For the 22nd quarter in a row, American debt has increased. According to the New York Federal Reserve, household debt in the fourth quarter of 2019 reached $14.15 trillion. In nominal terms, the sum is currently $1.5 trillion higher than the previous record of $12.68 trillion in the third quarter of 2008.The main debt sectors in the United States are mortgages, auto loans, student loans, and credit cards, with the majority of Americans in some form of debt.
Take a deep breath when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Debt is what helps us to borrow our time in exchange for cash to buy our first home, fund a company, or buy a family car, and it isn’t always a bad thing. Some people will run to pay off their debts, but the majority take a longer path.
Here are seven habits to help you pay off your debts without losing your mind.
- Debt Payment Budget
The most common mistake people make when attempting to pay off debt is failing to prepare for monthly payments in the same way they do for utilities, food, and other necessities. Debt should be handled in the same way as any other bill.
It is due every month, and failure to pay on time has serious repercussions. If you plan to make additional payments against your mortgage, it’s a good idea to account for that money in your budget.
A zero-sum budgeting strategy is the best way to proceed. You are then forced to offer every dollar you earn a “work.” You must find out where every dollar goes if you make $3,000 a month.
See your existing budget to find out if you normally have any money left at the end of the month. If you don’t, rework your budget; if you do, find out exactly where those additional dollars went.
With debt payments included within your budget, you have reserved the money every month, and you may want to take this phase further through automatic payments (so that you don’t have to be worried that a payment is missing).
- Consider debt as a marathon, not a sprint
One of the simplest ways to cause debt exhaustion is to approach your debt with a sprint mentality. While some debt may be categorized as an “emergency,” particularly if the interest rate is in the double digits, it is more sustainable to take a confident, methodical approach to repay a loan.
To begin with, pouring all of your earnings into debt is exhausting, both physically and emotionally. If you have a big debt to pay off, a sprinter’s speed would most likely be too difficult to maintain.
Second, some people tend to pay off low-interest debt slowly because they think they can get a better return elsewhere. Although this is real, make sure you’re really doing something with your money if you’re using this point. It will not earn a higher return sitting in a bank because your return when paying off debt is determined by your interest rate.
If you take an all-or-nothing approach, you’ll notice that your life soon becomes focused on your debt. Don’t let it make your choices for you. You will reap the financial fruits of your labour despite your debt—as long as you do so in a financially responsible manner. This could imply setting aside a separate travel savings fund or a certain sum of fun money per month (after your debt payment has been made).
In the same lines, avoid making hasty decisions such as raiding your 401(k) to pay off debt
- Don’t jeopardize your health.
Earning more money is a popular piece of debt-reduction advice. If you can’t afford to pay more on your debt right now, working extra hours, cultivating a side hustle, or searching for a seasonal job may be worthwhile.
Although this advice is usually sound and useful, you run the risk of being enslaved by your debt.
Assume you are so intent on being debt-free that you work every hour outside of your daily job to raise more money. You start a side hustle, work 80-hour weeks, and can aggressively pay off your debt. You seize any money-making opportunity that comes your way without hesitation. That is, before you begin to feel exhausted, as though you have run out of gas and can’t remember the last time you took a break.
Workaholism is a pattern and routine that you develop for yourself. You can’t say “no” to more money, and you’re at a loss for how to avoid it.
Your sanity, personal relationships, and the quality of your work at your day job and side hustle will all suffer as a result. Juggling them would no longer be fun as they solidify themselves as a punishing means to the end of debt-free living.
Do not allow this to happen to you. If you decide to work hard because you want to make more money to pay off your debt quicker, set certain limits for yourself. Don’t let prospective or current clients control your schedule.
Don’t put your physical and mental health on the back burner. In the United States, medical expenses will generate their own interest-bearing debt, which is the last thing you need when trying to pay off a loan at the expense of your health. Ignoring health conditions now will eventually lead to them reappearing later, as costly and risky as they have always been.
Nothing is more precious than your time and health; debt is not worth working yourself to death to pay off.
- Learn From Others
If you’re looking for some motivation or a new perspective on debt, read the stories of those who have been in a similar situation.
Being in debt can feel isolating at times. You may believe that you did something wrong, that you deserve to be unhappy and wallowing in self-pity. However, reading about other people’s experiences can help to reframe the problem.
In a global economy obsessed with borrowing money, you’re not alone, so having a helpful, encouraging group will make a big difference in your path to debt freedom.
Connect with like-minded people so you can bounce ideas off of them, confide in them, and gain accountability partners. Surrounding yourself with people who understand what you’re going through will help you feel more positive about your situation.
- Keep in Mind Your “Why”
Nobody wants to be in debt. It’s an unfortunate but necessary fact of life for most people and companies, and it’s natural to crave the freedom of being debt-free.
Consider why you want to take on the debt in the first place, and write down your thoughts. Make this into a mantra and repeat it while you’re having a bad day. Accept that some days you will feel as though the debt is unavoidable and that you will never be able to get out from under its weight.
Stick to your mantra—your “why”—in these times, and you’ll most certainly find renewed motivation. Having a reason for any major goal in life will help you navigate the many obstacles you’ll face on your way to achieving it.
- Maintain Continuity and Forgiveness When The Plans Fail
Having a strategy is one of the best things you can do to succeed in paying off your debt. You won’t make as much progress if you don’t have a plan for paying off debt as you might if you had a path to adopt.
You can pay off debt using the avalanche or snowball methods (or a combination of the two), but set aside some money in case things don’t go as expected.
It’s understandable if you have an unexpected cost of one month that allows you to make just the minimum payment on your debt. It’s important to have a strategy, but you don’t have to stick to it in every situation.
- Make an emergency fund.
Unexpected expenses are the reason you should work hard to set up your emergency fund.
You are less likely to end up in more debt than you began with if you have extra funds set aside.
While certain unexpected costs can be predicted, most people do not consider them until it is too late. You don’t need a large emergency fund, but setting aside money for different savings accounts will help you get out of debt faster and remain debt-free in the long run.
These easy habits will help you get out of debt sooner rather than later. You don’t have to make yourself insane by paying off your debt for every penny you earn, but you do need a strategy, hopefully, one that works in your favor rather than against it.