approaches to paying off debt
I am concentrating on paying off debt. I have read two different
approaches: 1) Pay off similar debts first making minimum payments
on others. As debts are paid off, apply payments to next size debt.
2) Same idea except pay off highest interest rate debt first. Which
in your opinion is best approach?
I like your thinking on this situation. Both approaches are logical
and can work, if they satisfy your perception of progress. I also
want to suggest a third approach for your consideration.
I am going to assume that you meant smaller, as well
as similar in amount, debts in your first example. Here, you are
able to make a quick dent in your situation that is easy to see.
Once company "A" is paid off, you would move on to company
"B" and so forth. This is a good method for consumers
who have a great number of accounts, because once you pay off "A"
you will have a visible success and never have to think of it again.
Paying off a debt completely is very satisfying and
can make a person feel that progress is being made toward becoming
debt-free. In addition, consumers who are overwhelmed by the sheer
number of payments they have to make every month, and the accounts
they have to keep up with, might like to go with this plan.
Your second scenario actually makes more sense from
a pure dollars-and-cents approach. Paying off those debts that are
costing you the most in interest lets you keep more of your money
in the long run. A credit card debt of $5,000 can easily run you
$80 in interest every month.
Although you might have a credit card with a small
balance and could pay it off immediately, the amount you pay in
interest to the higher-rate or balance card would be higher, and
your indebtedness would be higher for longer, if you were to split
your payment over multiple cards. If you devote your excess money,
over the minimum payment, to the high-rate card, you will see your
principal amount shrink faster and ultimately save more. The key
here is to NOT reduce your overall payments when you pay off a debt.
Apply those "savings" to the next-highest debt. Create
a "payment snowball" that keeps building as you go, and
you pay everyone off faster.
A third way to look at this is to consider your credit
score. If you are planning on applying for a loan in the foreseeable
future, the effect of how you pay down your bills may save you more
than the amount of short-term interest savings approach. Credit
scores look at a number of factors and one is, what percentage of
a credit card's limit is owed. If you owe more than 50 percent of
the limit, you lose points. So paying down the balances so all of
them are below 50 percent of maximums will help your score and might
save you some serious money on longer-term loans. Be sure that all
of the accounts are less than 50 percent, as even one can make a
Still, in the end, this is really a personal preference,
David. Like dieting or working out, the plan has to satisfy you.
The really important part is having a plan that fits you, feels
good and you will stick to. For the last few months I've been going
to the gym to build up my aging muscles, not to lose weight. Now
that I am a little firmer however, I am thinking more of the weight
issue. So, remember priorities can change, and that's fine. You
know best what your circumstances are and what will work for you.
No matter what, you are doing the right thing to begin the process
of becoming debt-free.
The Debt Adviser, Steve Bucci,
is the president of Money Management International Financial Education
Foundation and the author of Credit
Repair Kit for Dummies. Visit MMI
for additional debt
advice or click
here to ask a debt question.