In the almost year and a half since we’ve begun paying down our debt, we’ve paid off a little over $11,000. In that time, we’ve paid off two credit cards with smaller balances, and now we’re left with one credit card with a hefty balance, as well as 4 student loans with varying balances from $3,300 to almost $17,000.
We’ve used several strategies to pay down the debt more quickly. Here are our favorites so far:
1. Negotiate your credit card interest rate. This is how I started, and by negotiating with the representative of the company that held our remaining credit card balance, I was able to get our interest rate dropped by 4%, and they gave me lots of rewards points, too. The problem was that the interest rate was only temporary–for 6 months.
2. Switch to a 0% APR credit card. As we approached the end of the 6 month window for a lower interest rate, I got an offer from a credit card company I’ve had an account with for years but hadn’t used in 3 or 4 years. They gave me 0% APR on balance transfers until March, 2014, so I switched the balance to this card. Now, every dollar I pay goes right to the principal. Love that!
3. Take out a personal loan. There is a chance that I won’t have the credit card balance paid off by next March. If that happens, I’ll likely take out a personal loan to pay it off. Taking out a personal loan for a credit union or a bank has several advantages. The interest rate is generally lower than most credit cards, and you’re given a small window, usually 1 to 3 years, to pay off the balance.
I tried this technique when we first started paying down debt, but at the time, our income was too low and our debt was too high. Since then, our income has almost doubled and the amount we owe has decreased, so I think in another year, we won’t have trouble qualifying.
4. Pay off the debts with the highest interest first. If you funnel all of the extra money you have on the debt with the highest interest rate first, you’ll pay less in interest overall and get out of debt more quickly.
5. Pay bi-weekly. If there is no penalty for paying in advance, split your regular payment in half and pay the first half sometime during the first two weeks of the month, and your second half during the last two weeks of the month. You’ll reduce the amount of interest that is accruing, so you’ll pay less interest overall during the month.
If you’re busy paying down debt as we are, take action so that you’re paying the minimum amount of interest you need to pay. This will help you get out of debt faster. Just make sure you’re committed to not incurring new debt so you don’t run the credit card balance back up when you finally get your card to zero. (Sweet day I can’t wait for!)