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How to Create a Debt Repayment Plan That Works

How to Create a Debt Repayment Plan That Works

Debt can be daunting, but with a strategic approach, you can manage and eventually eliminate it. The key to crafting a debt repayment plan that works is understanding your financial situation. Once you have a clear picture of your financial standing, you can choose the right repayment strategies and stay disciplined. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you effectively pay off your debt.

Step 1: Assess Your Financial Situation

List All Debts

Start by listing all your debts. Include the creditor’s name, the total amount owed, interest rates, and minimum monthly payments. Common types of debt include:

  • Credit card debt
  • Student loans
  • Auto loans
  • Personal loans
  • Medical bills
  • Mortgage loans

Calculate Your Total Debt

Add up all the amounts to see your total debt. This number might be daunting, but it’s essential to understand the full scope of your obligations.

Review Your Budget

Examine your monthly income and expenses. Identify areas where you can cut back. Understanding your cash flow helps determine how much extra money you can allocate to monthly debt repayment.

Step 2: Choose a Debt Repayment Strategy

Debt Snowball Method

The Debt Snowball Method is an effective plan of action that involves paying off the smallest debts first while making minimum installments on the others. Once a debt is paid off, you apply that payment total to the next smallest debt. This strategy provides psychological wins as you see debts disappearing quickly, which can be a great motivator to continue your debt repayment journey.

Debt Avalanche Method

This is a method focused on prioritizing loans with the highest interest rates while making smaller payments on the rest. This approach minimizes the total interest paid over time, saving you more money in the long run.

Debt Consolidation

Debt consolidation entails incorporating multiple debts into one loan resulting in one monthly payment. This may streamline your finances and potentially lower your interest rate. Options for debt consolidation include:

  • Personal Loans: Credit Unions and other lenders offer personal loans for debt consolidation. Choice One Credit Union’s “Your Choice Loan” and other personal loan options provide competitive rates that can help consolidate higher-rate debt.  
  • Balance Transfer Credit Cards: Transfer high-interest credit card debt to a lower interest rate card. Choice One’s VISA Balance Transfer Credit Card provides the opportunity to transfer high-interest balances and save by taking advantage of 0% APR* on balance transfers for six months. Be mindful of balance transfer fees and introductory rates that may increase after a certain period. Consider different balance transfer card options and look for low or no fees.
  • Home Equity Loans or Lines of Credit (HELOC): Use the equity in your home to consolidate debt. These typically offer lower interest rates but put your home at risk if you default, so be mindful when borrowing. Choice One offers members both fixed-rate home equity loans and HELOCs. Home equity loans are a great tool for repaying high-interest debt when used wisely.

Step 3: Create a Repayment Plan

Prioritize Debts

Prioritize your debts based on your chosen strategy (snowball or avalanche). List them in the order you plan to pay them off.

Set Monthly Payment Goals

Decide how much extra you can afford each month and apply it to your prioritized debt. Use additional funds, such as gig income, tax refunds, bonuses, or gifts, to accelerate your debt repayment.

Automate Payments

Establish auto pay to ensure you never miss a due date. Many creditors offer a discount for setting up autopay, which can save you money on interest.

Step 4: Track Your Progress

Monitor Your Debts

Review your debts regularly to see how much progress you’ve made. Adjust your budget and repayment plan as necessary.

Celebrate Little Victories

Reward yourself when you pay off a debt. Celebrating these milestones is not just a fun way to acknowledge your progress, it’s a powerful motivator that can keep you committed to your repayment plan. Remember, every debt paid off is a step closer to your financial freedom.

Step 5: Avoid Accumulating More Debt

Use Credit Wisely

Limit your credit card use to avoid increased debt balances. Charge only what you can afford to pay off in full each month.

Build an Emergency Fund

Adequate emergency savings can prevent you from relying on credit cards for unforeseen expenses. Aim to save at least three to six months of living expenses.

Live Below Your Means

Adopt a frugal lifestyle. Cut unnecessary expenses, shop for deals, and prioritize needs over wants.

Step 6: Seek Professional Help If Needed

Credit Counseling

Not-for-profit credit counseling agencies offer free or low-cost services to help you manage your debt. They can provide personalized advice and help you create a repayment plan.

Additional Tips for Keeping Debt Balances Low

  • Pay More Than the Minimum: Whenever possible, pay more than the minimum required payment. This will reduce your principal balance faster and save you on interest.
  • Track Your Spending: Use budgeting tools and apps to track your spending. Check out Empower, a free budget planner, and Rock Money, an app that will help you stay on top of your spending. Awareness can prevent overspending and help you stay on track with your financial goals.
  • Negotiate Lower Interest Rates: Contact creditors and ask for lower interest rates. A strong payment history or a balance transfer offer can provide leverage in these negotiations.

While paying off existing debt, it’s crucial to avoid taking on new debt. This means focusing on living within your means and using cash or debit whenever possible. By doing so, you can stay on track with your financial goals and avoid the cycle of debt.

Creating a debt repayment plan requires discipline, commitment, and understanding of your financial situation. By following these steps and maintaining healthy financial habits, you can effectively pay off your debt and work towards a debt-free future. Rely less on credit by building your savings. Read our new blog, “Smart Saving Tactics: How to Build an Emergency Fund.” https://choiceone.org/how-to-build-an-emergency-fund/


*0% VISA Balance Transfer Rate is valid for 6 billing cycles from date of transfer. Rate returns to current rate at that time. Choice One’s current Platinum Visa Credit Card Rate is 8.90% APR and Classic Visa Card is 13.50% APR with No Balance Transfer or Annual Fee. Balance Transfer offer is good on any new or existing Choice One Platinum or Classic Credit Card. 0% balance transfer rate is for balances transferred from another institution only. Transfers may not exceed the credit line a member is approved for.


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