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4 Tips to Help You Get Out of Debt Fast

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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If you’re staring down a mountain of debt, take heart in knowing you’re far from alone. The average American’s credit card debt comes in at $6,354, according to 2017 Experian data. Furthermore, U.S. residents are shelling out more than $100 billion to cover credit card fees and interest in 2018, a 35% uptick from five years ago.

But don’t let the numbers scare you. The silver lining here is that it’s more than possible to get out from under your debt in a reasonable amount of time — and finally start moving the needle on your financial goals. All it takes is some knowledge, the right strategy and a little bit of grit and determination.

Here are four expert-backed ways to get out of debt fast.

1. Review your finances

The first order of business is getting crystal clear on your current financial situation. If you’ve had your head in the sand up to this point, now’s the time to come up for air and assess the damage. Why? You can’t make a plan of attack until you know exactly what you’re dealing with.

Thankfully, reviewing your finances is a relatively simple task.

Begin by adding up all your monthly expenses, from your rent or mortgage payment and utilities to your cellphone bill and debt payments. You’ll also want to include discretionary spending (aka fun money) along with any non-monthly expenses that are unique to you, such as quarterly insurance premiums. (The fill-in-the-blank cheat sheet in our debt-free forever guide leaves no stone unturned.)

Once you’ve tallied the total, compare that amount with your monthly take-home pay. If you’re running into a negative number, it means you’re spending more than you’re making. That may mean you’ve been relying on credit cards to cover the gap. If you are in this boat — and are serious about breaking the debt cycle — you should be prepared to make some major changes to your spending.

Bill Schretter, a Cincinnati-based CFP and CFP Board ambassador, said that auditing your budget in this way should pinpoint why you’re in debt to begin with. Is your income enough to cover your fixed living expenses? Or can the problem be traced back to good, old-fashioned overspending?

Create a personal spending plan,” Schretter said. “This is the chance to review your budget and see what expenses can be cut.”

This begs one important question: How do you define overspending? This should help put things in perspective:

Common expenseTypical monthly spend

Housing

A monthly payment that doesn't exceed 28% of your gross monthly income

Food

A moderate food budget for a single adult ranges from $256 to $301 per month

Entertainment

It varies depending on your income, but the average annual spend is $3,203

Gas

It depends on where you live, the type of car you have and how much you drive, but the national average price right now is $2.88 per gallon

Sources: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; U.S. Department of Agriculture; Bureau of Labor Statistics; AAA Gas Prices

Your monthly expenses also include your debt payments. This is where your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio comes in. It essentially tells you how much of your income is currently servicing your debt. Those in the 40% range are on thin ice, but a DTI that’s 50% or higher is a bigger problem that deserves your immediate attention.

When half your income is being funneled toward debt, there’s little room left to cover your other bills and financial obligations. Our insiders said to shoot for a DTI that’s below 40%.

To calculate your DTI, use this formula:

100 x (total monthly debt payment / pretax monthly income) = DTI ratio

For example, if your minimum payments add up to $1,000 and you earn $4,000 a month, your DTI is 25%.

2. Prioritize repaying your debt

Now that you’ve reviewed your finances and revamped your budget, it’s time to get laser-focused on your debt. Unfortunately, not all debt is created equal. A student loan with a 4.00% interest rate is very different from a credit card that’s charging you 16.00%.

“The quickest way to get out of debt is to pay more toward the debt that’s charging you the highest interest,” said Steve Repak, a North Carolina-based CFP and CFP Board ambassador.

Repak is referring to what’s commonly called the avalanche debt repayment method. We’ll unpack a number of strategies shortly, but before you start making any moves, start by listing out all your debts to get a clear idea of what you’re up against. Schretter recommended digging up the following for each account:

  • Name of each lender
  • Current balances
  • Minimum payment for each account
  • Interest rates

You’ll likely have a mix of different types of debt. Once they’re all organized in black and white, it’s time to figure out which ones you should prioritize paying off.

Credit cards

Most experts agree that credit cards are the worst kind of debt. Having them in your wallet is a slippery slope — swiping a piece of plastic is dangerously easy if you don’t have a solid budget in place. What’s worse, credit cards have notoriously high interest rates.

We’re not saying credit cards don’t have a place in your wallet. Using credit responsibly is crucial to building a strong credit score and ultimately securing financing for cars, houses and beyond. The trick is paying off your balance in full each month, so you’re not getting charged interest.

Is it worth prioritizing first? Absolutely. Let’s say you’re paying $50 a month toward a $2,000 credit card bill with a 16.00% interest rate. If you don’t accelerate your payments, it’ll take you 58 months to pay it off, and you’ll fork over $877 in interest alone.

Student loans

Student loans fall into two main categories: Federal loans and private loans. Federal student loans generally have fixed interest rates that are lower than private loans, according to the U.S. Department of Education. And since the federal government backs them, they also offer some unique borrower protections, such as the ability to defer your loans or enroll in an income-based repayment plan if you fall on hard times.

However, you may be able to score a great rate and ultimately save money in the long run by refinancing your student debt with a private consolidation loan.

“Once a loan is consolidated, it is privatized and no longer offers the same protections as federal loans,” said Schretter, adding that it’s still a viable option if the numbers make sense.

Is it worth prioritizing first? It depends. If your student loans, public or private, have higher interest rates than your other debt, it makes sense to prioritize them. Check in with your loan servicer to make sure there are no prepayment penalties.

Personal loans

Personal loans are installment loans that come with a fixed interest rate, monthly payment and repayment timeline. The most competitive rates and terms go to borrowers with high credit scores. In other words, it’s more than possible to have a super reasonable interest rate that’s lower than your other debt obligations.

Is it worth prioritizing first? If the interest rate is on the high side, it’s worth your attention from a dollars-and-cents perspective. However, if it’s comparable to your credit card debt, it makes more sense to pay those off faster since lowering your credit card balances frees up more available credit and, in turn, improves your credit score.

Mortgage

Your mortgage is a unique type of debt. While paying it off early and being free from that monthly payment is nice, mortgages typically don’t come with high interest rates.

Is it worth prioritizing first? If you have higher-interest debt or not much in emergency savings, throwing extra income at your mortgage may not be the best move. Even if you’re debt-free, you’ll likely get a better return on your investment by directing that money toward a tax-advantaged retirement account.

3. Pick a debt payoff strategy

Snowball vs. avalanche method

There are multiple ways to tackle your debt. The idea is to continue making your minimum payments across all your open accounts, but select one to hit the hardest with larger payments. Repak mentioned above that he’s a fan of the debt avalanche method, which puts your highest-interest balance at the top of the pile.

Once you eliminate that balance, you take whatever you were applying to that bill and roll it over to the account with the next highest interest rate. On and on you go until you zero out your debt. Schretter takes another view. He said to prioritize your lowest balance first, regardless of the interest rate. This is called the snowball method.

“You need to experience the satisfaction of paying off the debts,” he said.

The avalanche method will indeed get you out of debt faster, but the quick wins you get with the snowball method may motivate you to stick with your debt repayment plan over the long haul. (Our snowball versus avalanche calculator makes it easy to run the numbers.)

Alternative methods

Those looking to get out of debt fast may consider using a personal loan to consolidate debt, especially if they can lock down an interest rate that’s lower than what they’re paying on their existing debt. Some loans tack on an origination fee, typically in the 1% to 8% range, but it may be worth it if you can drastically lower your interest rate. Compare up to five debt consolidation loan options by using our table below!

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APR

As low as 3.99%

Credit Req.

Minimum 500 FICO

Minimum Credit Score

Terms

24 to 60

months

Origination Fee

Varies

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A Personal Loan can offer funds relatively quickly once you qualify you could have your funds within a few days to a week. A loan can be fixed for a term and rate or variable with fluctuating amount due and rate assessed, be sure to speak with your loan officer about the actual term and rate you may qualify for based on your credit history and ability to repay the loan. A personal loan can assist in paying off high-interest rate balances with one fixed term payment, so it is important that you try to obtain a fixed term and rate if your goal is to reduce your debt. Some lenders may require that you have an account with them already and for a prescribed period of time in order to qualify for better rates on their personal loan products. Lenders may charge an origination fee generally around 1% of the amount sought. Be sure to ask about all fees, costs and terms associated with each loan product. Loan amounts of $1,000 up to $50,000 are available through participating lenders; however, your state, credit history, credit score, personal financial situation, and lender underwriting criteria can impact the amount, fees, terms and rates offered. Ask your loan officer for details.

As of 28-Feb-2019, LendingTree Personal Loan consumers were seeing match rates as low as 3.99% (3.99% APR) on a $10,000 loan amount for a term of three (3) years. Rates and APRs were based on a self-identified credit score of 700 or higher, zero down payment, origination fees of $0 to $100 (depending on loan amount and term selected).

Another option is to use a balance transfer card. These cards offer 0% interest during an introductory period that generally lasts 12 to 21 months. Most charge a fee of 1% to 4% to transfer a balance, but you’ll have the luxury of paying no interest for a good stretch while you eliminate the balance. One catch is that you need to have excellent credit in order to qualify for a worthwhile balance transfer. It also only makes sense if you pay off the balance before that promotional period ends, at which point interest will kick in.

Discover it® Balance Transfer

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4. Generate extra income

As we explored above, slashing your expenses frees up additional money that you can use to chip away at your debt faster. Upping your income is the other side of the coin.

“If you want to get out of debt as quickly as possible, you’re going to have to sacrifice some of your free time for side jobs,” said Repak. “At the end of the day, the more money you earn, the more you can put these large chunks of money toward debt.”

Side hustles take many forms, from driving for Uber to mowing lawns, waiting tables or freelancing out your professional skills. Repak also recommended going through your home and gathering up any items you haven’t used, touched, played with or worn in the last year — then selling them either online or with a garage sale. Every extra penny you drum up can help whittle away your debt.

What to do after paying off your debt

Crossing the debt-free finish line is a major accomplishment! It also shifts your financial perspective.

“You go from being a debtor to being an accumulator,” said Repak. “So instead of paying interest out, you’re going to start collecting interest for yourself by building up your short-term savings so you don’t go into debt again, and then saving up for retirement.”

While on the road to becoming debt-free, he suggested maintaining a mini-emergency fund of around $1,500 so that you won’t rely on a credit card to see you through a pop-up expense. Dial that number up to the equivalent of three to six months’ worth of expenses after you’re debt-free.

Once you’re ticking off those boxes, you can also start setting money aside for other long-term money goals, like saving for a house or taking a dream vacation. Being debt-free provides the financial freedom to really focus on the goals that matter to you most.

“Change your lifestyle, change your monthly spending, get some extra income coming in and follow a strategy to pay off your debt,” said Schretter. “That’s the best way to do it.”

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Marianne Hayes
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Marianne Hayes is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Marianne here

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College Students and Recent Grads, Pay Down My Debt

Sample Goodwill Letter to Remove a Late Student Loan Payment from Your Credit Report

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Businessman Holding Document At Desk

If you’ve pulled your credit report recently and discovered that there’s been a late payment reported on your student loans, you might be wondering what you can do to recover. Late payments can damage your credit, especially if you stop paying your loans for an extended period of time.

We’ve already gone over the repercussions of delinquency and default, but now let’s take a look at another method of repairing your credit report — sending a goodwill letter to your creditor.

What is a goodwill letter?

A “goodwill letter” is a simple way to repair your credit report, and it can be used for both federal and private loans. The purpose of a goodwill letter is to restore your credit to good standing by having a lender or servicer erase a lateness on your credit report.

Typically, those who have experienced financial hardship due to unexpected circumstances have the most success with goodwill letters. They allow you to ask if your student loan servicer can empathize with the situation that caused the lateness and erase it from your report.

It can also be used when you think the late payment is an error — for example, if you were in deferment or forbearance during the time of the late payment and weren’t required to make any payments, or if you know you’ve never been late on a payment before.

What makes a convincing goodwill letter?

If you’ve been looking for a goodwill letter that will work well, we have some tips on what you should include in your letter:

1. An appreciative tone

It’s important that the entire tone of your letter comes off as thankful and conscientious. If you were actually late on your payments due to extenuating circumstances, taking an angry tone probably won’t help your case.

2. Take responsibility

You want to be convincing and honest. Take responsibility for the late payment, and explain why it happened. They need to sympathize with you. Saying you just forgot isn’t going to win you any points.

3. A good recent payment history

Besides sympathy, you want to gain their trust that you will continue to make payments. If your lender sees payments being made on time before and after the period of financial hardship, it might be more willing to give you a break. When you have a pattern of late payments, on the other hand, it’s more difficult to convince them that you’re taking this seriously.

4. Proof of any errors and relevant documents

If you’re writing about a mistake that occurred, still be friendly in tone, but back up the errors with documentation. You’ll need proof that what you’re saying is true. Unfortunately, errors are often made on credit reports, and it may have been a clerical error on behalf of your servicer. If you have any written correspondence with them, you’ll want to include it.

5. Simple and to the point

The last thing to keep in mind is to craft a short and simple letter. Get straight to the point while telling your story. The people reviewing your letter don’t want to read an essay, and the easier you make their lives, the better.

Sample goodwill letter No. 1

Below is a sample goodwill letter for student loans to give you an idea of how to structure your own:

To whom It may concern:

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this letter. I just pulled my credit report, and discovered that a late payment was reported on [date] for my account [loan account number].

During that time, my mother fell terminally ill, and I was the only one left to care for her. As such, I had to leave my job, and my savings went toward her health care expenses. I fell on very rough times after she passed away, and was unable to make my student loan payments.

I realize I made a mistake in falling behind, but up until that point, my payment history with you had been spotless. When I was able to gain employment once again, I quickly resumed paying my student loans, making them a priority.

I’m not proud of this black mark on my record, but it’s the only one I have, and I would be extremely grateful if you could honor this request to remove the lateness from my credit report. It would help me immensely in securing other lines of credit so that I can further improve my credit score.

If the lateness cannot be removed entirely, I would still be appreciative if you could make a goodwill adjustment.

Thank you.

Sample goodwill letter No. 2

If you’re writing a letter because the lateness on your credit report is inaccurate, then try something similar to this:

To whom it may concern:

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I recently pulled my credit report and found that [Loan servicer] reported a late payment regarding my account [loan account number].

I am requesting that this late payment be assessed for accuracy.

I believe this reporting is incorrect because [list the supporting facts you have]. I have included the documentation to prove that [I made payments during this time / that my loans were in forbearance/deferment and didn’t require any payments].

Please investigate this matter, and if it is found to be inaccurate, remove the lateness from my credit report.

Thank you.

Make sure you provide as many personal details as possible — without making the letter too long, of course. You should also include your name, address and phone number at the top of the letter in case your loan servicer needs to reach you immediately.

Where to send your goodwill letter

Now that your letter is written, it’s time to send it. This can be done either by fax or by mail. Most student loan servicers have their contact information on their website, but you can also look on your billing statements to see if they specify a different address.

Additionally, you can try calling the credit bureau where the lateness was reported to see if they can give you the contact information you need.

It’s important to mention that goodwill letters are not a means to immediate success. Unfortunately, it often takes several attempts to correspond with servicers and lenders to get them to acknowledge that they received a letter from you.

Your best bet is to get a personal contact at the company who has the power to erase the late payment from your credit report.

If all else fails, try as many different communication methods as possible. Phone, mail, fax, live chat (if your servicer offers it) and email them. Several people who have tried this report that it’s possible to wear your servicer down with a decent amount of requests.

Addresses and fax numbers to try

Here are some addresses and fax numbers for several of the larger servicers, as listed on their websites. Again, it may also be worth phoning your servicer to get the name of someone there that can help you. If you have federal student loans, you can also check this Federal Student Aid page for more contact information.

Nelnet

Documents related to deferment, forbearance, repayment plans or enrollment status changes:

Attn: Enrollment Processing

P.O. Box 82565

Lincoln, NE 68501-2565

Fax: 877-402-5816

Great Lakes

Great Lakes

P.O. Box 7860

Madison, WI 53707-7860

Fax: 800-375-5288

Sallie Mae

Sallie Mae

P.O. Box 3229

Wilmington DE 19804-0229

Fax: 855-756-0011

Navient

For anything other than federal loans, check here

Navient – U.S. Department of Education Loan Servicing

P.O. Box 9635

Wilkes-Barre, PA 18773-9635

Fax: 866-266-0178

Cornerstone

P.O. Box 145122

Salt Lake City, UT

84114-5122

Fax: 801-366-8400

FedLoan

For letters and correspondence

FedLoan Servicing

P.O. Box 69184

Harrisburg, PA 17106-9184

Fax: 717-720-1628

EdFinancial

For FFELP and private loans, check here

Edfinancial Services

P.O. Box 36008

Knoxville, TN 37930-6008

Fax: 800-887-6130

Documents to include with your goodwill letter

Don’t let your efforts go to waste by forgetting to send documentation with your letter. Here’s a quick checklist of what you should include:

  • The account number for your loan
  • Your name, address, phone number and email
  • Statements showing proof that you paid (if you’re disputing a late payment)
  • Documentation showing that you’ve paid on time at all other points aside from when you experienced financial hardship (if that’s the case)
  • Identifying documentation so your servicer knows you sent the request

Also note that if you’re mailing anything, you should send it by certified mail with a receipt requested. This way you’ll know whether your letter made it to the servicer.

What to expect after submitting your goodwill letter

Once you submit your goodwill letter, you should hear back from your creditor with a decision in a few weeks. If two to three weeks have passed without word, follow up via email or phone call.

As you know, there’s no guarantee that your goodwill letter will work. The decision to remove a negative mark from your credit report is entirely in the hands of your creditor.

If your creditor rejects your petition, you’ll have to accept the ding on your credit report and take other steps to boost your credit. But if they agree to repair your credit, you should see the delinquency removed from your report and your credit score increase as a result.

A higher credit score can make life a lot easier, whether you want to take out a loan, open a credit card or, in some cases, even rent an apartment. For student loan borrowers, a strong credit score also opens the door to student loan refinancing, a savvy strategy that lets you restructure your debt, possibly changing your monthly payment and potentially saving money on interest.

If your credit score rebounds and you want to take proactive steps to conquer your student debt, refinancing could be the answer you’ve been looking for, so long as you no longer need the protections that come with federal loans.

Either way, though, make sure to keep up with student loan payments so you don’t end up with a delinquent account dragging down your newly repaired credit score.

Resources

If you’re interested in exploring goodwill letters further — and the results that others have had — check out these websites:

  • Ed.gov: They cover disputes, what to do about them and how to go about rectifying them here.
  • ConsumerFinance.gov: If you have loans with a private lender, and your lender had reported you as late when you weren’t, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to see if they can help you.
  • myFico Forums: The forums on myFico are populated with helpful individuals that might be able to give you contact information for certain servicers. There are some people reporting success with goodwill letters, and they may be willing to share their letters with others upon request.

It’s worth the time to write a goodwill letter

If you’ve discovered that a late payment has been reported on your credit, and it’s because you fell on hard times or is inaccurate, it’s worth trying to get it erased. These dings on your credit are there to stay for seven to 10 years. That’s a long time, especially if you’re young and hoping to buy a house or a car in the near future. It’s a battle worth fighting.

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Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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Pay Down My Debt

Debt, Its Emotional Toll and How to Tackle It

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Debt can feel overwhelming, and studies are increasingly showing that it can lead to a decrease in happiness and life satisfaction, anxiety and even physical symptoms like headaches or loss of sleep.

A study of more than 1,000 student loan borrowers — conducted by Student Loan Hero, which, like MagnifyMoney, is owned by LendingTree — found that:

  • More than 61% of respondents admitted that they’re afraid that their student loan debt worries are spiraling out of their control.
  • More than 70% said they suffer from headaches because of their debt concerns.
  • Some 64.5% of respondents have lost sleep over their debt.
  • 67% reported physical symptoms of anxiety that stemmed from the stress of their student loans.

The study showed a direct correlation between having debt and detracting from happiness. In fact, results revealed that carrying student loan debt is nearly as significant as income when it comes down to predicting financial concern and evaluating life satisfaction.

What studies show about how debt affects your health

Indeed, money can buy happiness, but how much debt one has also weighs heavily into the equation, according to a study from Purdue University. An online college alumni sample of 2,781 individuals from the United States revealed that student debt could take a significant toll on one’s life satisfaction over the long term.

Another survey conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) showed that 56% of Americans with debt admitted that it negatively impacted their lives. Twenty-eight percent of the 1,004 American adults surveyed said their debt caused stress about their everyday financial decisions, and 21% said it caused tension with their partner.

It may be that such accomplishments as a promotion at work may be marred by knowing your debt is eating up your higher earnings. High debt may also be such a financial burden that borrowers are unable to save for retirement, for emergencies or even such pleasures as a vacation.

High-rate debt can be particularly difficult to carry. Seeing your monthly payments largely going toward fees can make you feel as though you’ll be trapped in debt forever. And if that debt isn’t allowing you to save money, your stress may only grow if you’re suddenly struck with a financial emergency that causes you to take on new debt.

6 tips to dealing with your debt

If you’re dealing with debt and it’s taking a toll on your health, what can you do?

“The first thing a person needs to do is take a close look at how they got into debt in the first place,” advised Carolyn McClanahan, M.D., CFP, who began her career as a physician and is now founder of a financial planning group called Life Planning Partners LLC, based in Jacksonville, Fla. “They should identify what triggered the situation or any bad habits that might have led to their debt, so that they don’t repeat those things going forward. Then, they need to make an actionable plan to figure out how to get out of debt.”

Consider these tips that could help you better handle your debt.

1. Thoroughly research your options

When tackling your debt, it pays off to research your options for dealing with debt. For example, federal student loans come with borrower protections that may help you if you’re struggling with money. You may be eligible for an income-driven repayment plan, which would adjust your monthly payments based on your income. You may also qualify for student loan forgiveness or have the opportunity to defer payments for a period of time.

If you have a mortgage, you could extend your repayment term without refinancing. This is known as mortgage recasting. By extending your repayment term, you could lower your monthly payments, freeing up cash to deal with debts that are a higher priority.

Credit card debt doesn’t have to be such a burden, either. If you lost your job, it may be beneficial to call up your credit card issuer. You may be able to get on a hardship program that reduces your payments for a time. Or, if you have decent credit, you may qualify for a balance transfer credit card with a promotional 0% APR. For a fee, you could move your credit card debt onto your new card to avoid interest charges for a period of time. Pay off that debt before the promotional period ends and you could save a lot of money on interest.

2. Don’t be afraid to negotiate

Many people fail to recognize that there are many instances where you can negotiate and in turn, lower your debt. Take medical bills, for example.

“It can really help to negotiate with the medical provider,” said McClanahan. “If you’re willing to pay them real money over time, you can end up paying pennies on the dollar of what you own,” she said. In addition to negotiating, McClanahan suggested asking hospitals or health centers whether they have any financial assistance programs that you might qualify for.

Furthermore, if you’re accepting a new job offer, don’t be afraid to negotiate a higher starting salary, which in turn could help you windle your way out of debt faster. Research the job market and consider making a compelling case as to why you deserve a higher salary.

3. Take it one debt at a time

If your debt is stretched across multiple credit cards or loans, you may be overwhelmed just by the thought of them. But if you can focus your attention on making extra payments on just one debt, it could help you see some quick wins.

“You ideally want to start by paying off the debt with the highest interest rates first,” McClanahan said. Repaying the debt with the highest rate helps you reduce how much interest you pay over time. Often, this means you’ll focus extra payments toward a credit card balance. Once that debt is paid off, you start making extra payments on your debt with the next-highest rate.

However, you may instead choose to pay off your debt with the lowest balance. This would result in a fast win that will motivate you to keep making extra payments on your debt.

4. Consider therapy

Seek the help of a psychologist or another mental health expert if your concerns about debt are negatively impacting your day-to-day life. A licensed health expert can help you confront your anxieties head on and offer strategies for dealing with them effectively. Also, reach out to your personal network and let those close to you know that you could use their support. It helps to know that you’re not in it alone.

Low-income individuals may want to seek the help of a sliding scale therapist, who will adjust their fees to make therapy more affordable. This can be found on mental health directories like GoodTherapy.org. There are also clinics that provide low-fee or free mental health services. To find a clinic near you, visit MentalHealth.gov.

5. Enlist the help of a credit counselor or financial planner

Sometimes, it helps to get an outside perspective on your debt, or at least talk to someone who can reveal your options. A credit counselor or financial planner can help you take steps toward getting your finances in order or develop a game plan for getting back on track, McClanahan said.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is a nonprofit financial counseling organization that provides a variety of free services, including counseling on credit and debt, bankruptcy and student loans. If you’re interested in hiring a financial planner, you could use the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors to find one.

Outside help could help you better weigh the pros and cons of your options and guide you as you work on your debt.

6. Focus on improving your credit score

Take steps to rebuild your credit and improve your credit score, which in turn, could give you access to more credit in the future. For starters, focus on implementing a plan for paying off debt, and work to keep your balances low on credit cards. Keep in mind that improving your credit score requires small, responsible actions over time, so be patient and set long-term objectives. For more tips on how to improve your FICO score, take a look here.

Indeed, accumulating debt can certainly take an emotional toll and negatively impact your overall life satisfaction. However, you can take simple steps to pay down debt and turn your financial situation around. No financial situation is permanent, and with some patience, persistence and implementing of best practices, you can find yourself back on the path to financial recovery. So take a deep breath, keep your emotions at bay and work on tackling your debt in a practical manner.

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Renee Morad
Renee Morad |

Renee Morad is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Renee here

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