get out of debt

How to Become Debt-Free

o matter how good (or bad) you may be at managing money, if you’re carrying a lot of personal debt, those bills can erode the value of your hard-earned income or savings.

For most people, having a mountain of credit card debt and high-interest loans not only puts a dent in the monthly budget, it also puts a strain on your overall finances – impacting your ability to invest, donate or simply sock away more money for retirement.

When getting out of debt is a priority, there are several things you can do to eliminate that debt entirely – or at least pay off most of it – in 12 months or less.

Here are 10 tips and strategies to become debt-free in a year or less:

  1. Bump Up Your Debt Repayment Percentage

Dedicate at least 15 percent of your take home-pay or current income – such as your Social Security check – to debt repayment. Putting at least 15 percent of your paycheck towards credit card debt and loans can helps you pay down those obligations much more quickly because most credit card companies only ask you to pay about 2% of the outstanding balance each month.

But making small, minimum payments means that your debt balances are collecting interest as each month or each year goes by. So paying off large chunks of your debt within a few months could save you a significant amount of money on interest payments alone.

  1. Use Cash Reserves and Savings to Pay Down Larger Debts

Don’t be afraid to use a portion of your savings to pay down high-interest rate debts. Using cash reserves for debt repayment is a smart decision because you will stop accruing interest on those large balances.

Although it may feel comforting to have some “extra” cash sitting in your bank account, the truth is that those funds aren’t really working for you – not with today’s record low interest rates. So don’t deplete your savings entirely. But if you’re sitting on a pile of cash, do use some of those funds to eliminate your bills and get closer to living a debt-free lifestyle.


  1. Negotiate for a Lower Interest Rate

Call your creditors to negotiate a lower interest rate. You’ll be surprised how many creditors will be willing to reduce your interest rate based on your payment history and account standing.

If you have maintained a good relationship for a few years, you may be in a much better position to qualify for a lower interest rate. This can help you save some money on interest payments as you pay down that debt over the course of the year.

  1. Use Your Tax Refund Check to Pay Down Debt

While it’s tempting to splurge on a high-ticket item or go on vacation with that tax refund check, a smarter money move would be to pay down some or all of that debt. Consider the value of reducing your monthly payments with a single lump sum debt payoff strategy.

You’ll enjoy the benefits of a lighter debt load over the entire year and for years to come, instead of enjoying the short-term satisfaction of a purchase.


  1. Sell Off Items for Cash

Put together a list of items that you could sell on eBay, Craigslist, or at a garage sale. Drumming up some extra cash by selling items you no longer need or are ready to part with – and using the proceeds to pay down debt – can help you rapidly lighten your debt load.

Continue reading the complete article – 10 Steps to Be Debt-Free in Less Than a Year on AARP.org

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