Debt freedom is something anyone with a big mountain of debt dreams of. Making that last payment on something that’s been hanging around your neck for years is a life-changer.
It’s why it’s so easy to relate to those families on the Dave Ramsey show who shout, “We’re debt free!” That joy is palpable. (Here are the top 10 best “We’re debt free!” moments from the show to get you in the feels. There are some pretty meaningful stories in there.)
But getting there can be a difficult journey. You’ve got to have a game plan for debt repayment and the fortitude to not give up until you’ve reached your goal.
So, how exactly do you get started?
Sorry to say, but there’s not a 1-2-3 plan that applies to everyone’s situation. You need to make a debt repayment plan that works for YOU.
But there are legitimate debt-paying strategies to help you figure that out. And, because taxes are always on my mind, let’s also address taking care of outstanding balances specific to the IRS.
Count the debt repayment methods
When it comes to debt repayment, the most obvious place to start is to create a budget that you can stick to while you’re in repayment mode. You need to know where the money’s going and make sure you’re able to direct as much of it toward the debt as you possibly can.
But beyond that, and maybe the most important thing for you to consider today, is the method you’ll use to actually pay off your debt. There are a few and choosing the right one really depends on your personal situation (a decision you should definitely get some expert consultation on from a reliable Connecticut professional to help you do it right).
Debt snowball method. This is a popular debt repayment strategy because you focus on paying off your smallest debts first, regardless of the interest rate. Once you’ve paid off your smallest debt, you roll that payment into your next smallest debt, and so on. It can be a great way to stay motivated because you’ll see progress quickly. However, it’s important to note that this method may not be the most efficient way to pay off debt, depending on the interest rates of your debts.
Debt avalanche method. With this debt repayment method, you focus on paying off your debts with the highest interest rates first, regardless of the size of the debt. This method can save you money in the long run, because you’ll pay less interest overall. However, the debt avalanche method can be more difficult to stay motivated with, because you may not see progress as quickly as you would with the debt snowball method.
Combo method. You can also use a combination of the debt snowball method and the debt avalanche method. For example, you could focus on paying off your smallest debts first, until you get to a certain point, and then switch to paying off your debts with the highest interest rates next.
Other strategies. In addition to the other strategies, you can also make extra payments, negotiate with creditors to lower interest rates or monthly payments, and even get help from a credit counselor or debt relief agency.
Regardless of the method, the important thing is to DO it. Find ways to keep yourself motivated and actually celebrate a little when you hit milestones (like paying off a debt or getting to the halfway mark). And, as I mentioned before, it helps to have an experienced Connecticut someone in your corner to help you stay focused on your goal and make changes to payment amounts and such along the way.
Dealing with tax debt
Tax debt is a particularly overwhelming kind of debt because it comes with the added pressure of dealing with the IRS. Whether you’re dealing with back taxes, penalties, or interest, knowing the specifics of your case will help you figure out how to best resolve it.
There are a few options:
- An installment agreement allows you to pay off your tax debt over time in monthly installments, making it more manageable for your budget. However, they can have high interest rates, and you may have to pay penalties.
- An Offer in Compromise allows you to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount owed if you meet certain eligibility criteria, though they’re not always approved, and the process can be lengthy and complex.
- Bankruptcy may also be an option, although it should be considered as a last resort due to its long-term impact on your credit.
- Negotiate with the IRS: If you’re struggling to make your payments, you may be able to negotiate with the IRS to lower your monthly payments or interest rates. But you’ll want to make sure you have all the right information and know how to speak tax-ese.
Again, there are pros and cons to each option. Choosing the right one is dependent on your financial situation and the specific details of your tax debt. This is where it helps to have an IRS specialist on your team to guide you in dealing with the IRS and the complexities of tax debt payments. This is what I’m here for:
Debt repayment is a challenge – we know – but it is one you can master. We’ve walked alongside hundreds of Connecticut families who have done it. Use smart strategies, and you can get out of debt and work toward a freer financial future (complete with your own “I’m free!” shout-out).
In the process, remember to be patient. It takes time to pay off debt.
And don’t give up even if you slip up. If you don’t see results immediately, don’t get discouraged. Find ways to stay motivated (tracking your progress, setting small goals). And I’ll be here to cheer you on as you do.
Rooting for you,
Emelia Mensa, CPA