Consumers who are saddled with credit card debt along with student loans or mortgages often face hurdles in eliminating their debt quickly and wind up paying more for the interest costs than the principal amount.
After paying for their rent or mortgage each month and other household expenses, many people are left with scant savings. Determining how to save a few extra dollars each month can help borrowers pay down their debt faster and avoid allocating a large portion of their payments to just paying the interest of their loan.
Taking a holistic view of your payment habits helps you identify areas where you garner some extra dollars such as avoiding overdraft fees. Having to fork over late payments stings and also adds up quickly. Forgoing some of your current frivolities can feel like a challenging task, but consumers can attain it without making substantial sacrifices
While some debt such as mortgages and federal student loans impact consumers less because the payments are tax deductible, paying them off sooner is not always beneficial, said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst for Bankrate, the NewYork-based financial content company.
"Some debt you should take your time paying off," he said. "There is no sense paying ahead on low rate, possibly tax deductible debt when you can put that excess cash to better use in tax advantaged retirement savings accounts such as your 401k and IRA."
The debt that should be a priority for consumers to eliminate faster are the high interest rate credit cards and other short-term borrowings.
"The longer that type of debt lingers, the more of a drag it becomes on your ability to pursue other financial goals and build wealth," McBride said.
Here are ten tips to accelerate debt repayment sooner.
1. Avoid overdraft fees or late payments
Many consumers are racking up hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees, with many who pay $450 a year, because they have opted in for the coverage for their debit card transactions and ATM withdrawals, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Choosing overdraft protection is not always an advantage for some consumers since excessive overdraft fees drain the budgets of consumers who are already living paycheck to paycheck.
Use an online calendar or another reminder mechansim to ensure your payments are made by the due date. The late charges are hefty and missing payments means the credit card issuer can increase the interest rate, said C.J. Brott, founder of Capital Ideas, a registered investment adviser in Dallas.
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2. Transfer credit cards to lower interest rates
Consumers who have good credit scores should transfer their high interest credit card balances to 0% balance transfer offers, said McBride.
3. Refinance debt to fixed rates.
Determine if your current variable rate debt can be refinanced into into fixed rates, he said. Private student loan lenders offer this option.
4. Lower spending
By cutting your spending, consumers can "funnel the savings into debt repayment," said McBride.
Become a cord cutter, shop around on your car and home insurance premiums, purchase used furniture or sports equipment, use the library for books and movies and avoid impulse shopping.
5. Make extra payments
Consumers who are paid weekly or twice a month should attempt to make multiple payments per month, he said. This helps more of your payment go towards the principal or the original amount of money you borrowed and not only to the double-digit interest rate.
6. Get a part-time job.
Even if it is temporary, obtaining a second job or "side hustle" can generate cash that can be applied towards debt, said McBride.
7. Don't spend raises.
Whenever you receive a bonus or pay raise, do not spend the money for the latest gadget or a vacation. Instead, use the additional money to accelerate your debt repayment.
8. Don't spend your extra paycheck.
Many employees are paid every two weeks which means twice each year they will receive an extra paycheck. Apply that "entire paycheck toward your debt," McBride said.
9. Avoid getting another credit card or loan
Adding new debt only "slows or reverses the process of becoming debt free," said Bruce McClary, spokesman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization.
"People who have the fastest track toward eliminating debt are those who reduce dependency on credit," he said.
Start by paying for items in cash or with a debit card to get into the habit of not charging all your purchases.
10. Increase your minimum payment each month.
Making minimum payments can lead to a "lengthy payout process," McClary said. Credit card statements are now informing consumers how long it would take to pay off the debt based on making minimum payments.
"Increasing that amount by as little as $10 a month can make a big difference in accelerating payoff," he said.
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