Ways to tame the beast of personal debt
April 7, 2022
While higher interest rates can be good news for traditional savers, they are more likely to bring even more bad news to those of us who deal with household debt. And, according to Global News, that level of consumer debt rose to an alarming $2.2 trillion as of the fourth quarter last year.
With inflation hitting levels not seen since the 1990s, a trend that will almost certainly lead to higher costs for borrowing and using credit, Save with SPP decided to find out what the experts say about speedy ways to get debt under control.
Writing for MoneySense, noted financial author Gail Vaz-Oxlade says getting “a sense of control over your money and your life” is not easy, but is well worth the effort. She recommends we all do “a spending analysis to see where your money is going, so you can put it where it does the most good.” Next, she writes, “create a debt repayment plan that gets you out of consumer debt in three years or less, even if you have to get a second job.”
The third step, she adds, is “creating a balanced budget,” so that you know exactly how much you can afford to spend on things before you actually start spending. “Make yourself accountable by telling friends and family ‘sorry, it’s not in my budget this month,’” she adds.
Following these steps, she advises, will lead you to a future where you have “no debt, a balanced budget, and a big fat emergency fund.”
The Zilchworks.com site outlines a number of different strategies for eliminating debt.
Under the “annual percentage rate” strategy, you target the debt source (credit card or line of credit) that charges you the highest rate of interest first. “Once you’ve crushed the worst offender, you move on to the creditor with the next highest rate,” the site advises.
Other strategies outlined on the site are similar – put extra on one, pay it off, and repeat. This can be done, the site explains, in a number of ways – lowest balance first, highest balance first, lowest payment first, etc. In all strategies, the concept is a sort of snowball/avalanche effect – as each debt falls, you are paying more per month on the next targeted debt, and so on.
At Credit.com, a few additional strategies are outlined. “The first and most important step in getting out of debt is to stop borrowing money. No more swiping credit cards, no more loans, and no more new debt,” we are advised. “Resolve to live on a cash basis while you make your changes.”
Other advice is to “always pay more than the minimum amount” on your debts. “Make this an iron-clad habit,” the site advises. Another nice bit of advice is not to slip back into old habits once you have paid off your debt – make sure your post-debt budget focuses on you staying out of debt.
Save with SPP and debt are old friends who only recently have parted ways. Here are a few other ideas we picked up along the way.
- The 95 per cent rule: If you don’t think you have an extra dollar to put on debt, this idea may help. Take five per cent of your take-home pay and put it immediately on debt. Then live on the balance. It is sort of like the Uncle Joe rule of saving 10 per cent of your income and living on 90 per cent, but tweaked so that it targets debt.
- Get your credit cards out of your wallet: If you are maxed out most of the time, you probably pay the minimum owing, then spend with your card some more, and are maxed out again, with a higher minimum next month. Give the card to a spouse, or a relative, or trusted friend, and tell them not to give it back unless you have a real emergency. By not using the card, your minimum payments will gradually go down.
- Stop making automatic payments for things on your credit card: If you are a super responsible person who pays off 100 per cent of your credit card each month, paying other bills, like utilities, or Internet, or streaming subscriptions via credit card is a good way to earn more cash back or points. But if you don’t pay off your balance each month, you are basically borrowing money to pay for living costs at maybe 25 per cent interest. It will catch up to you, and in the worst case scenario, you’ll bounce your bills due to having a maxed out card. Pay your bills a different way.
- Save up for trips: If you are going on a trip, save up for it and pay it in advance, rather than paying as you go with a credit card. That way, you don’t come home to a huge bill, and avoid feeling financially punished for taking a holiday.
When you are in debt, talk to friends and family about how they dealt with it. Everyone, it seems, has had a brush with problem debt and have learned valuable lessons on how to turn credit problems around.
And, once you have defeated debt, you’ll have more money to put away for the greatest vacation of all – life in a post-work reality. An excellent companion on this journey is the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. They’ll invest the money you contribute, at a low cost and with a stellar track record, and when it’s time to retire, will present you with your retirement income options. Check them out today!
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Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.