Most of us carry at least a little bit of debt. We finance new cars, secure mortgages, and apply for credit cards to get what we need, when we need it. It gives us the flexibility to pay for more expensive items over time instead of up front and all at once. And that’s convenient. But when we incur too much debt, the financial stress that comes with it can outweigh the benefits. The key to secure financial footing is responsible debt management. And it starts with a few strategies that will help you cut down what you owe fast.
1. Find out your credit score and monitor it closely.
Our credit report, for better or worse, determines our financial lives. Our credit score is a direct reflection of our risk as a borrower. If your credit score is good (think 700 or higher), it shows a proven track record of responsible debt management. And that means lower-interest rate loans. Take stock of where you stand now and aim to boost that score with on-time payments.
2. Create a budget and stick to it.
Get into the habit of spending less and saving more. Create a detailed list of monthly expenditures (including credit card bills) and create a budgetary line item for each. Look for opportunities to cut anything that isn’t absolutely necessary — at least for now — and put any newfound “extra cash” toward outstanding debts. For example, scale back on that daily coffee and put that money at the end of the month toward your credit card payment.
3. Prioritize and pay off the most expensive debt first.
Now that you have a firm grip on your budget, commit to paying down the most expensive debts first. Credit cards or loans with the highest interest rates get top billing. Pay more than the minimum payment to start chipping away at the total balance — otherwise you’re just covering the interest rates and treading water.
4. Try to negotiate lower interest rates on those credit cards.
Higher-interest rate credit cards can leave you feeling stuck. When every payment goes toward the interest rate, that balance won’t budge. Reach out to your credit card company and find out if you can score a lower interest rate. There might be some flexibility, especially if you’ve consistently made payments on time.
5. Throw any “found money” toward that balance, too.
Annual raises, tax refunds, and bonuses could go a long way toward bringing down your debt. If you can, consider using these unexpected (or expected) lump sums of cash to knock out sizeable chunks of debt instead of spending it.
Better debt management is within reach — it just takes commitment. Take an honest look at your financials, come up with a manageable plan, and stay the course. For more tips and advice, check out Comenity’s financial resources.