Pay Off Your Debt + Survive Hard Times [A 5-Step Plan]

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Are you in over your head with debt collectors hounding you at every turn? This 5-step plan can pull you out of debt and help you survive those hard times!

Unless we’re born into a rich and famous lifestyle, we’re bound to face some hardships financially. These hard times will gradually overtake us if we simply fall deeper and deeper into debt.

So how can we survive these difficult times while paying off our debts?

In this article, we’ll give you all the steps and tips you need to dig your way out of debt, even in the most difficult financial situations.

Make a Plan

There is a saying that goes: “A goal without a date is only a dream.”

When it comes to your finances, this statement is certainly true.  If you don’t have a solid plan in place, you won’t ever see progress.

That’s why it’s so important to sit down and calculate your budget. You’ll need to identify your incoming money versus your outgoing money. Then, you'll make adjustments to improve the odds in favor of having more income than outgoing.

If numbers aren’t your strong point, don’t fret. There are plenty of budgeting apps that you can use to make this process super simple.

Mint, PocketGuard, and YNAB are a few of the most popular.

Now that you have a plan that makes sense, you need to stick to it. Make a resolution to live below your means and not accumulate any more debt. Now, this can be much easier said than done if you’ve created unhealthy spending habits.

You can use little tricks to make this step easier:

  1. Delete your credit card info from your automatic payment portal. You’d be surprised by how much more thought you put into your purchases if you have to stop and input your credit card information each time.
  2. Use the 24-hour rule to make purchase decisions. If you find something that you think you want to buy, wait a day and sleep on it. If 24 hours from then you still decide that it is worth buying, have at it.
  3. Research how to curb your spending. Reading this article is a great start!

Search for Side Income

Even if you currently have a full-time job, there are still ways that you can increase your income.

Perhaps one of the simplest methods is asking your boss if you can pick up a couple of extra shifts or put in some overtime. Better yet, offer to work overtime. The trick is making it seem like you are doing them a favor instead of the other way around.

If your job doesn’t have these opportunities, you can find a side gig. You can walk your neighbor’s dog or become a social media manager. There are way too many possible side gigs to list them all but this article on Entrepreneur lists fifty good ones.

If you don’t have any extra time to dedicate to working a side job, your last option is to sell valuable things. You can have a garage sale and then use all the money you gained to pay off a credit card bill.

If a garage sale isn’t your style, you can also put things up for sale online and do it that way.

Look For Ways to Cut Expenses

Along with increasing the amount of money you earn each month, you should also search for ways to cut your monthly expenses.

You can always ask those creditors for a better rate.

The worst they can say is no. And if so, see if you can refinance with a different creditor for a better rate or consolidate your debts for one easy-to-pay amount.

You will also want to get rid of any unnecessary bills. This may force you to make some temporary sacrifices. For example, many people have multiple streaming, music, or online book monthly subscriptions.

How many of these do you really need?

Shop at thrift stores instead of department stores and cut back on eating out. These two things alone can cut spending by hundreds of dollars per month. Imagine how quickly you could get out of debt with this switch.

Adopt a thrifty attitude. There’s no shame in it. Why pay full price when there's a discount?

Try to:

  • Clip coupons.
  • Shop around big sales.
  • Plan your grocery list around a meal plan, so no food goes to waste.
  • Consider carpooling.

These are just a few of the many ways to be frugal. It’s also important to pay your bills on time. Late fees and overage charges are killer expensive!

Find the Right Strategy for Your Personal Situation

There are several different strategies that you can follow to become debt-free, but you need to find the one that works for you.

Avalanche Method

With this strategy, you begin by paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first, then move on to the next.

You’ll pay less money altogether by eliminating the interest accumulation. However, you’ll take longer to see a big improvement.

If you need to see immediate results to stay motivated, this method isn’t for you.

Snowball Method

This strategy involves paying off the smallest debt first. Once you pay the smallest one, you work on the next smallest, and so on.

Not only will this give you an immediate sense of accomplishment, but you’ll also reduce the number of debts to keep track of.

Debt Consolidation

This strategy will allow you to take all your debt and put it into one loan or credit card. Alternatively, you can find a personal loan with a low-interest rate and pay off all your debt.

Many times you can get a new credit card with 0% APR on balance transfers. Of course, this is only for a limited time, so don’t forget to keep paying this bill down.

Stay Motivated

It’s not easy to escape debt, especially when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Discouragement can make you give up. Don’t let it!

Reinforce your why.

Picture how much less stressful your life will be when you are less bogged down by your bills. Imagine how many more fun things you can do because you can finally afford them!

Also, don’t expect too much from yourself. Don’t pay so much toward your debt that it causes you to face even worse financial calamity. Always make sure you will have enough left over to pay for your necessities.

Another way to stay focused on your goal is to make a progress chart. If you see a visual of how much progress you’ve made, it can seem more real.

Don’t forget to celebrate every milestone you reach!

Positive reinforcement is effective!

Conclusion

Although money isn’t everything, when we lack it for our daily necessities, we can suffer emotionally and even physically due to the high level of stress that we face each day.

Even if you aren’t in what some would consider “hard times,” you can still benefit from putting these financial habits to work in your life.

If you do, you’ll be less likely to find yourself in dire straits in the future.

Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with The Verge Greeley to help them with their online marketing.