Use debt calculator to help reduce debt

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If reducing debt is your No. 1 financial goal, consider using a debt calculator to start making headway with your financial plan.

The hardest step for many people is simply facing reality. To start, gather all of your bills and figure out exactly how much you owe. If you have multiple creditors, it can be useful to make a chart showing the total owed, the minimum payment and the interest rate charged. Getting out of debt requires discipline, but with the help of a spending plan, it is possible.

Financial planning expert Dave Ramsey recommends using the “Debt Snowball” plan to eliminate credit card debt. Once you have made your debt chart, organize your creditors from the smallest balance to the largest. Focus all your resources on paying off the smallest balance first. Then, take the next-largest balance and pay that off. As you do this, use the funds that you were using to pay the first debt and add them to the funds used to pay the second debt. For example, if you have been paying $100 each month on one debt and have paid it in full, apply an extra $100 each month to the next debt on your list.

Ramsey says paying off debts in this way can keep consumers motivated as they watch each debt disappear. A debt calculator can help you determine how long it will take you to pay off each debt in full.

Other financial experts recommend paying off debt in a different order, focusing on the debt with the highest interest rate first in order to reduce the amount of money paid in interest. Making the minimum payment on all other credit cards while paying off one can increase the speed at which each debt it paid in full, as long as any extra income is used to reduce the balance on the priority debt. A debt calculator can be the catalyst you need to start your own debt-reduction snowball.