9 Tips to Help Break the Debt Cycle

By Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow · December 19, 2023 · 6 minute read

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9 Tips to Help Break the Debt Cycle

Whether you’re buying a home or getting a college education, taking on debt can allow you to invest in your future. The downside? Whatever you borrow will eventually need to be repaid, and that can add up to a considerable portion of your monthly expenses. Add in credit card bills or an unexpected financial emergency, and getting out of debt could start to feel like an overwhelming task.

Fortunately, it’s possible to break the debt cycle. Here are some steps you can take now to help get your finances in order.

Review Your Credit Card Statements

Credit card debt prevents many people from breaking the debt cycle. Reviewing your credit card statements closely can be a great first step.

Make note of your expenses and see exactly where all of your money is going. Are you spending hundreds of dollars a month on take-out? Are there a few subscriptions you enrolled in but have since stopped using? Be honest with yourself as you assess your spending, and note any areas where you can adjust or cut back.

Set a Budget

After you’ve reviewed your spending, consider making a budget. You can start by tallying your monthly income and monthly expenses. Don’t forget to include savings goals, and be sure to set up new limits for your discretionary spending.

If you’re new to budgeting, there are several different methods to consider. The 50/30/20 budget rule, zero-based budget, and the envelope budget system are three common examples. Whatever method you decide to use is up to you — what really matters is that you find a system that works for you.

💡 Quick Tip: A low-interest personal loan from SoFi can help you consolidate your debts, lower your monthly payments, and get you out of debt sooner.

Accelerate Your Repayments

If you’re paying off debt, one way to speed up your repayment is paying more than the monthly minimum. Making additional payments on your debt each month could not only help you eliminate your debt more quickly, it could also potentially reduce the money you spend in interest in the long term. Even just $25 a week could have an impact on your repayment.

There are a couple of debt repayment strategies that could help get you back on track. One is the debt snowball method, which prioritizes paying off the smallest debt first while making the monthly minimum payment on all other debts. Once the smallest balance is paid off, you’d focus on the next-smallest debt.

While this method may not reduce the money you spend in interest, the rewarding feeling of seeing your debt dwindle could encourage you to stick with your repayment plan.

Another debt repayment strategy is the debt avalanche, or debt-stacking method. Here, you’d make a list of all your debts by order of interest rate, highest to lowest. While making your minimum monthly payments on all the debts, “attack” the highest interest rate loan with as many extra payments as you can.

Unlike the snowball method, the avalanche method is about streamlining your debt repayment so that you save the most money on interest. It can require more discipline, but keeping track of how much you are saving in interest can be a great motivator.

Establish an Emergency Fund

You can’t predict the future, but you can do your best to prepare for it. Having an emergency fund can help cover unexpected costs and avoid having to use a credit card, which could send you deeper into debt.

Using a windfall, like a bonus at work or your tax refund, is a good way to start an emergency fund. You can put this money in a dedicated savings account or another cash equivalent, if you prefer.

Then each week, aim to save a specified amount of money in your emergency fund. Even saving just $10, $15, or $20 a week can help you be more prepared when a financial emergency strikes. If possible, plan to save somewhere between three and six months’ worth of living expenses.

Recommended: How Much Money Should Be in Your Emergency Fund?

Pay For Things With Cash or Check

While you’re paying down debt, consider storing your credit cards somewhere safe and instead paying for purchases in cash or by check. Doing so can help you keep tabs on how much you’re spending and spot areas where you may be able to cut back.

If you must use a credit card to make a purchase, consider what it might cost you in interest if you aren’t able to pay off your balance at the end of the month. A credit card interest calculator can help you estimate how much interest you will pay on the debt.

Live Within (or Below) Your Means

It can be easy to get swept up in having the best of everything, but living in debt to sustain that lifestyle can ultimately add stress. You can rise above this by living within or below your means. This means spending less money than you make, which in turn can allow you to focus on preparing for a rainy day, building wealth, and achieving financial freedom.

Recommended: Living Below Your Means: Tips and Benefits

Determine Needs vs. Wants

Is that new pair of shoes or the latest video game really a must-have?

As you’re trying to break your debt cycle, it’s a smart move to evaluate your wants against your needs. For example, before you make a purchase, carefully think about whether you need it or simply want to have it. If it’s something you can live without, consider holding off until you’re on firmer financial ground.

Breaking out of a debt cycle requires discipline and determination. While skipping out on wardrobe upgrades or the newest tech gadgets now can seem like a huge sacrifice, when you start making headway on paying down what you owe, odds are you’ll feel the reward.

Get a Side Hustle

Another great way to help end the debt cycle: find some extra income by getting a side hustle. You could use money you earn from your new gig to make extra payments on your debts.

Not sure where to look for work? Take a look at your skills and interests and see where you may be able to find an extra job or make some passive income.

Consolidate Debt with a Personal Loan

If you’re juggling multiple high-interest debts, you may want to explore a debt consolidation loan. Typically, this involves using a new loan or line of credit to pay off existing debts, consolidating several payments into one.

By consolidating those debts into a single loan — ideally one with a lower interest rate — you can streamline payments and potentially reduce your monthly payments or save on interest.

💡 Quick Tip: With average interest rates lower than credit cards, a personal loan for credit card debt can substantially decrease your monthly bills.

The Takeaway

It can feel overwhelming and frustrating to feel stuck in a debt cycle. But the good news is, there are strategies that can help you get ahead of your debt and regain control over your finances.

Being more mindful about where your money goes, building up savings so you’re prepared for unexpected expenses, and paying for things with cash instead of credit cards are all good steps you can take now. And if you’re trying to pay down multiple high-interest debts, you may want to explore whether a debt consolidation loan is right for you.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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