When you have multiple debts, it can seem impossible to keep up with the minimum repayments, let alone make headway. In some cases, just $1,000 on a credit card can take almost 25 years to pay down if you are only making the minimum payments. To get ahead of your debts, you need to know how much you owe, what the minimum repayments are, and what the interest rate is. Once you know that, you can look at tackling your debts head on.

Define the Problem

Step one to crushing your debts is to define the problem. While you might know that you owe $50,000 across various loans and credit cards, this information won’t help you to get ahead. Sit down and go through all your payments until you can make yourself a list of exactly how much you owe, who you owe it to, and when they expect to be paid. Then find out the interest rates for each debt and you should end up with a list something like this:

  Owing Min. Monthly Payment Interest Rate Time to Repay
Credit Card #1 $5,000 $100 20% 9 years
Credit Card #2 $800 $25 13.25% 3 years
Car Loan $12,000 $250 7.99% 5 years
Personal Loan $10,000 $150 4.59% 7 years

 

In this example, you need to make minimum repayments of $525. Over the life of the loans you will be paying over $10,000 in interest. To shorten this term, go over your budget and see how much extra you can put towards different sources of debt. Even $100 a month could save you thousands.

Approach Repayments with your Head, Not your Heart

Now that you have defined the problem, there are a few approaches you could take. You can put a little extra into each loan, pay down the smallest balance first, or pay down the debt with the greatest interest rate first. First, consider whether a balance transfer credit card suits your needs. If you cannot find a way to lower your rates, then start tackling debt with the highest interest rate first. While you might want to start with the smaller debts, knocking down the high interest ones will save you the most money over the life of your debt.

In the above example, if you start by paying down the 20 percent APR credit card debt, you will save $3,481 and knock more than six years off of repayment. Once that card is paid, you will have another $100 a month free that you can put towards closing out your second card.

When you have paid down your credit cards, you will have approximately two years left on the car loan. Take the $225 a month from your credit card repayments and put it towards your car loan. You’ll shorten the loan by a year and save close to $300.

Finally, take $340 a month from your other loan repayments and tackle your personal loan. The increased repayments will knock two years off the life of the loan.

By snowballing your debt repayments starting with the highest interest rate, you can cut both the repayment time and the total interest paid in half. While it might seem like a daunting place to start from, every dollar makes a difference, and once you get started momentum picks up quickly. Just like in this example, the first step is the hardest, and the first debt takes the longest. Despite this, by you’ll see your debts rapidly melt away by sticking to a solid plan.