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Millionaire Money Habits

August 28th, 2009 at 9:46 am

What Debt Should I Pay Off First?

Nobody enjoys being in debt, but in everyday life, it’s unavoidable.  We need houses and cars, and sometimes we have no choice but to use our credit cards in emergencies.  It can seem as though you’ll never get out, but it really is possible to become debt-free.  The starting question is which debt to pay off first.

The easiest way to pay off debt is to take small steps.  Unless your debt has reached the point where you’re in immediate danger of losing things like your home and your credit is taking serious hits with each passing day, you don’t need a debt consolidation or elimination service.  The average person can successfully become debt-free on their own—and why pay someone to do something you can do yourself?

Take a look at your bills.  Pick out the one with the lowest balance and the one with the highest interest rate.  From here, it’s your choice where to start.  If you pay off the smallest debt first, you can then easily take the same payment and simply roll it into your payment for the next smallest.  This is called the “snowball method” and while it may be a slow process, it is definitely effective.

If the one with the highest interest rate will cancel out your attempts to pay off the smallest balance first, you may want to pay this one off first instead.  Otherwise, interest might accrue at such a rate that you’ll be left with the exact same amount of debt even by time the smallest one is gone.  If you focus your efforts here, then you can safely move onto the smallest debt, or even the one with the next highest interest rate.

No matter which place you decide to begin, you’re going to need a plan of attack, and you must stick to it.  Even if you do choose a debt counseling service to help you, this process is going to take time.  The sooner you begin, the sooner you can be out of debt.

A word of caution: Do not trust a service that asks you to pay them upfront, proposes that they can eliminate your debt within a too-short period of time (such as only one or two months), insists that they set you up with a new social security number, or makes other questionable promises.  A legitimate service cannot legally do anything more than you can do on your own.  Do not be ashamed if you do need the advice or helping hand; just be sure that you are not in danger of being scammed.  You’ll be worse off than when you started.

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