Debt can creep up on anyone, especially when you think it’s not that bad. You may feel like you have it all under control. You make your minimum payments each month and move on with your life. That card will get paid off eventually. You'll look at it all next month, right? Before you realize it, you're in a much deeper hole than you thought!
Finding your number - How deep is your hole?
"The Ostrich Effect” - also known as money avoidance. Most people do it, and I have been guilty myself. We stick our heads in the sand and avoid the uncomfortable situation. But, there comes a point where you have to lift your head up, brush off the sand, wipe your eyes clean and look at your number. That time is now - at the start of your debt payoff journey.
It’s going to be painful and sometimes the truth hurts. Kinda like ripping off a band-aid, it will only hurt for a second. Once its over, the immediate pain subsides and you can begin to let the scars of your financial past heal.
Okay, now take a deep breath and just write it all down. One by one, list out all the following for each debt you plan to payoff along your journey:
Total remaining balance
Minimum monthly payment
Annual interest rate
Then, add up the total balances from the list. Congratulations, you just ripped the band-aid off - OUCH! The good part is you have identified your number.
Once you have your number, it's time to pick a strategy and get started. Below is a very simplified explanation of the three most popular strategies. I'll dive further into each strategy in future blogs, but for now, pick one and GET STARTED!
Snowball Method - You pay off from smallest balance to largest. This method allows you to gain momentum with each debt you pay off. Once you finish paying off the first balance, you roll your monthly payment into the next debt. Click on the following link for a free snowball calculator.
Suggestion: Best choice if you need motivation and like to see balances paid off sooner.
Avalanche - You pay off your debt starting with the highest interest rate first. Instead of looking at remaining balances, the order is determined strictly by looking at interest rates and working from highest to lowest. Click on the following link for a free avalanche calculator.
Suggestion: Best choice if you want to save on interest long-term.
Free Cash Flow Method - You pay off your debt starting with the highest monthly minimum payment. This method is generally not as talked about, because it doesn't provide as much motivation or save on interest in the long term. However, it does free up more cash in your budget sooner, which may be important to you.
Suggestion: Best choice if you want to free up cash in your budget and keep a smaller baby emergency fund.
What I chose and why?
I chose the debt snowball method. Primarily because I had a few smaller balances that I wanted to get cleared off my list first and motivation is important to me. I like seeing the list get smaller, especially in the first few months if possible. Once some of my balances reach similar totals, I plan to switch over to the free cash flow method, and then maybe revert back to the snowball method. As I've said before, your strategy should be what works best for you.
You may feel safe with your head buried deep, even though danger surrounds you. The same is true when you turn a blind eye to your debt. You keep shoving those bills in the junk drawer until one day your credit score is seriously suffering. It's still there no matter how far you shove the bills and avoid it all. While the scars of your financial past may heal slowly, you can't rip off the band-aid until you pull your head out of the sand.