The Pay off Your Debt Faster continues with the next step – figuring out the best debt payoff method as couple. By now you two have a clear idea of how much debt you’re in (and how you got there) and you two have read up on the basics of paying off debt. Now it’s time to make a choice – decide on how you’re going to pay debt and get started right away.
Getting Rid of Debt: Numbers vs Emotions
Last week I mentioned that most debt pay off method boil down to arranging your debts and either attacking them by their interest rate or by debt amount. While very similar in appearance – you’re tackling debts one by one and building up your payments as you plow through them – there is a different reasoning behind them and that can make all the difference between your success or failure.
With the debt avalanche, you are interested in paying off your debt as fast as possible. You’re motivated by the numbers and are determined to make sure that your lenders don’t a penny extra from you than necessary.
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The debt snowball offers a behaviorally motivating set up as you get wins quicker towards the beginning. As each debt fall off your list, you two build momentum to tackle the next debt. You’re more concerned with crossing the finishing line rather than the speed in which you get there. Being debt free is a goal you can’t afford to miss and you know that personal finance is more than just numbers with the two of you.
Which Time-Frame Works for You Two?
I believe for many couples one of the big factors in deciding what works for them is how quickly they can get out of debt. That means looking at both methods head to head and see the numbers and time-frame.
There are several ways you can do this; for me I love using spreadsheets. If you feel the same way, Vertex has an awesome debt snowball spreadsheet template that you can use as is or modify for your own plans. You simply plug in the numbers and you can easily see how fast your debt can be destroyed.
For those inclined towards a higher tech solution, you can use Mint, Quicken, or ReadyForZero. ReadyforZero and Mint are free to use and can help you get a good idea of how to pay down your debts.
What Fits Your Financial Personality?
The other huge factor in deciding what method to use is how closely aligned the process is to your own financial personality. I hope the two of you want to reach your goals and to do so, it’s important that you work with a plan that is sustainable.
Just starting on your journey and not sure what your financial personality is? Then start by looking at how you acquired your debt. Has this debt slowly accumulated, perhaps as a result of lifestyle inflation through the years? Or have you been spending beyond your means for various reasons? Depending on your answers, you may find yourself gravitating towards the debt avalanche or snowball.
Get Started on Paying Down Debt Faster
It’s now time to leave the talk and get ready to walk. If you haven’t already, go ahead and automate all of your payments. You can bypass a lot of mistakes and relapses if you automate your credit card payments with online bill pay. Most banks and credit unions offer this feature for free. (If your bank doesn’t then it’s time to make the switch to a better one.)
Get the minimum payments set up for the secondary debts and put the maximum you can towards the first debt on your list. Give yourself a small boost and call up your credit card company and see if you can lower your interest rate that works for you and your family and get it in writing.
Switching from Debt Avalanche to Snowball
Don’t feel bad if you decide to change mid game. In fact, if you two feel like switching methods would be a better fit than go for it now rather than later.That actually happened to me when I was engaged and determined to be free of credit card debt before I got married. Looking at the numbers, I went with paying down based on interest rate.
However I soon found that it lacked the motivating wins of the debt snowball so I shifted gears and went by balance. It worked for me and I was happy to get rid of the credit card debt and that’s the point – getting OUT of debt. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad that it took a little bit longer to reach your goal, just celebrate that the fact that you’re debt free. That’s something to be proud of both from the finances, but also as a personal accomplishment as a couple.
Thoughts on Getting Rid of Debt Faster
For those starting their debt free journey, I hope the two of you find a system that works for both of you. Next in the series, I’ll be share ways you two can pump up your debt debt payments so you can be debt free faster. For couples who have paid off their debts and are working hard at it now, could you share your personal methods?
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