Paying off your debt is a lot like scoring a game-winning touchdown. You start with a solid plan and end with an over-the-top victory dance (get ready to bob and weave!). Whether you’re a beginning budgeter or you’ve been budgeting for years, everyone gets ahead the same way: one yard at a time. So get out there and start running! Follow these six straightforward football strategies for financial gains:
1. Create Your Game Plan.
Figure out exactly what you owe on credit cards, student loans or car payments—everything you have a balance on, don’t guess! Crank up the computer and review your credit statements (with your spouse if you’re married). It’s important to have an accurate picture of what you’re about to repay. And while you’re listing, be sure to rank your debts in order from smallest to largest balance.
2. Set Up and Run the Play.
Once you’ve listed all your debts, write down the minimum monthly payment for each. Continue paying this amount on each loan, no matter what. If your budget allows, apply any extra money toward the higher interest rate debts (this might be your credit cards).
3. Tackle Your Debt.
Trying to sack one main sum is more manageable than attacking several fronts at once. Focus your energy on a single figure by consolidating your debts. This merging of your bills can lower your monthly payment and decrease the spread so you have more of your money to level the playing field.
4. Don’t Get Blindsided.
Once you start overtaking your debts, you might start neglecting other financial obligations like saving for an emergency or retirement…Don’t! These should be line items in your budget, and you should always pay yourself first. Never put yourself in a situation where you rack up even more debt because you didn’t save for an emergency.
5. Take a Timeout to Review the Play
Revisit your goals every month so you know what you’re playing for and if you’re on the path to achieving it. Make any updates to accommodate the possible changes to you plan.
6. Dance in the end zone.
Scoring means you’re on your way to winning the game. Beware excessive celebrations, but recognizing the little victories will help encourage you to keep going. Once you’ve paid off your last debt (and you will!) feel free to do all the backflips, moonwalks and Heisman poses you like. Then start putting the money you used to pay to creditors toward something fun—like a trip to see your favorite team in action.