it help to spend less, it may also be worth getting rid of what you already have. Consider selling possessions you no longer need, or finding a place to live with lower rent or smaller mortgage payments. Be ready to make some sacrifices in exchange for financial freedom. Things that you may be able to part with include:
- Sporting equipment
- Extra or recreational vehicles
- Electronics, games
It's worth calling your lenders to see if there's a way to lower your interest rate. They will often do this if you've been a longtime customer with a history of timely payments. In some cases, you can even get them to forgive part of your debt. Also consider using zero-percent balance transfer options with different credit card providers. While these may come with fees, 12 months of no interest can be worth it.
Remember, reducing your debt burden can seem overwhelming, but small steps can yield big results.