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Making a Game Plan for Your Debt

Do you feel the ball and chain of debt holding you back from reaching the life you want? You may be sick of constantly living paycheck to paycheck.
By MSA Staff

Do you feel the ball and chain of debt holding you back from reaching the life you want? You may be sick of constantly living paycheck to paycheck. It may feel that you are never ahead of that burden. Sometimes unfortunate circumstances happen, like illness, job lay-off, or that unexpected home or car repair. These can knock you off track, but hopefully, they are temporary side-steps.

At MSA, we want to give you some easy tips to help set up your debt-free game plan so that you can take charge of your financial life and keep moving forward.

Tip #1 – Commit Yourself to Really Dealing with Debt
Your first step to getting a handle on debt is to figure out how much you have, the interest rates, and current payment plans. Create a simple spreadsheet using online tools (or good old-fashioned pen and paper). List each source of debt, the amount from smallest to largest, lender, interest rates, minimum payment required each month, and the years to pay off debt at the minimum payment required. Sort your list from the smallest balances to the largest.

Tip #2 – Try to Pay More Than the Minimum Each Month
If you can, pay more than the minimum each month. One effective way to do this is known as the Snowball Method of payment. In this method, you would use your excess funds to pay the smallest balances first. At the same time, you would continue to make the minimum payments on all your other loans. Then, once the smallest balance is paid off, you use the extra money to pay off the next smallest debt, and so forth.

This can help you start to feel better as you see the progress of paying off some of those small, nagging loans.

Tip #3 – Side Hustle
There is no magic to paying off debt. You can either earn more or spend less to free up some money. A side hustle is just an extra job. You may have a talent or hobby that can bring you joy and some extra cash. Be creative to think of some side hustles. For instance, you may love to play a sport. On weekends you could organize a group of local kids to teach them your moves or become a referee. There are lots of online sites that can give you some great side hustle ideas.

Tip #4 – Examine Your Budget
It might be time to have that tough conversation with yourself about your own spending. You know the conversation; “What am I really spending money on?” “Do I really think that spending will make me happier than reducing my debt?” Make a list of those items, and that extra money can go toward paying off debt.

Challenge your whole family to come up with money-saving ideas. Each person can commit to an amount each week. They can also help research if bundling some of your online and phone services may make sense. You don’t have to suffer; just be creative.

All those weekly savings could go into your snowball!

Tip #5 – Sell What You Don’t Need
You can make it a challenge for the whole family. Get the kids to go through the attic, closets and basement with you to really discover what is trash and what can be cash.

You can hold a garage sale or sell smaller, easy-to-ship items online. The rules with the garage sale are that everything must go and not be put back into the house. The leftover items can be donated.

Tip #6 – Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate
If your interest rates are making you feel like you’re sliding backward down an icy road and can’t gain any traction, you can do something about it. You may never know what you can negotiate until you try. Remember, the company to whom you owe money would rather get some of their money back than none.

Here are some of the bills that may have some wiggle room:

  • Cable/Internet/Phone – Companies offer deals and often bundle services for a better price. There is so much competition; they will often renegotiate rather than lose you as a customer.
  • Medical Bills – A cash-strapped hospital may be willing to reduce the bill or stretch out the payments.
  • Credit Card Interest Rates – You can call up your credit card company to ask for both a reduction of your interest rate and also of your principal. They usually want to work something out. If all fails, you might be able to transfer your balance to a zero-interest rate card for a period of time. Opening a new account or not repaying the full amount of debt can impact your credit score, so get more information and help if you need it.
  • Car Insurance – This is a highly competitive industry, and they may be willing to negotiate better terms.
  • Rent/Mortgage – Nothing is set in stone. Your landlord or bank may be willing to give you a break.

You have nothing to lose by asking, and you may have a lot to gain.

Tip #7 – Talk to a Money Coach
Remember that each small step in the right direction can still get you closer to your destination. MSA Money Coaches are here to help you with that journey. You can get more financial education on managing debt, potential impacts on your credit, and more. Call 888-724-2326 today.

Information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific personalized investment, financial planning, tax, legal or accounting advice. We recommend that you consult an attorney, tax advisor or accountant regarding your unique circumstances.

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