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Why You Need to Get Out of Debt on a Low Income

Every once in awhile, the pile grows with new overdraft notices and payment requests. There are many reasons for my financial situation. It was only a matter of time before it all caught up with me.

9 Ways to Pay Off Debt

There was a time in my life when all I felt was the increasing pressure of the mountainous bills stacked up against me, and I woke up every day unhappy and fearful of my future. It was no way to live my life. Something needed to change. I started with my attitude about my finances, and soon moved toward every aspect of my life.

I resolved to wake up every morning happy, and focus on the progress I was making on bringing down my balances. I decided to have confidence in myself that in time, I would be able to get out of this hole. That helped maintain my sanity while dealing with the incredible stress that comes with living in debt.

Plus, you will get out of the hole you've dug for yourself much more quickly. Is it fun? But it sure beats living a hand-to-mouth existence, fearing bills each month. Take a long, hard look at all your credit cards. Pay particular attention to your lowest interest rate cards. Have you reached the maximum limit on that card? If not, consider transferring a higher-interest bill to that one. If your entire balance is too large to fit on one low-interest card, pay at least the minimum amounts due on all of your cards except one.

Funnel the majority of your debt repayments into that one credit card, and pay it off as quickly as possible. When the balance on that card reaches zero, move on to the next with the same aggressive repayment plan. Lather, rinse, and repeat. This method of repayment is aptly called "snowballing. Your payments snowball until all of your debt is pummeled. Pretty neat, eh? Another way to transfer higher-interest debt to a lower-interest card is to take advantage of the balance transfer offers many banks use to entice you to their line of credit.

You've seen the come-ons. Moving to 5. And the money saved in interest could then be applied toward the principal each month, thus reducing your outstanding debt balance even further. Take care, though, before you act. Examine the offer closely. Look for the hooks.

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Will the interest rate after the introductory period be higher than you're paying now? If so, you may have to switch again at that time.

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That, in turn, could give rise to another surprise. Banks have caught onto the charge card hoppers who switch from card to card to take advantage of the low introductory rates. Many of these offers now stipulate that if you transfer balances from the new card within a month period, the normal interest rate will be applied to all outstanding balances retroactively. That proviso could be a bitter pill to swallow for someone short on cash, and it certainly doesn't help the debt repayment schedule. Read the fine print. The longer the promo period the better your credit must be to get approved for the credit card.

People with average credit and better can typically qualify for a balance-transfer credit card.

There are a few straightforward steps to utilize this strategy. Most card issuers include an option to transfer balances during the application process. After the transfer has been made, you just need to make monthly payments as normal. We'd suggest doing whatever possible to pay during the promo period to avoid interest charges completely. Do you have life insurance with a cash value? If so, borrow against the policy. Yes, you're borrowing your own money. But the interest rate is typically well below commercial rates, and you can take your time repaying the loan.

Do repay it, though. If you die before it's repaid, the outstanding balance plus interest will be deducted from the face value of the policy payable to the beneficiary. While that seems a small price to pay to get out of debt now, it could be burdensome to your loved ones should you sleep the eternal sleep before paying it back. Perhaps your family or friends could float you a loan.

Who else knows, trusts, and loves you like they do? Unless you're really the black sheep of the flock, chances are you'll get a very favorable interest rate. They may even tolerate a late payment or two. But if you want to maintain the relationship, it's best to keep things on the straight and narrow by using a written agreement. You should clearly establish the interest and repayment schedule in writing to avoid misunderstandings and hard feelings.

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And it goes without saying that you must be scrupulous about adhering to that schedule. Throughout our twenties we both had excessive piles of debt—more than six-figures each. It was a debilitating feeling—a complete loss of freedom. Of course minimalism was a key component in our own journeys toward financial freedom. By clearing the clutter from our lives, we were able to focus on eliminating debt, changing our habits, and making better decisions with fewer resources.

For example, as we were tackling our debts, Joshua sold his oversized house and moved into a tiny apartment. Ryan sold his fancy new car and purchased a decade-old vehicle without a monthly payment. We both jettisoned our cable subscriptions, satellite radio, and other superfluous bills that saved us hundreds of dollars each month. Consider our Day Minimalism Game. You can also visit our Start Here page for more ideas. The shortest path toward freedom is: appreciating what you already have. To do so, donate your most precious asset: your time.

Bring your family to a local soup kitchen, foodbank, or homeless shelter. Tutor less-privileged children in your city. Help the elderly with groceries or in-home care. Work on low-income houses with Habitat for Humanity. There are more resources than ever to help you contribute beyond yourself in a meaningful way; just do an Internet search for volunteer opportunities in your area. In a short period of time—two or three years—your entire life can radically transform from what it is today. All it takes is a plan which you now have , determination i.

The exciting part about these five principles is that they apply to anyone, anywhere on the socioeconomic ladder. You are now equipped with a recipe to make outstanding financial changes. You are obviously welcome to add your own ingredients to taste, but when it comes to true financial freedom, these five ingredients—budget, invest, eliminate debt, minimize, contribute—are nonnegotiable. All five are necessary. Yes, you still have a considerable amount of research and planning and hard work ahead of you; but most important, you have to take action today. Diligence is paramount.

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Creating this blog is one of the best decisions Ryan and I ever made. After all, our blog is how we earn a living.