5 Smart Steps to Manage Debt

Dealing with debt can be difficult. Here are 5 steps you can take to make things easier.

For many, debt is a four-letter word and is accompanied by feelings of dread, denial, even despair. Especially if you have a lot of debt, gaining the upper hand on it can seem hopeless. Fortunately, there are proven strategies you can start using, whether you want to avoid debt or really need to get a handle on it. Here are 5 steps to start putting into place now.

1. Set up a budget.

It doesn’t have to be fancy or detailed to start out. Think of a budget as a plan and just get something down on paper. By thinking through all the different categories of spending you have, you’ll get a sense of what your total spending looks like and gain perspective on how dire your debt situation is.

2. See where you can cut expenses.

With even a simple budget in hand, you’ll be able to start seeing easy ways you can save money. Maybe it’s eating out a little less often. The important thing to keep in mind is this: every little bit helps and can go a much longer way toward debt freedom than you might think.

3. Create and contribute to an emergency fund.

What does saving have to do with debt? A lot, and in a way, they’re two sides of same coin. Whether you’re managing debt or trying to stay away from it, saving cash for emergencies means you may not have to borrow for them.

4. Follow a debt payoff plan.

There are at least 2 schools of thought when it comes to paying down debt. One is to tackle debt with the highest interest rates first. Since debt carrying higher interest rates grows more quickly, you can gain some breathing room by tackling that first.

Another school of thought is to pay off accounts with the smallest balances first. This can work well with your psychology: by paying off small accounts completely, you’re creating some quick wins that may give you the confidence and momentum to put a dent in accounts with bigger balances.

5. Negotiate, consolidate.

One way to make a serious dent in your debt burden is to try to negotiate a settlement. There’s no harm in calling your lender to see if you can’t make a compelling offer to pay more sooner in exchange for some debt forgiveness down the road. Just make sure if you agree on something, you get it in writing. Another way to make a big gain on debt loss is to explore consolidation. If you can get a consolidation deal that combines higher-interest debt into lower-interest monthly payments, this can be a lifesaver that can help you reduce the amount of money you’re using to service debt. It can also give you breathing room when it comes to the growth of your payments.

Digging out of debt can be discouraging. But by following smart steps, sticking to a plan and staying positive, you can be back on your feet sooner than you may think. Just remember, too, that the best way to deal with a lot of debt is to be careful about how much of it you take on in the first place!

Take the next step: protect your credit and start saving money.