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Tips for Paying Off Debt in 2014

Written by Equifax Experts on November 20, 2013 in Credit  |   9 comments

As your debt piles up, it can begin to weigh you down. Learn how to take stock of your financial situation, create a spending plan, and make 2014 the year you finally get your debt under control.

budget, debt, credit reportIf old debt is starting to weigh you down, ring in the new year with a plan to pay off debt and get your finances in order.

It takes discipline to make a household budget—and even more discipline to stick to it—so consider these five tips to help you turn 2014 into a debt-free year:

1. Take stock of your financial situation.

Before you start knocking out your debt , you’ll need to determine exactly how much money you owe and on which accounts you owe it. Make a list of all of the debt you owe on your credit cards and loans, as well as the interest rates that you’re paying. Don’t forget about old credit cards or retail cards that you no longer use but on which you still carry a balance.

To ensure that you’ve accounted for all of your debt, pull a copy of your credit report and carefully check each credit account. You can order one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three national credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com.

As you look over your credit reports, consider your debt-to-income ratio. Experts agree that you can generally afford to pay between 28 percent and 36 percent of your gross income in debt service. This means that, ideally, if you add up all of your debt—including payments on your mortgage, student loans, auto loans, and credit cards—it should not exceed 36 percent of your gross monthly income.

2. Create a spending plan.

Start by writing down all of your weekly, monthly, and yearly expenses, and then prioritize them to see where you can cut back. Determine which items are “needs,” such as food and gasoline, and which can be classified as “wants,” such as new clothes and meals out at fancy restaurants.

Once you’ve shaved some expenses from your balance sheet, decide how much of your savings can be put towards paying off your debt. You may also choose to dig into annual bonuses, holiday bonuses, and tax refunds in order to pay off some of what you owe.

3. Pick a payment strategy that works for you.

Decide how you want to prioritize your debt and then list all of your accounts in the order that you’ll pay them off. You can prioritize them by the amount of the balance, the interest rate, or both.

If you decide to prioritize by interest rate, focus on paying down the debt on the account with the highest interest rate first. Remember, though, to continue to pay at least the minimum balance on all of your other accounts. Once your first account is paid off, take the money that you were spending on it and put it towards paying off the account with the next highest interest rate—and then move down your list of debt accordingly.

However, if you have a small debt on one account—even if it doesn’t boast the highest interest rate—consider paying it down quickly. This could help you gain momentum and provide you with funds that can be redirected to paying off your larger debts.

Remember: Paying off a credit card doesn’t mean you have to cancel it. Your credit utilization—or how much of your available credit you use—is one factor that helps determine your credit score. By leaving your credit cards open, you’ll keep your maximum available credit as high as possible. This could positively impact your credit score by keeping your ratio of debt to available credit low.

4. Negotiate interest rates with creditors.

Ask your creditors if you qualify for a lower interest rate, especially if you’ve consistently made on-time payments and have paid at least the minimum amount.

5. Regularly track your spending—and make adjustments as needed.

To stay on pace for getting out of debt in 2014, continue to monitor your spending every month and quarter, and fine-tune your spending and savings plans if necessary. If you make it a point to record all of your expenditures, it should help you keep track of how you’re using—or wasting—your money.

9 comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Your advise over the radio/e.mails is worth to note and act.
    I wish you/family Happy Thanksgiving.
    You’re a wonderful person. I always listen to you on Sundays.
    Regds,
    Avatar Singh

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      Avatar, thank you for your kind comment. Ilyce Glink is a great source; glad you found this information helpful!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wake up.
    Smell coffee.
    Drink coffee
    Get your act together.

    It ain’t haiku, but it’ll do.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Merry Christmas
    Thank you for the advice as I will begin to work
    On paying off my debt
    Have a happy,healthy and safe holiday season

  4. Linda says:

    Where do you find someone to help pay off all small medical bills. From $25 to over $800. How much to pay and who gets paid off first, start with the smallest to the largest or the other way around. Wish there was a dept consolidation company for medical bills.

  5. Karen Hurley says:

    Just a. FYI no one told me. Get buried in debt by divorce, then a serious injury followed by two major surgeries three kids in college, but thanks to the tragic loss of my father I get a little money try to do the right thing so I can cosign college loans and pay off all my bills GUESS WHAT? Made my credit worse! No one tells you that the “magic 7 years” starts all over when you make any payment no I will never be able to help my kids own a house buy a car etc and to add insult to injury…I had to PAY TAXES ON IT!! This country stinks! Then they wonder why no one can get ahead!! Ruin my life! I called the consumer help line they told me I never should have paid the bills! If I hadn’t my credit would have been cleared this summer coming now it will
    be 2018! God bless America my kids can’t go to college!!!

  6. Dawn Gutierrez says:

    I am wondering how paying off my student loans will look on my credit report. I felt it was better that paying 6.8 percent on a total balance over 12,000.00. Will this reflect good or bad?

  7. Dana says:

    Karen Hurley…I know you are upset and most of what you are saying is emotional but I can tell you it does get better. No one will ever offer the truth it is up to you to do the research and find out yourself. Unfortunately you had to find out by living the experience but if you have three kids that are college age then that is one benefit for you because they are old enough to have a job and get off of your food bill so you can get your life back together. Also they can go to college if they want to. The parent does not have to pay for their tuition. I put myself through college and earned an Associates and a Bachelors degree and one day hope to be able to get my masters. I did all of this without my parents help while paying rent for my own place and my own car note and all of the other bills that go along with being an adult. I had to have four jobs while going to school and I am still paying back student loans but your kids can find grants (FREE MONEY) anywhere and can easily get a subsidized and unsubsidized loan from the government. All it takes is for them to go to the school and say I want to sign up. Good luck in life and it will get better but do some research so you know what to expect in life :)

  8. L D says:

    Since I have quite a few credit cards and my pay has lowered substantially. I want to call some of the retail credit cards to close my account & pay them off a little at a time so I can catch up on oth credit cards, I want to leave open — I am only behind on 4 cc’s right now but if I keep paying them — I can’t pay on the 1′s I want to keep. HELP!!! My pay got cut in 1/2 and I had a little problem keeping 2 of those cards paid when I had Total Knee surgery. Thanks for listening & hopefully you can help


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