Fall is finally on its way and we’re winding down our summer adventure. While summer travel has declined this year, entertainment is on the rise. From eating out to streaming services to concerts, people opted for staying local this summer. And while staycations aren’t as expensive as a traditional vacation, the cost can pile up quickly.
On the bring side, late summer may be the best time to start saving as it gives you time to recover ahead of the impending holidays. So, if you’re wondering how you’re going to pay it all off, check out the suggestions below to see what works best for you.
Map it out
The first step of any financial recovery is identifying the problem. The best place to start is to figure out how much you overspent. For example, you may have set a specific limit on personal shopping, and you decided to go over it a few times. Or perhaps your favorite musician came to town for a concert, and you weren’t going to miss the chance to see them. Once you recognize how or what caused your debt, you’ll know what habits need breaking.
The most common types of short-term summer debt
Credit cards charge interest, which automatically raises the bill. The more you’ve spent, the more you’ll pay in interest. It also can make it difficult to stop using your card as you may need it for other bills or services that aren’t ideal for a debit card or cash. And unless you’re consistently checking your statement, separating splurges from regular, reoccurring expenses can feel tedious.
Still, credit cards have a few benefits with issuers providing tools to help manage your account or even pay off specific charges. For example, American Express has its Pay It, Plan It tool for charges over $100.
As far as a long-term debt solution is concerned, loans can be a good choice. For one, you can have a set payment every month and will know how long the loan term is. This is also handy for larger purchases as the interest will more than likely be less than it would be on a credit card.
The downside, however, is that loans are designed to be as long as possible. Often, even for smaller balances, loan terms may drag on for 15 years or more. There are also quite a few predatory loan services out there so it’s crucial that you read the terms of your loan before signing.
This one is precarious in its own way. Should you end up in an accident or lose your job, you have a small safety net. Also, if you have a low-paying job, it’s difficult to catch up as expenses are going up. Yet, the upside can be a lack of debt beyond what you owe yourself. That puts you in a much better position to save when you can again.
Combination of debt
If you’ve racked up multiple types of debt, organization is going to be crucial. With debt in so many places, it can often feel overwhelming and become easy to lose track of due dates and amounts. In these cases, review your accounts and see where you were most affected. From there, calculate your overall debt, so you know how much needs to be tackled.
Make a plan to pay down your debt
Once you’ve organized your debt, you can devise a plan to pay it off. There are multiple methods for paying off debt such as:
- The snowball method: Pay off debts starting with the smallest amount owed and working up to the largest
- The avalanche method: Pay off debts starting with the largest amount owed and working down to the smallest
- Debt consolidation: Lenders pay all of your debt and roll it into one loan that you can pay monthly
- The 50/30/20 rule: 50 percent of income goes to needs, 30 percent to wants and 20 percent towards savings. While often a budgeting plan, it could be a great way to repay debt and save if you include your repayments into your needs.
No matter the method, the most important part is remembering how much goes where and when it’s due.
Put it into Action
Paying off debt can be a very intimidating process but the only way to get around that feeling is to take action. Not only do you have plenty of options but there are also plenty of resources that provide support in managing your debt. If you’re worried that budgeting will only go so far, gig work is making a strong comeback this year. That gives you plenty of opportunities to earn money as needed.
If the idea of having to go without still makes you nervous, just know that your brain will thank you in the long run as the mental effects of getting rid of debt are overall positive. You feel less stress and gain confidence in yourself which leaves room to pursue other goals.
So, don’t hesitate. As soon as you have a plan, do it.
What to know as you pay down summer debt
Keep in mind that repayment doesn’t always come down to the numbers but rather the ways we prepare ourselves for the upcoming changes. While rethinking your finances, remember this:
Use the tools available to you
Setting yourself up for success goes beyond making a plan. It also means having tools that will help ease the burden and keep you accountable. If you need to keep track of your overall spending, you may find budget apps useful. For those who prefer not to have to think about it, setting up autopay on your card can take away a lot of the stress. You can also sign up for a debt management program for more hands-on support, especially if you are working with debt collectors.
Credit cards are also great for containing debt when used properly. A great feature to take advantage of is an intro APR offer, which gives the cardholder temporary relief from interest. Most range from 12 to 21 months, which gives you an opportunity to lower your debt substantially. There are also balance transfer credit cards that can move either a portion or all credit card debt to another card, giving you a chance to start over and raise your credit utilization.
It will take time
Debt can be long-lasting but when you actively work on reducing your debt, it won’t last forever. The average American has $5,521 in credit card debt as of June 2022. If you put $500 per month towards that debt, that means it’ll be paid off in eleven months. But you may not always be able to give $500 per month. Some months, you may only have $250 or less. If this happens, don’t be discouraged. Recovery isn’t about how fast you get a zero balance but rather that you do so responsibly.
The bottom line
Fall has always been the perfect season for change. As the weather starts to cool, you may start to feel the urge to settle down, reset and simplify your spending. Not only does focusing on recovery give you time to consider what you really need but it is also a great time to financially prep for the upcoming holidays. Even better, it gives you the chance to improve your approach to budgeting so that next summer you can still have fun and not leave yourself in the negative.
This article originally appeared here and was republished with permission.