October 12, 2020

12-Minute Financial Makeover Step 6 - Ease Your Mind with Debt Freedom Plan

This is the 6th installment of our Financial Makeover Series featuring carefully selected personal finance subjects. We hope talking about these basic principles can allow you to figure out what can help the most in your own unique situation.

We talked about avoiding fees in Part 1 and how using a no-fee online checking account could help you so.

Part 2 featured spending more on things you truly love using a fun budget approach.

We continued in Part 3 with the amazing freedom of budget choices that can allow you to realize more of your projects and dreams.

Part 4 talked about emergency savings and having a personalized contingency plan.

Part 5 suggested to hammer down boring big recurring expenses.

After these, we now feel ready to abort an even more challenging subject. So, let’s put on our armor, sharpen our sword and face on the dreaded debt beast.


The Right Mindset

Having too much debt is probably today’s biggest financial problem of too many families. We did not start our Financial Makeover Series here because we believe it’s better to have developed some tools before tackling on dreaded debt.


With some confidence in your abilities, getting out of debt can be quite straightforward. You just have to allocate money in the right way to achieve it.


We know getting out of debt may seen difficult or even impossible for some. Many are even addicted to debt. They know extensive use of it is bad for them yet became comfortable bathing in it. Sadly, they are so afraid about getting into that battle.


But after you get over that steep psychological hurdle, getting rid of debt becomes basic math. You have to believe and decide you can get out of debt. No one can do it for you. You have to commit and do it for yourself and your family. The good news is that you have that power in you.

After making the effort to start managing your difficulties with debt, you’ll see how good it can make you feel. Taking back control of your finances that way will greatly ease your mind. Many have done it; you can do it too!


Get the Ball Rolling

We hope the first few installments of our Financial Makeover Series helped you free up some money. Now, maybe it could be an interesting idea to allocate some of it to get rid of your debts.


Tackling down your first debt is an important step and will get the ball rolling. After that, it will gradually be easier the take down other debts one by one.


After an initial debt is settled, you will be able to allocate that first debt repayment money to your second debt and so on and so forth. Getting rid of your first debt is the hardest, after that, the process will continually get smother with each takedown.


With experience, many have found that the rest of the debt repayment process can be a breeze after starting with that first big tough step. Try to motivate yourself by thinking things can only become better and easier.  


Remember to continue making minimum payments on all other debts to avoid unnecessary penalties or fees. These can be avoided and would only delay the overall process if you pay them on top of interest charges.


We often hear about financial freedom being the ultimate personal finance goal. But debt freedom has to come before that. In that sense, taking care of debt can be an even more significant and empowering stage. For many, it can be a turning point in their life with a much more profound impact than only their finances.


List and Plan

Before putting your debt freedom plan together, the first step consists of making an inventory of your liabilities or in other words, a list of your debts.


For each debt, include basic information on payments like their amount and frequency. Don’t forget to note minimum payments. For each item, your debt list should also record balance and interest rate.


Your debt list should include everything you owe like your mortgage, car lease and loans but also, any unpaid credit cards or bills. Don’t omit so-called zero-interest loans.


That preparation will allow you to assess the situation and simplify making decisions regarding your debts later on. With a thorough list of your debts, you will have all the elements in hand to determine the order in which you could methodically get rid of your debts one by one.


You should also decide on a timeframe to complete your debt freedom plan. We suggest being aggressive enough to generate meaningful progress. You could be a good idea to be a little more conservative and only designate a maximum length to get debt-free. It will give you some leeway and you could always accelerate repayments if you feel comfortable as you go along.


It might be reasonable to exclude or differ your mortgage and a modest car payment from your debt repayment plan. Similarly, student loans could be paid last because their interest charges are tax deductible.


The term consumer debt is often used to designate unwarranted debt created by excessive consumption beyond your means. For most people, it is conceivable to get rid of consumer debts within 3 or 4 years.


Depending on the extent of the damage, it may take more time, so don’t get discouraged if becoming deft-free can’t be a mid-term objective for you. The important thing is facing your debt situation and to gradually start improving the state of your affairs.


Get Help and Discover Options

If you feel it’s too much for you to handle, don’t hesitate to seek professional help regarding your debts. There’s no shame in consulting insolvency specialists. For many of them, the initial evaluation of your case is often free of charge.

Psychological assistance also comes to mind. It may not be easy to admit you are overwhelmed by your debts, yet you should be proud to take actions to get your situation better.


Financial and solvency professionals could help you discover alternatives to solve your debt situation.


Many of these options can reduce interest charges on your loans. For instance, a consolidation loan can be a noteworthy consideration.


Simpler alternatives often stare you in the face like plainly transferring a balance to a line of credit or loan charging you less interest.


Optimal vs Motivating

Two main techniques exist to gradually part ways with your debts: the highest interest method and the smaller balance method.


If you have strongly committed to it, don’t need the extra motivation and are determined to get out of debt, your highest interest debt is the best place to start. It’s simply a question of arithmetic and paying you highest interest debt first will allow you to get out of debt faster.


The highest interest method is the optimal way to get rid of debts and consist of knocking down debts according to their interest rate from highest to lowest.


From a psychological standpoint, paying your smallest balance loan first may give you the push you need to get things going. It can be very motivating to quickly pin down that first loan. Yet in the end, this method will make you pay more interests.


Again, remember that eliminating a first debt or any debt for that matter, will have a snowball effect. That repayment amount can easily be allocated to another debt to accelerate the overall process afterwards.


Feel free to adapt and use a combination of these two central methods to set up the most effective debt repayment plan for your unique situation.

What’s crucial is to start now. Start small if necessary. You’ll see how taking back control can make you feel so amazing!


We now have homework that should be quite straightforward for you. Commit and make a plan to get rid of your smallest balance loan. Or if you dare, your highest interest one.


Write down how much you will pay each month or each week and the exact date that loan will be repaid. You could try to settle it within no more than 12 months or if you are even more ambitious, within the next 12 weeks. 

That’s all from us today. Hope we somewhat helped tame your debts!


In the next installment of our Financial Makeover Series, we’ll talk about using systematic methods and technology to put your finances on cruise control.

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