4 Ways to Prioritize and Pay Off Debt (Free Worksheet Included)

If you’re new to the debt-free journey, you might be lost in the sauce. You don’t know where to start in this debt-payoff process. “Which debt do I pay off first?!,” you shout. I feel you.

When I started to become financially literate, I didn’t know anyone personally who was paying off debt. I had to educate myself.

The first things I learned were YOU MUST PAY MORE THAN THE MINIMUM and ATTACK ONE DEBT AT A TIME. Don’t spread out your extra cash across two or three bills. 

Why? Studies show that when you focus on one debt at a time, you knock out debt considerably faster than those who spread the wealth over multiple accounts. Your brain likes to focus on one thing at a time. Go with it. 

  • Put extra money (“the debt eliminator” according to Patrice C. Washington) toward one debt.
  • Make minimum payments on the rest of your accounts until you pay off the first debt. 
  • Then roll over the extra money into the next debts until you’re DEBT-FREE! YAY!

Mathematically, the rollover method makes sense too. Look at the simplified example below.

Rollover versus Even Spread Payments

Rolling over shaves off 2 months! Putting all of your extra money toward one debt leads to a closer debt-free date. That’s what you want. Attack one debt at a time.

So which debt do you pay off first?

There are a few ways to prioritize debts. One of the first personal finance books I read was The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. He introduced me to the Debt Snowball. I read more and discovered the Debt Avalanche. Then I started making my own methods up. Let’s go through these four methods to prioritize which debt to pay off first. Then download the free worksheet to pick your favorite repayment strategy.

Click here to see the four debt repayment strategies.

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2018 Mid-Year Reflections: Crushing goals and learning lessons

Wow, guys! We’ve made it halfway through another year. HOW SWAY?!? It was just winter yesterday!

Check out what I’ve accomplished so far and read the BIG NEWS about what’s coming up in the fall. Please share your wins and opportunities for improvement in the comments.

How have I done with my 2018 goals so far?

The goals include:

  1. Reduce debt balance by $18,000.
  2. Become a certified teacher in Florida through an online program.
  3. Pay cash only for all certification costs.
  4. Pay off Barclay balance transfer card by June 30.
  5. Climb the Great Wall of China.
  6. Create passive income stream(s).

Through dedication and the universe working in my favor, I’ve checked off 2.5 goals so far. I’ll explain the .5 in a bit.

  1. Reduce debt balance by $18,000. This was a goal I made before deciding to pursue my educator certification. If it weren’t for paying nearly $6,000 for the program, I would have kept up with my debt snowball and been on track to accomplish this goal. Instead, my debt balance has only been reduced by $3.074 from January to June. Womp womp! Maybe I should have amended this goal after I enrolled in the certification course so it would be more realistic and attainable. I could have reduced more debt if I hadn’t traveled and overspent in other areas. But I wouldn’t trade my trips to Beijing, the U.S. and Hong Kong for anything. Bonding with family and friends worked wonders for my soul.
  2. Become a certified teacher in Florida through an online program. ALMOST DONE! Here’s the aforementioned .5. From January to mid-June, I managed to complete all of the lessons, pass three Florida Teaching Certification Exams (on the first try!) and turn in all of the paperwork to complete the TeacherReady program. What a relief! The Florida Department of Education has to evaluate my certification application to finish the process. I’ll be certified by the fall, God-willing.
  3. Pay cash only for all certification costs. DONE! Each lesson cost $600. Thank goodness I could pay I as I went, so each month I sent home cash. Some months, I finished a lesson before I sent home money, so I used a credit card and paid off the balance in full each month. No long-term debt was accumulated to get this certification.
  4. Pay off Barclay balance transfer card by June 30. I’ll miss this goal by 2 weeks. Paying off the teacher certification course and traveling took priority over paying off the balance transfer card. It’s not a big deal considering that the card won’t charge interest until December. As soon I get my paycheck on July 10, I will be sending money home to pay this bad boy in full ($1,670).
  5. Climb the Great Wall of China. DONE! I honestly think just putting this goal out in the universe help it manifest. While a friend was styling my hair, she mentioned that she was going to Beijing to sell her candles at a new business expo. My ears perked up. She hadn’t gone to the Great Wall either. My wheels started turning. In less than a few weeks, I was on the plane with two friends and we were doing the Electric Slide on the Great Wall on Easter Sunday. EPIC! One of the best weekends of my life!
  6. Create passive income stream(s). The second half of 2018 will be dedicated to this goal. I’m a knowledge whore. I read, read, research and read some more, but I have yet to really plan and act. Having multiple streams of income is paramount to getting out of debt quicker, pursuing financial freedom and giving myself the opportunity to work and travel at will—not out of necessity.

AND THERE’S MORE!

2018 mid-year reflections Wise Woman Wallet_2

Find out what else happened.

How to Form Rich Habits in 30 Days or Less

“Most people don’t struggle with money. They struggle with habits.”— Anthony Coleman, Financial Lituation

Let that marinate. “Most people don’t struggle with money. They struggle with habits.” What we do day in and day out weighs heavily on our lives a year from now, five years from now and so on. If we want to be financially independent, then we have to create good, daily habits that support that goal.

Tom Corley studied the habits of the rich and poor for five years. That’s when he realized that the majority of the rich share certain habits. The poor have their own mindset and habits, too. Corley’s book, Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals, outlines 21 wealthy habits anyone could follow to help them attract money.

“Our habits, good or bad, determine the financial circumstances of our lives.” — Tom Corley

Here’s the thing. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If you want to be rich, then do what the rich do.

5 Rich Habits You Could Form in 30 Days or Less

Here are a few Rich Habits you could form in under three weeks, Corley says.

  1. Do aerobic exercise 15-20 minutes a day for at least 18 days. This promotes brain and body health. 76% of the wealthy exercise aerobically 4 days a week, according to Corley’s research. 23% of the poor do this.
  2. Eat healthy every day for at least 18 days. This promotes brain and body health. 70% of the wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day.
  3. Read to learn 15-20 minutes a day for at least 18 days. This a personal and professional growth activity. 88% of wealthy people read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons vs. 2% of poor people.
  4. Listen to audiobooks or podcasts during your commute or some other time during the day for self- or career development. 63% of wealthy do this. 55 of the poor.
  5. Write a to-do list every day to keep you focused on accomplishing your goals—big or small. 81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% of the poor.
  6. Limit television time to less than 1 hour per day. Yep! A whole hour! 67% of wealthy maintain skip TV vs. 23% of the poor. Guess who watches the most reality TV! 6% of wealthy watch reality TV vs. 78% of the poor. Wow!

Forming these habits could take 18 days or fewer! Not bad, right?! Brian Tracy considers these habits to be of medium complexity (can be formed in 14-21 days). If you get these habits down, then you could build discipline and form more habits based on the ones you’ve already mastered.

Click here read more and get your free worksheets.

How to Get Out of Debt with Sheri Riley’s P.O.W.E.R. Process

Getting out of debt is quite simple. There are three steps:

  1. Spend less.
  2. Earn more.
  3. Pay off debt with the difference.

Simple, but not easy. Debt slayers are acutely aware of this. If it were all about the  numbers, then everyone would be debt-free in a heartbeat. But the debt-free journey also calls on you to fix your mindset and find strength, courage and creativity you probably didn’t think you had.

Sheri Riley’s awesome book Exponential Living: Stop Spending 100% of Your Time on 10% of Who You Are lays out a solid process for setting yourself up to achieve any monumental task. She calls on you to live in your P.O.W.E.R.

  1. P – PerspectiveAdopt a point of view that empowers you.
  2. O – OwnershipOwn what is important to you.
  3. W – WisdomIdentify your one or two next basic steps.
  4. E – EngagementCommit to the implementation of those steps.
  5. R – RewardStay consistently engaged with the process in order to experience the positive outcomes.

Let me explain how to use your P.O.W.E.R. to slay debt.

P – Perspective – Adopt a point of view that empowers you.

If you want to make a change in your life or respond effectively to a challenge, the way you look at the situation—your perspective—is critical.

Sheri writes that if you see the situation as an opportunity or chance to elevate your game instead of a crushing blow or bad luck, then you’re halfway to a positive resolution. I believe her.

On a podcast, a journalist who eliminated over $100,000 of debt in two years said he stopped thinking of his debts as burdens. Instead, they became targets. Then he set his sights on getting rid of the first one on his list. And then the next one. And then the next one. I had started using that tactic, too. Each line in my debt snowball has a name, for example, Operation: I’m So Over Undergrad Loans and Operation: Old Navy is Old News (a credit card). Those names make me feel empowered. It’s like I’m a soldier on a mission, no longer the prey.

How do you view your debt and your current circumstances? It’s easy to feel down on yourself. Being $40,00, $50,000 or $100,000 in debt is no fun at all. But if your perspective is “I’ll always have debt,” well, chances are you’ll always have debt.

Forgive yourself for your past money mistakes. Shed limiting beliefs—yours and those you’ve adopted from family, friends and society. And instead of spewing negativity into the universe, speak positively about where you want to be and how you’ll get there. Say “I’m going to be debt-free. Wealth is mine!” That’s the self-fulfilling prophecy you want to manifest.

Get Out of Debt with the POWER Process

Click to read more about the P.O.W.E.R. process.

9 Reasons Why Your Budget Sucks + How to Fix It

Budgets are bae! There is no way I could crush debt without them. Once I tossed out the negative connotation of a budget and actually put one in place, my debt payoff kicked into high gear. Through practice, I’ve learned that you can’t just slap numbers on a spreadsheet and go on about your day. You have to craft each month’s budget with care. If you can’t stick to your budget, see if any of these pain points hit home and try out the solutions to relieve the stress.

1. It’s not tailor-made for you.

Ladies, think of how you feel wearing that dress that fits every curve the right way. That dress that makes your ass look fabulous. Yeah, that one! You never get tired of it.

Well, that’s how your budget should feel. It should fit just right for you—not Suze Orman, not your mama, not that boss lady you follow on Instagram. These folks may offer you great tips and tools, but you have to use this budget, so make sure it’s your own.

Solution: Find a style that fits you and include budget lines you’d actually track.

There’s a variety of budgeting styles:

  • the anti-budget
  • the zero-sum budget
  • the 50-30-20 budget

The budgets that look like spreadsheets on steroids give me the hives. I’m not gonna use a line item for “hair accessories.” That’s too granular, and I hate being micro-managed.

I like the anti-budget because you simply subtract savings, giving and essential expenses from your take-home pay. What’s leftover, a.k.a. the monthly nut, is yours to spend on whatever you want (hair accessories). And you don’t have to track every penny because you know bills, savings and giving are already taking care of. When that leftover money runs out, it just runs out. But that’s too loosey-goosy for me. I need a few more categories to track my spending.

I use a hybrid that allows me to track the details I want to track and nothing more. A line-item like “hair accessories” just goes into a bucket called “Entertainment and Everything Else.” It works for me. Find what works for you.

2. It’s not aligned with your values and goals.

Heck! You may not even have values and goals. We probably all have budgets we created a few years ago that never quite stuck. Why didn’t it work out? Maybe it’s because you didn’t have a strong enough reason or vision to stick to the plan. Start with your values and the rest will fall into place.

Solution: Find your why and budget according to your goals.

For example,

  • Values: Independence and giving to others.
  • Goal: Slay credit card debt of $5,000 by December 1, 2018.
  • Budget: Allot $100 more than my minimum payment for my debt snowball each month.

Values. Goals. Budget. I can’t be independent and generous if I’m constantly giving my money to a credit card company. Therefore, my immediate goal is to eliminate credit card debt. I make sure that’s reflected in my budget each month so that money doesn’t go to shoes or restaurants—things I don’t really value. I can stick to a budget when I see the bigger picture. I can stick to it when I keep my values in mind and see, feel and smell what it will be like to live those values out loud.

“Without values, goals are rarely accomplished,” said The Automatic Millionaire author David Bach. “Values are key. When you understand them correctly, they will pull you toward your dreams—which is a lot better than having to push yourself.”

9 Reasons Your Budget Sucks and How to Fix It

Learn how to fix 7 other budget problems.

Wise Woman Wallet Featured on the Clever Girls Know Podcast

Another incredible thing happened recently. Bola of Clever Girl Finance hit up my DMs on Instagram and asked if I could tape an episode of her “Clever Girls Know” podcast. She wanted to talk about my stint in her 6-month accountability program.

I said “YESSS!!!”, of course.

Bola’s one of my sheroes and money mentors. I stumbled across her Instagram feed about two years ago and got hooked. It was an honor and pleasure to talk to her via Skype.

She called at 10 p.m. my time, 10 a.m. her time. Bola noted that it was the first time we had actually had a real-time conversation. I couldn’t believe it!

It was as if I already knew her. Her voice is so familiar becuase of all of the webinars, live calls and podcasts I’d listened to. Plus, she’s so easygoing and relatable.

I had just gotten home when she called. I told her I was tired and asked her to excuse me if I broke out into song due to deliriumm. She giggled.

Bold told me what she planned to ask during the recording and tested the audio. Then we got started. I could have gone on and on. I’m fired up about my debt-free journey, and Bola’s the cheerleader rooting me on. It was a great convo. We talked about the limiting beliefs I’d learned growing up and my plan to change my family legacy.

It was 11 p.m. when we finished. She thanked me for joining. I thanked her for the invitation. She said she didn’t want to keep me up any longer. I joked that I’d probably sit on my futon and watch another movie with Clint Eastwood or Robert Redford. She laughed as I explained that I’d developed a strange propensity for watching films with handsome, old men. LOL! But I digress.

This was my first interview about my debt-free journey. I hope I can continue to share tips and give encouragement through other outlets.

Bola and I hope this episode with inspire others to take more control of their finances and kick debt to the curb. Check out the interview below.

What did you think of the podcast? Tell me what you took away from the conversation, and subscribe to “Clever Girls Know” if you haven’t already!

2017 Mid-Year Reflections

We made it halfway, folks! It still amazes me how time flies at warp speed. And with each minute, I hope I’m getting wiser, better and closer to my goals. Unlike other years, I locked my mind into this debt-free journey for the long haul. My 2017 goals reflect that decision. Check out what I’ve accomplished so far and read the BIG NEWS about what’s coming up in the fall.

How have I done with my 2017 goals so far?

The goals include:

  1. Saving $1,000
  2. Paying off my Chase credit card
  3. Paying off two of four parts of my undergrad student loan group
  4. Reading 12 books
  5. Visiting Thailand
  6. Visiting family and friends back in the U.S.

So far, I’ve checked off four out of six goals! Crazy! These were stretch goals in December because I wasn’t sure of my cash flow. I’ve got to think bigger next year.

  1. Saving $1,000. I completed this task shortly after getting my tax refund in February.
  2. Paying off my Chase credit card. I made four payments in May to wipe out the remaining $825.31 balance I had on May 1.
  3. Paying off two of four parts of my undergrad student loan group. These two small debts were knocked out in the first quarter.
  4. Reading 12 books. How about reading 16 books? Yeah. I devoured 16 books thanks to my long commute and my appetite for self-improvement. And my goodness, I’ve learned so much!
  5. Visiting Thailand. That’s still on the docket. Right now, I’m eyeing a Christmas getaway. I told myself, however, that I wouldn’t take an international trip until I’d paid off my credit card debt. I must pay off about $4,300 to stay true to myself.
  6. Visiting family and friends back in the U.S. This goal may be pushed back to February when I’ll have a month off for the Chinese New Year.

I also paid off two medical bills in the first half. Overall, I paid off $2,926 in debt. Not bad for a teacher on a low income! AND THERE’S MORE!

2017 Mid-Year Reflections

Find out what else happened.