Work and Money
7 Easy Ways You Can Start Paying Off Debt Now
Financial wellness is a skill every person should master, but the idea of tracking, budgeting, and calculating your spending can feel overwhelming. It’s easy for debt to add up and spiral if you’re not careful, which is why Girl Scout alum Allison Baggerly created Inspired Budget in 2017. With over 100,000 followers on the Inspired Budget Instagram, Baggerly helps women learn how to budget, save money, and pay off debt in ways that are realistic and consistent.
“My husband and I got married in July 2011,” Baggerly tells CircleAround. “We were both teachers. We became pregnant soon after getting married, and realized that we couldn't afford monthly daycare payments. That's when we sat down and totaled up our debt. We had over $111,000 worth of debt in student loans and car loans. That didn't even include our house!”
The couple worked hard for nearly five years to pay off the six-figure debt. Baggerly “became passionate about personal finances” and wanted to help others achieve the same satisfaction. “In my business, I aim to help and guide women who are struggling with living paycheck to paycheck and want to become debt-free. I offer these women resources, lessons, and the accountability they need to reach their financial dreams. My company offers women a membership where they get the step-by-step instructions and accountability to change their relationship with money as well as pay off debt.”
CircleAround asked Baggerly to provide some tips for those looking to get out of debt in these uncertain times. Here are seven tactics she uses.
1. Make Your Finances a Priority
It might sound obvious, but it can be tempting to ignore overwhelming financial issues. If put off, however, debt can build quickly. “No one but YOU will make your finances a priority,” Baggerly says. “Become an expert in your money so that you can reach the goals that others tell you are impossible.”
It’s also easy to talk yourself out of not budgeting, but once you make it a part of your daily routine (think: monitoring your credit score monthly, tracking your checking account weekly, etc.), it will feel second-nature.
2. Consistency Is Key
“Making progress toward your goals is all about consistency,” Baggerly says. “This looks like making a small choice every single day, that will support your big goals.”
This can be as simple as keeping track of every latte you buy, and adding up the costs at the end of each week to see where you need to make small changes, or larger, such as putting away a set amount of money each month toward college tuition. Whatever you decide, make a plan and stick to it.
3. Use the Snowball Method
The debt-snowball method is tried-and-true for many looking to downsize their debt, but what does it actually mean? “Imagine a ball of snow rolling down a hill,” says Baggerly. “As it continues to roll, it picks up more snow and grows larger by the second. This is the illustration behind the debt snowball.”
“It’s a method of paying off debt in a certain order,” she continues. “As you pay off each debt, the minimum payments for previous debts are added to your payment for larger debts. Eventually, you are left with one large payment to your last debt.”
It’s a more visual way to manage your debt, and provides a nice feeling once the payoff is complete.
4. Learn the Art of Negotiation
You can save a lot of money by knowing how to negotiate. Many services pack in extra fees or include a markup, which allows them to earn profit. But not everything that goes into a contract needs to actually be included. For example, a wedding catering company may have a dinner package that includes four courses, but you may be able to negotiate for a less expensive price by only having three courses.
“It’s possible to negotiate medical bills for less than you owe, even after insurance has paid for their share,” Baggerly states. This can be useful for many who incur unexpected medical issues with large price tags. Discuss your options with your medical practice and insurance company to see if there is a payment plan that works for you.
5. Focus on Small Goals
Just because the size of the debt is large and overwhelming, your debt-payoff habits don’t have to be. Baggerly suggests thinking about small, manageable ways to cut down costs, and once you’ve mastered those, you can take on larger payoff strategies.
“Our family would not have become debt-free if we hadn’t created the daily habit of meal planning every week,” she describes. “This single habit helped us cut down our budget so that we could pay off debt quickly.”
6. Share Finances Smartly
If you share finances, don’t hesitate to discuss them with your financial partner. Money means something different to everyone, and it’s important to be on the same page, especially if you’re trying to save for large purchases (or pay them down).
“Every single Sunday, my husband and I have a weekly family business meeting,” Baggerly says. “Our topics range from the meal plan for the week to any activities/meetings that are on the schedule. However, we also set financial and personal goals for the week.”
I absolutely love (and look forward!) to this time that we have set in our schedule,” she continues. “It helps us stay on the same page with our family’s schedule and focus on goals we have. This is also when we review our budget, talk about our spending, and discuss savings goals.”
7. Always Be Willing to Learn from Yourself
“Instead of being ashamed of your past or present, ask yourself what lessons you can learn from what you're going through,” says Baggerly.
This can be hard, but it’s one of the most important lessons, if only because these situations help you become more financially aware in the future.
“I used to be so ashamed of how much debt our family had,” she adds, “And yet I was so proud of doing the work to become debt-free. This taught me that I am capable of MORE than I ever give myself credit for. This experience, although difficult, taught me to dream big, unapologetically.”