Lingering - or even worse - growing debt is a debilitating feeling. You can wipe the slate clean, however, with this strategy designed to turbocharge your debt reduction and put you on the path to financial freedom.

Start Your Engines

Before you can cross the finish line, you’ve got to start the race. In this case, you have to get a very clear picture of where you stand regarding your debt. Gather every debt you own and make a list - from smallest to greatest. Then determine which debts are costing you the most by organizing them from highest interest rate to lowest. The one on top (highest) is the one you’ll tackle first, then work your way down the list. The goal is to get a good understanding of your current situation so you can create a clear plan toward your end goal.  

Green Means Go!

As you travel along your debt reduction path, don’t get thrown off course by missing payments. That can derail your debt reduction strategy quickly, by adding late fees and higher interest rates to your payments. Always make sure to make the minimum payments on time for all of your credit/debt accounts. Pro Tip: If you’re able, make your payments by the closing date instead of the due date. A credit card statement closing date is the one that gets reported to credit bureaus, so if you pay off an entire balance prior to that, your creditor will report a zero balance, which helps you avoid interest charges  - and most importantly will improve your credit score.

Hit the Nitrous

You know where you stand, and you’re making your payments on time. Now it’s time to put the pedal to the metal. Accelerate how quickly you eliminate your debt by following this plan: referring back to the list you made of your debts, from highest rate to lowest, and pick the debt with the highest rate, apply as much as you can afford to pay down the balance faster, while continuing to make the minimum payments on all the other debts. Continue to do this every month until the debt with the highest interest rate is paid off completely. Then move on to the debt with the next highest rate and repeat the process, always remembering to make the minimum payment to the rest of your creditors. You’ll feel great as you knock out that first debt, and will be motivated to tackle the next one.

Another way to shift your debt reduction strategy into overdrive in 2019 is by taking on some form of part-time work and devoting all or most of that income to your debt. With services like Uber, Lyft, Instacart, or Postmates for example, the gig economy makes it easier than ever to earn some extra cash with a side hustle that fits your schedule. Maybe you have a certain skill set that you can utilize on Upwork or Fiverr. Whatever the case, a few extra hours a week can lead to additional income that when applied to your debts, will dramatically reduce the time it takes to pay them off.

Accelerate Through the Finish

Don’t let off the gas now. Make sure you wipe out your debts by taking a couple of extra steps to really knock those balances out. Start by looking around your home and garage (or storage unit, for that matter). What do you own that you have no use for any longer? Chances are if you haven’t used something in the last six months, you can probably do without it. Take a few pictures, write a quick description and put those items on sites like eBay or Craigslist. If you haven’t taken this step previously, chances are pretty good that you have a few extra bucks lying around. If you’re not inclined to sell through digital outlets, try unloading your no-longer-needed stuff the old school way - by having a garage sale.

Another great strategy to finish off those debts is to take any windfall you may come into during the year and apply it towards your debts. Things like bonuses from work, tax refunds, or inheritances can often be very large amounts. Consider applying some or all of those sudden cash infusions towards your debts.

Committing to eliminating debt isn’t sexy. It often takes much persistence and discipline. The rewards, however, are often numerous. Things like an improved credit score, more free cash, growing savings, better interest rates on loans, and a potential earlier retirement are all very tangible benefits of paying off debt. Additionally, the very real mental, emotional and physical benefits of eliminating debt can’t be overstated. Stress, depression, sleeplessness, and a compromised immune system are all commonly associated with feeling overwhelmed by debt. By taking aggressive action to knock out your debt, you can make 2019 the year that you leave debt in the rearview mirror.

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