How much of your monthly budget goes toward paying off debt? According to Northwestern Mutual’s 2019 Planning and Progress Study, 34 percent of the average American’s income is going toward debt. And it’s taking a toll: 45 percent of people say they feel anxiety about their debt every month. If that’s you, it’s okay.
While debt is a reality for so many of us, it’s possible to get out from under it. In fact, we’re making good progress. Our study found the average amount of debt Americans carry (excluding mortgages) is $29,800, down by more than $8,000 from last year.
Hopefully you’re already making progress. But if you could use a little boost, these simple steps can help.
- GET ORGANIZED
Write down all the debts you have. Include the amount you owe, the minimum payment and the interest rate you’re paying. It might feel overwhelming to see the tally, but remember that others have tackled large debts. You’ve got this.
While you always need to make the minimum payment, prioritize making extra payments on the debts with the highest interest rates first. The sooner you pay those debts down, the less you’ll throw away to interest each month. Another method you could consider is to make extra payments on the debt with the lowest balance. That can help you pay off individual debts you have quickly, which can be very motivating.
- LOWER YOUR RATES
You switch cable companies if a competitor is offering a deal, so why not refinance your debt at a lower rate? This is key as you think about how to get out of debt. If you have good credit, you might be able to qualify for a personal loan, consolidation loan, or to refinance your student loans.
If you have credit card debt, consider transferring your balance onto a new card with a 0 percent introductory rate and no balance transfer fees. There’s no need to pay more than necessary in interest on your debt while paying it off.
- FIND EXTRA MONEY TO PUT TOWARD YOUR DEBT
Sure, paying down debt is likely not going to be a period in your life filled with Instagram-worthy Hawaiian trips or fun shopping sprees — but you don’t need those things to enjoy your life. Take a hard look at how you’re spending money. Often, people find that a fair amount of their monthly budget goes to things that aren’t really important to them. Find that money and don’t give up all the things you love.
You could also take on a side hustle. Driving for a ride sharing service is a quick and easy way to make some extra cash. But you could use this as an opportunity to follow a passion. Always wanted to take up photography? Have you been dreaming of starting a blog? These could be opportunities to learn something new and put your knowledge to work for some extra cash.
- MAKE IT FUN
Some couples have made a game out of getting out of debt. They find that it makes it easier and actually makes it fun. This will be a journey, so do what you need to make sure that you continue to make progress. And — most importantly — don’t be afraid to celebrate along the way.