Paying off debt is a daunting task. But it is a wonderful journey and gift you can give to yourself. Once you are out of debt.. you are FREE! You will have more money, more freedom and the weight will be lifted from your shoulders. Here are some of the steps that are working, and working fast for getting myself out of debt!
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Save 1,000 or your discretion
There are a lot of suggestions on how much you should have as an emergency fund before starting to pay off your loans. I suggest 1,000 which can cover most emergencies. If you are in a situation like me, however, you might want to save up a little more for this started fund than popular programs suggest. I am planning on moving in a few months for my career. I know that's coming and I need to plan for it. If you know you have an expense coming, you need to account for that AND your 1,000 funds before putting any extra money towards your loans.
Before you get started on anything you need to get organized. This includes figuring out what you owe and to who. I recommend downloading or paying for some free debt worksheets or making your own. Make a system for yourself so it's easy to see, understand and track your progress along the way.
There are A LOT of blogs out there that deal with getting out of debt. Although my blog is not dedicated to that, I highly recommend going to Pinterest or searching google some more for tips and tricks. What works for you might not be what worked for me or the next person.
Educate yourself on finances and the situation you are heading into. A am a personal fan of the Dave Ramsey method. His book is helping me pay off my expensive student loans and become a wealthy, young person years ahead of when I should have.
Know you are not alone
I think this is very important to realize and where finance blogs can help out some more. You are not alone in this journey. It's sickening how many people have taken on student loans because they had no other option. Reach out to people, connect, and understand that other people are on the same path. Better yet, realize that there have been tons of people in your shoes that are now financially stable and thriving. You will get there!
Be ready to sacrifice
This is the hardest part about paying off your loans ahead of time. You are going to have to make hard choices. This includes but is not limited to getting your morning Starbucks, going out to eat multiple times a week, or buying new clothes. Don't cut yourself off so much that you are miserable or starving, but just become more aware of your needs versus your wants.
There are plenty of free things to do by yourself or with your friends and family instead of paying for dinner or a night out.
Your friends may not understand
A lot of my friends had their college paid for or have very few loans. They may even have loans but feel no rush to pay them off ahead of time. Either way, this is your journey so don't let them guilt you into spending money or make you feel bad for wanting to spend the night in. Try your best to explain to them why you are taking this leap to become debt-free. Hopefully, they will understand and respect the boundaries you have set for yourself.
Set the big goal and write it down
Although it may seem impossible, set a HUGE goal for yourself for when you will have your debt paid off. Just writing a goal down makes it more likely to happen. When setting this goal, be ambitious but practical. If you have 75,000 in debt, do not say you will pay it off in a year if you only take home 50,000. That's setting yourself up for failure. However, if you think you can pay off your debt in 4 years.. set your goal for 3!
Set small goals
Big goals are great but small goals are the steps that get you there. I recommend using your various loans as goals. I am referencing the Dave Ramsey Methode here again and recommending paying extra on your loans from smallest to biggest. Although this does not make sense from a math standpoint when considering interest, it makes sense from a human standpoint. If you start out with your biggest debt, it will take the longest and feel like you are not making much progress. Starting out with the small goals will give you momentum and make you feel like you this is an attainable goal!
So each month, pay your regular fee to each loan but only put extra towards the smallest one! The next month, take the amount from the small loan you paid off toward the next biggest loan. This is called the Debt Snowball!
Make a budget
You will not get anywhere in your debt-free journey if you don't have a budget. Creating a budget will help you understand where your money is going each month. You may be surprised at how much you are spending on groceries or how many pizzas you got delivered last month. Creating a budget and sticking to it can help you be accountable for your money and your debt. There are a lot of free resources on the internet for this. You could even pay a little more for some budget planning apps or books. I personally use Every Dollar Budget by Dave Ramsey. But, I recommend finding a budget that you like and that works best for you and your family.
Do not take out any more debt
This is crucial. There is no point in paying off your other debts early if you are just going to add more to the pile. This is crushing your momentum and you will never get out of debt this way. Your end goal should be to live debt-free! If you only listen to one of these steps... let it be this one!
Get a side gig
One more step you can take is to get a side gig. Whether this turns into freelancing for a company, a part-time weekend job or starting a side business you could run yourself, get to it! Every little bit extra will help you become debt-free faster so you can live the life you really want to!
I am so excited for you that you are starting this journey to becoming debt-free. If you have any questions please let me know and I will do my best to answer them!