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February 18, 2021 Barry Choi

How to reduce your debt

Debt can be tricky for anyone. It doesn’t matter if you have student loans, a mortgage, or high-interest loans; finding the money to pay everything off may feel like a juggling act each month. If you don’t come up with a strategy, things can quickly spiral out of control. Fortunately, there are quite a few options if you’re looking to reduce your debt.

Apply for a low-interest credit card

Most credit cards have an annual interest rate of 20%. If you find yourself constantly carrying a balance, it’s going to be hard to get ahead if you’re paying that much interest. An often quick and easy solution is to apply for a low-interest credit card. As the name implies, the card’s main feature is a lower interest rate (usually 8-16%), which is clearly lower compared to traditional cards.

What really makes these cards beneficial is that they usually allow you to do a balance transfer at the time of the application. That means you can take the balance from your high-interest cards and port it over to the low-interest card you just signed up for. This would instantly reduce the amount of interest you’re paying. Also, these cards often have a promotion where you’ll pay even less interest for a limited period. E.g., When you balance transfer, you’ll pay just 2% interest for 6 months.

Get a line of credit

If you have a good relationship with your financial institution, you may qualify for a line of credit. This interest rate is usually calculated by taking your bank’s prime rate and adding a few percentage points. For example, let’s say your bank’s prime is 2.5%, and they charge an additional 2%. You would be paying a total of 4.5% interest for your loan. 

If you’re approved for the loan, you would take the funds and immediately pay off any debt with a higher interest rate. With everything else paid off, you would only need to worry about repaying the line of credit.

While this seems like an obvious solution, not everyone qualifies for a personal line of credit. Also, since this is another loan, you could end up going further into debt if you’re not careful about your spending. That said, when used responsibly, a line of credit is arguably the best way to reduce your debt.

Come up with a debt repayment strategy

Lowering your interest rate is a great way to save, but you also need a repayment plan if you really want to eliminate your debt. Focusing on your highest interest debt is always beneficial since you’ll end up paying less interest in the long run. You’ll still need to make the minimum payment on all your other debt, but divert any extra funds towards your highest interest debt.

Alternatively, some people like to focus on the debt with the smallest remaining balance regardless of the interest rate. The rationale behind this decision is that you’ll be more motivated to pay off any remaining balances once you eliminate one outstanding debt first. Think of it as a moral victory.

Analyze your budget

The idea of using any extra money you have to pay down debt sounds good in theory, but where are you supposed to come up with those funds? Take a look at your monthly budget and see if there are any adjustments you can make that could free up your cash flow.

Is it possible to eliminate any streaming services that you have? Are there any cheaper internet/mobile plans or providers that you could switch to? How about your insurance? Have you gotten a quote on your renters, home, auto, or business insurance recently? Can you cook more to reduce the amount you spend on takeout?

It may sound like a hassle, but it really won’t take you more than an hour to analyze your budget to see where you can make changes. However, you will need to implement your findings to ensure that you end up saving each month.

Avoid the cycle

Once you pay off all your debt, you need to make sure you don’t get into debt again. If you know you have a spending problem, you could request a lower credit card limit. Alternatively, you could try using a prepaid credit card for all your purchases, so you’re only spending the money that you have available.

To be realistic, you don’t need to may not even need to make any drastic changes to how you use your credit cards. As long as you pay your bills in full each month, you’ll be fine. Of course, that may require you to watch your spending as it’s easy to charge everything to your cards without much thought.

Final thoughts

If you want to get out of debt, you need to make changes to your spending and saving patterns. At times, it’ll feel like you’re not even making a dent in your debt, but by implementing some of the tips above, you’ll be back in the black in no time.

Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a personal finance and travel expert who makes frequent media appearances, His website, moneywehave.com is one of Canada's top resources for all things related to money and travel.