Should you pay debt before saving? This is the question that a lot of people are faced with when they are just starting out. They’ve wracked up a couple of credit cards’ worth of debt, they’ve got student loans, their first jobs don’t pay very well. They know that building a savings is important but they don’t want that debt to sit over them forever.
Why can’t you do both?
It’s okay if you want your debts to take priority in your budget but don’t completely write off saving. Even if you can only save a few bucks a week, it’s better than nothing.
Speeding Up the Process
The goal is to get the debt paid off as quickly as possible so that you can focus on saving, right? Here’s how you do that.
1. Take stock of your current living situation. Is there anywhere that you can cut costs? Can you take in a roommate? Do you really need that expansive cable package? If there are savings to be had, go after them. Be ruthless! You can live large later, when you aren’t struggling to pay your bills (when it will be more fun anyway).
2. Learn credit law. A creditor can only collect your debt once. Make sure you keep receipts and confirmations for all of the payments you make—especially when you pay off a debt. As long as you are paying at least the minimum due each month, a creditor has no reason to send you to a collector. What’s more, once you’ve paid a debt, you’re done. A creditor cannot decide suddenly that you still owe in extra fees or expenses.
3. Contact each creditor and ask about your interest rates and fees. Ask to have them lowered or reduced. If the creditor gives you the run around, threaten to simply close the account. A creditor wants to keep your business—he’ll probably give you a lower interest rate to keep you around.
4. Be wary of balance transfers. You’ve undoubtedly been sent a few offers for credit cards that will allow you to transfer a balance at o% APR for six or twelve months. It seems like a great deal and it can be…but only if you can actually pay off that debt in the time allotted. If there is even one penny of that transfer left on your card after the allotted time has passed, you’ll have all of the interest you could have been charged during that time tacked on to your debt.
5. Consolidation is a Last Resort. If you are truly drowning in a lot of different debts, you might want to consider consolidating them—but you should use this as a last resort. Sometimes credit consolidation can look bad on your credit report. Still, having just one payment every month is tempting, isn’t it? If you do decide to go the consolidation route, go with a non-profit organization. These organizations actually want to help you. The private ones just want to charge you a bunch of money in fees and then leave you holding the bag.
Eventually you’ll pay down your debt and you can put all of the money you were spending on your payments into your savings account—an account which has been growing in its own right!
The key is to stick to it. It takes time to pay off your debt and to save up a good nest egg but it is an accomplishment that feels amazing to achieve!