If your New Year’s resolution was to reduce debt, several strategies can help accomplish that goal. But before implementing any strategy, understand the terms of various debt agreements, including any penalties for prepayment, and consult with a tax or accounting professional, say experts with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Make minimum payments.Credit card companies require borrowers to pay the minimum balance. Paying less than the minimum can result in penalties, increased interest rates and default.
Make additional mortgage payments.To pay down the principal amount faster and reduce total interest paid, consider making additional payments. By paying one-half of the regular monthly mortgage payment every two weeks, for example, you will make the equivalent of 13 monthly payments for the calendar year and reduce the total interest on the loan.
Pay off higher-interest-rate debts first.After making the required minimum payments for each debt, allocate any extra dollars to the debt with the highest interest rate. Or:
Pay off the lowest debt amount first.According to financial expert Dave Ramsey, paying down the lowest balances first, regardless of interest rate, gives borrowers a sense of accomplishment. As each small debt is paid off, it becomes easier to stay motivated to pay down larger debts.
Consolidate loans.It may be possible to pay off multiple high-interest debts by getting a debt consolidation loan, which is often offered at a lower interest rate.
Finally, avoid tapping into a 401K, emergency fund or equity line of credit to pay down debt. Once debts are paid off, put away credit cards, and pay cash for what you need most. With patience, vigilance and a sound action plan, cash-strapped borrowers can learn to live debt-free.