Do you have student loans, credit card debt, car loans, or a lengthy mortgage? Tackling your debt can seem like an overwhelming process, make you feel like you will never make it to the surface of debt free or back to even. Below is a guide to help expedite paying off your debt taking each step closer to the status of debt free as a positive challenge rewarding yourself along the way.
For example, if you have credit card debt on multiple credit cards, or have several student loans with different interest rates, analyze which one(s) have the highest interest rates. The higher the interest rate = the more money out of your pocket, so tackle the debts with the highest interest rates first. If you have two forms of debt with the same interest rate, pick the smaller balance first and focus on paying that one off first. This is beneficial from a psychological standpoint. Checking off a paid debt or loan will generate a positive emotional reaction and help alleviate some of the stress associated with debt.
Once you understand which debt has the highest interest rate, leverage an easy trick to help expedite your debt. This trick is to divvy up your payments into bi-weekly payments instead of monthly.
How does this work? Well if you are currently making monthly payments on your credit card bill, loan, or mortgage, that means you are making 12 payments per year. If you switch your payment to bi-weekly payments dividing your monthly payment in half, you will actually make 13 full payments per year and you won’t even notice making the extra payment! See the image below to help explain this process leveraged from the calculator comparison from bankrate.com at http://www.bankrate.com/calculators/mortgages/bi-weekly-mortgage-calculator.aspx. By simply doing bi-weekly mortgage payments on a $250,000 15-year mortgage with an interest rate of 4%, you will turn a 15-year mortgage into a 13-year mortgage and save over $9,000 in interest. Imagine where you can put that $9,000, to a new car or on your child’s college education!
If you have additional cash laying around, throw additional money at your loan to help drive down the principal. Reducing the principal will not only help expedite the life of your loan but also reduce the amount of interest you will pay.
If your loan provider allows you to automate your payments, opt in! Often you can reduce your interest rate by 0.25%-0.5%, which can make a big difference when you span the life of your loan across multiple years. To put this into perspective, leverage the mortgage calculator at http://www.firststepfortune.com/calculators/.