A Surprisingly Simple, 13-Minute Plan to Start Paying Off a Bunch of Debt
Initially, I was going to frontload this article highlighting the number of Americans who carry debt — some until they’re six feet under.
But I think we all understand the burden of debt and don’t really need more statistics to rub it in.
Instead, let’s just focus on being positive, proactive and breaking free.
How to Pay Off Debt: A 13-Minute Guide to Get Started
Any amount of debt is overwhelming. And when something’s overwhelming, we tend to procrastinate — or even shut down entirely.
We’re human, after all. Sometimes, the problem can seem so big that the biggest obstacle is simply knowing where to start.
But creating a plan to pay off debt doesn’t have to be too complicated. It’s just a matter of sitting down and focusing; it takes less time than you might think.
If you’ve got 13 minutes to spare, we’ve got a list of tips for putting together a rock-solid plan for paying off your debt.
That’s less time than it takes to get caught up on your friends’ Snapchat stories.
Deep breath. Ready to learn how to pay off debt?
1. Take a Deep Breath and Look at Your Credit Report
Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of managing your personal finances is, well, managing it. Keeping tabs on your accounts, your cards, bills and, yes, your debt, might be daunting.
Start by checking your credit report for free.
You’ll simply want to find the accounts portion of your report. Here, you’ll find everything from credit cards to installment loans. Take some notes and see which accounts need some TLC.
And don’t be shocked if you find a mistake. Last year, nearly 74% of credit-report complaints were about incorrect information.
“…the credit-reporting agencies merely make mistakes, which is understandable with the millions of pieces of information they process,” says Steve Weisman, a professor at Bentley University and the author of the fraud and identity-theft blog Scamicide.
You can easily file a dispute online. And, hey, if it’s truly a mistake, you just took some debt off your plate!
Total time: Two minutes
2. Let This Company Pay Off Your Credit Cards
Now that you’ve documented your debt from your credit report, you might feel a little anxious.
That’s where a company like Even Financial can be helpful. The company can help you find personalized lending options to refinance or consolidate your debt to potentially save thousands dollars in interest.
Even will show you all the lenders willing to help you pay off your credit card and eliminate the headache of paying bills by allowing you to make one payment each month.
You can borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) and compare interest rates, which start at 4.99%. The idea is to secure a loan at a lower interest rate, potentially helping you save thousands. Repayment plans range from 24 to 84 months.
Take, for example, Katherine, who faced $12,000 in credit-card debt. Holding her back? The 15.24% interest rate. By refinancing with a 5%-interest, seven-year personal loan, she saved $12,000 in interest.
If she’d kept on the same road, she would have paid something like $14,000 in interest alone over 25 years. Yikes.
So even if you’re simply curious about what’s out there, know that checking rates on Even Financial won’t hurt your credit score — and can probably save you in interest.
Total time: Two minutes
3. Find Some Hidden Cash
Before you start hashing out a plan to tackle your debt, it might make you feel better to find areas in your life where you can save. Then you can funnel that money directly toward those outstanding balances.
Sure, a lot of us know how to save money on groceries, but what about everything else?
Try digging up some extra cash with a tool like Paribus. It’ll scan your email archives for recent receipts. If it detects a purchase from one of its 20-plus retailers, including Best Buy, Target and Walmart, it’ll track the item’s price. If the price drops, Paribus will work with the retailer to refund you the difference.
For example, say the price of the Keurig you ordered last week dropped $12 this week. You’ll get that money back.
The tool is free to use — and so passive.
If you want some more ideas on how to set up a passive stream of money — big or small — read this guide.
Total time: One minute
4. Let This App Manage Your Money
When you’ve got a lot going on in your noggin, simple tasks (like remembering to make payments on time) can prove difficult.
That’s why it’s helpful to set alerts. This will prevent stacking up late fees and/or overdraft fees, which can easily spin you deeper into debt.
For a little help, use Trim, a bot that basically serves as your free financial advisor. It does everything from monitoring your Amazon account for price drops to negotiating your internet and cable bill. And it allows you to set custom reminders.
Get texts to let you know when it’s payday (whew!) or new-balance updates. If your monthly payment is due on the loan you secured through Even, set a reminder so it makes it there on time.
Total time: Three minutes
5. Automate Your Savings
Automating your savings is a great way to get a jump-start on the slightly intimidating process — without even thinking about it. And we love the idea of making that money work for you with a micro-investing app like Stash.
Start with as little as $5, and select how often — and how much — you’d like to invest. Be realistic. Even if it’s $5 a month, you’re doing something, and that’s all that matters. (Note: There’s a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000 for Stash users.)
And because it’s automatic, you likely won’t miss the money. Plus, you’ll be surprised with a nice little nest egg of savings — which can go toward paying off your debt if needed.
And, hey, when you sign up, you’ll snag a $5 bonus to make your first investment!
Total time: Five minutes
It’s 13 minutes later and look at you! You’ve laid out a solid plan to tackling your debt!
Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. When it comes to finances, she’s a professional procrastinator.