8 Easy Steps We Used to Pay Down $60,000 in Debt - Fast

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There are plenty of ways to wind up with debt. You can acquire it as the price of a good education. You can pile it on when bad stuff happens to your house. Or you can simply spend too much money at the mall. With almost $60,000 in consumer debt, I was guilty of all of these -- and more.

Worse than just having debt, I was in debt denial. I happily made my credit card and auto loan payments every month without thinking twice about them. In my mind, I was doing the right thing. I had no idea what kind of impact my debt was having over my financial life.

Then, in the fall of 2011 my wife and I found out that we were expecting, and realized immediately that our spending habits needed to change. We didn't want our children to be burdened by our financial mistakes. Together, we made a plan we hoped would eliminate our debt before the birth of our new baby.

We didn't quite make that deadline, but 12 months later, we were completely debt free. Here's the basis behind our strategy:

Step 1: List All Your Debts, Their Balances and Interest Rates

Go to the website of every financial institution to which you owe money. Copy down all the balances and their respective interest rates, exactly as they appear. It's also important to know what your minimum payments are for every account.

Step 2: Set Periodic Goals

Short-term goals allow us to break really hard things into manageable chunks that we can feel good about after we complete them.

When you set a goal to pay off your all debt, you first need to assess how much money you can contribute to debt repayment every month. Divide your total debt by your planned monthly repayment amount. This will give you roughly the number of months it will take to become debt free. This isn't accounting for interest, of course, so understand it'll likely take you longer than that to repay your debt, but it's a fair gauge of how much longer you have to bear this burden.

Step 3: Start Paying Off Your Balances from Highest APR to Lowest

Each month, make the minimum payment on every account, then dedicate all the rest of your debt repayment budget to the one that you're trying to eliminate first -- the one with the highest APR. Over time, this allows you to waste as little as possible on interest.

When you pay off one debt, that frees up money that you can now use to tackle the next debt down the list. This concept is known as " the snowball plan."

Step 4: Trade In Big Ticket Items

Do you still owe big money on your vehicle? You can significantly reduce your total debt by trading in your car for something cheaper. If you can get $18,000 for a trade-in, and find a $10,000 car on the lot, you just came into $8,000 to help you pay off debt.

You can apply the same idea to boats, yachts, jet-skis, snowmobiles, among other items. Now isn't the time to have pricey toys. You can have toys when you're debt-free.

Step 5: Sell Almost Everything

Now that all of your big ticket items have been either sold or traded in for less expensive versions, you can start becoming a professional Craigslister.

Carry around a notebook and write down every item that you use over the course of a given week. You'd be surprised with how little of your stuff you actually use. Why not try to turn some of your less-used items into cash?

Step 6: Work, Work, Work

This one is going to blow your mind: To pay off debt faster, you can work more. Overtime, second jobs, babysitting, etc. More money, more debt repayment.

Step 7: Reward Yourself for the Small Wins

Achieving a goal, no matter how small, should be celebrated. Naturally, this doesn't mean that you should go out and spend hundreds of a dollars at the mall for paying off $100 of your debt. Instead, splurge small -- perhaps on one of those fancy coffee drinks you've (wisely) been denying yourself.

Or, as a free alternative, you can guilt people into congratulating you by posting your achievements on Facebook.

Step 8: Use Windfall Money Wisely

My definition of windfall money is "any money that you receive that didn't directly come from your employment." Tax refunds, bonuses, inheritances, birthday money, wedding gifts, whatever. If you are in debt, windfall money isn't fair game for fun. You should apply it directly to your debt. You couldn't ask for a better gift than being closer to debt free, so don't blow it.

Congratulations, You're Debt Free

Now that you've made it, teach your friends and family how they can accomplish the same thing. You'll be living proof that it's actually possible.

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Annabeth Liew

Here's a tip that has worked with me in the past: I settled my credit card debts lump sump and got "discounts" for it. When you have cash to settle your credit card debts at one go, you can actually negotiate with the banker to decrease the amount you need to pay. I didn't have enough in my saving back then, so I took a personal loan after comparing it at finance websites like this: http://www.imoney.my/personal-loan/ Now I am pretty much debt-free and is slowly paying back my personal loan which will be settled by the end of the year. Thank god.

October 09 2014 at 4:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Lastly, just hope that nothing bad happens, such as losing a job and not being able to find another because you are over 50 years of age, or owing $250,000 on a house that is worth $175,000.

March 27 2014 at 9:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

There is no need to "pay back" if people had better judgement,living within your earnings and always trying to make more money

March 27 2014 at 7:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's a shame that people who exhibit poor judgement financially tend to repeat their mistakes.
I have a friend who bought a $260,000 condo at the height of the freenzy, 2006, When the crash hit the condo wasn't worth more than 155,000. The loan was so upside down that a short sale was the only way to get out of this horrible financial problem. Now it's 2014 and my friend's income hasn't changed all that much but once again he's gone out an purchased a 45,000 dollar SUV. He traded in a 3 year old SUV which still had 4 years to go until it was paid off. Now he pays only 20.00 more a month for his new SUV but the loan is easily over $440.00 a month for another 72 months. Bad decisions seem to plague people who don't understand how borrowing money works.

March 27 2014 at 3:10 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to endlessdrip's comment

Have to agree. So many people love to blame the economy (sure sometimes is to blame), the administartion.... the list goes on. Just look at the guy/girl in the mirror. I too see this way too often.

March 27 2014 at 4:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i read this and bam, i'm debt free. F&C#ing amazing!

March 27 2014 at 1:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

perhaps congress should heed these 8 steps?

March 27 2014 at 10:03 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

When I first started out' I set my budget up on 75 percent of my income. If I needed to borrow money for big items, I borrowed from myself and paid myself back with 10 percent interest. If I could not afford it, I did not buy it until I could. I still pay myself the 60 dollars a month for my first car. Today I pay myself 3200.00 a month and the rest is for everyday bills and spending money. Compound interest is a wonderful thing in the right direction. Many people I know live on 50 hours pay a week and get behind in slow times. No wonder people are so far in debt

March 26 2014 at 6:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply