Updated: Apr 2, 2021
Unfortunately, the space between realising your debt is out of control and actually getting out of debt can be wrought with hard work and heartache. No matter what kind of debt you're in, paying it off can take years - or even decades - to get out of debt.
Fortunately, some strategies exist that can make paying off debt faster - and a whole lot less painful. If you're ready to get out of debt, consider these tried - and - true methods:
1. Pay more than minimum payment.
If you carry the average credit card balance of RM15,609, pay a typical 15% and make the minimum monthly payment of RM625, it will take you 13.5 years to pay it off. And that's only if you don't add to the balance in the meantime, which can be a challenge on its own.
Whether you're carrying credit card debt, personal loans, business loans, or student loans, one of the best ways to pay them down sooner is to make more than the minimum monthly payment. Doing so will not only help you save on interest throughout the life of your loan, but it will also speed up the payoff process. To avoid any headaches, make sure your loan doesn't charge any repayment penalties before you get started.
If you need a nudge in this direction, you can call us or email us to help you map out a solid debt consolidation program for any kind of debt you have and decrease your monthly financial commitments.
2. Try the debt snowball method
If you're committed and able to pay more than the minimum monthly payments on your credit cards and other debts, consider using the debt snowball method to speed up the process even more and build momentum.
As a first step, you'll want to list all of the debts you owe from smallest to largest. Throw all of your excess funds at the smallest balance, while making the minimum payments on all your larger loans. Once the smallest balance is paid off, start putting that extra money toward the next smallest debt until you pay that one off, and so on.
Over time, your small balances should disappear one by one, freeing up more money to throw at your larger debts and loans. This “snowball effect” allows you to pay down smaller balances first — logging a few “wins” for the psychological effect — while letting you save the largest loans for last. Ultimately, the goal is snowballing all of your extra money toward your debts until they’re demolished — and you’re finally debt-free.
3. Pick up a side hustle.
Attacking your debts with the debt snowball method will speed up the process, but earning more money can amplify your efforts even further. Nearly everyone has a talent or skill they can monetize, whether it’s baking, cooking, real estate agent, freelancing services, driving for Grab, tutor, personal shopper, or becoming a beauty consultant.
4. Create (and live with) a strict budget.
If you really want to pay down debt faster, you’ll need to cut your expenses as much as you can. One tool you can create and use is a strict budget. With this strategy, you’ll cut your expenses as low as they can go and live on as little as possible for as long as you can.
A strict budget will look different for everyone, but it shouldn't have any “extras” like going out to eat, shopping, new gadgets, Netflix or other Streaming subscriptions, or unnecessary spending. While you’re living on a strict budget, you should be able to pay considerably more toward your debts.
Remember, strict budgets are only meant to be temporary. Once you’re out of debt — or a lot closer to your goal — you can start adding discretionary spending back into your monthly plan.
5. Sell everything you don’t need.
If you’re looking for a way to make some cash quickly, it might pay to take stock of your belongings first. Most of us have stuff lying around that we rarely use and could live without if we really needed to. Why not sell your extra stuff and use the funds to pay down your debts?
If you live in a neighbourhood that permits it, a good old-fashioned garage sale is normally the cheapest and easiest way to unload your unwanted belongings for a profit. Otherwise, you can consider selling your items through one of the many online sellers out there (Carousell, mudah.my, Facebook Marketplace), or Facebook seller groups.
6. Ask for lower interest rates on your credit cards — and negotiate other bills.
If your credit card interest rates are so high it feels almost impossible to make headway on your balances, it’s worth calling your card issuer to negotiate. Believe it or not, asking for lower interest rates is actually quite commonplace. And if you have a solid history of paying your bills on time, there’s a good possibility of getting a lower interest rate.
Beyond credit card interest, several other types of bills can usually be negotiated down. Always remember, the worst anyone can say is no. And the less you pay for your fixed expenses, the more money you can throw at your debts.
7. Use ‘found money’ to pay off balances.
Most people come across some type of “found money” throughout the year. Maybe you get an annual raise, an inheritance, bonus at work, or Angpao money. Whatever type of “found money” it is, it could go a long way toward helping you become debt-free.
Each time you come across any unusual sources of income, you can use those ringgits to pay off a big chunk of debt. If you’re doing the debt snowball method, use the money to pay down your smallest balance. And if you’re left with only big balances, you can use those ringgits to take a huge chunk out of whatever’s left.
8. Drop expensive habits.
If you’re in debt and consistently coming up short each month, evaluating your habits might be the best idea yet. No matter what, it makes sense to look at the small ways you’re spending money daily. That way, you can evaluate whether those purchases are worth it — and come up with ways to minimise them or get rid of them.
If your expensive habit is smoking or drinking, that’s an easy one — quit. Alcohol and tobacco do nothing for you except stand between you and your long-term goals. If your expensive habit is slightly less flammable – like a daily latte, restaurant lunches during work hours, fast food, Grab Food anyone? — the best plan of attack is usually cutting way down with the goal of eliminating these behaviours or replacing them with something less expensive.
9. Step away from the _____.
We’re all tempted by something. For many, it might be the local mall or our favourite online store. For others, it might be driving by a favourite restaurant and wishing we could pop inside for a favourite meal. And for those with a penchant for spending, having a credit card in their wallet is too much temptation to bear.
Whatever your biggest temptation is, it’s best to avoid it altogether when you’re paying down debt. When you’re constantly tempted to spend, it can be difficult to avoid new debts, let alone pay off old ones.
So, avoid temptation wherever you can, even if that means taking a different way home, avoiding the Internet, or keeping the fridge stocked so you aren’t tempted to splurge. And if you must, stash those credit cards away in a sock drawer for the time being. You can always bring them back out once you’re debt-free.
The Bottom Line
It’s easy to continue living in debt if you never have to face the reality of your situation. But when disaster strikes, you can gain a brand new outlook in a hurry. It’s also easy to get sick of the paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle, and look for ways to get out from under the crushing weight of too many monthly payments.
No matter what type of debt you’re in — whether it’s credit card debt, student loan debt, car loans, business debt, mortgage or something else — it’s important to know there is a way out. It may not happen overnight, but a debt-free future could be yours if you create a plan — and stick with it long enough.
No matter what that plan is, any one of these strategies can help you get out of debt faster. And the faster you become debt-free, the quicker you can start living the life you truly want.
What are some strategies you have used to pay down debt quickly? Have you ever tried anything on this list?
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