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Step # 3- Take a Look at Your Debt

So you have acknowledged that some changes in your finances [1] might be smart.  And you have taken the time to do your budget [2] and figure out where your money is and should be going.  Now it’s time to look at my least favorite four letter word: DEBT.

Try to get the most recent numbers possible for both balances and interest rates on all of your debt: credit cards, student loans, mortgages, IOU’s to mobsters… everyone.  (You may be surprised at some of your interest rates- certain types of lenders enjoy raising them on the sly!)

Once you have your information select a way to organize it.  I prefer an excel spreadsheet.  There are other ones [3] out there but this one [4] is my favorite and pretty easy to use (click on the link that says “download now” about halfway down the page).  It operates on the snow ball theory [5] of debt payment. 

The spreadsheet’s right hand side has directions on filling it out. You can either list your debt with the lowest balance or highest interest rate first- there are arguments for both approaches by people smarter than myself.   In the top box change the date to today and fill in the creditor, the balance, rate and monthly payment.

Under the top box enter the amount that you are willing to put toward your total debt each month into the “monthly payment” cell. 

Once that information is completed, the spreadsheet will do the math for you.  By looking at the bottom you can see when your debt will be paid off if you make payments faithfully.

Hopefully it’s good news!  If not, I will give you some suggestions in step #4 on what you can do to help move those dates a bit closer!