Is your credit score on the critical list? Do you tend to cover your eyes when you look at your account balances? Does the idea of a debt-free life seem like a George R.R. Martin fantasy? (Without the dragons, of course.)
Face it, you've got too much debt. And it's time to do something about that.
You've got two major payoff options: the debt snowball method and the debt avalanche method. Find out how they work -- and how to decide which is right for you.
Letting your debt payments snowball
In the debt snowball method, you concentrate on paying off your account with the lowest balance first, and make only minimum payments on all of the others.
Once you've disposed of the smallest debt, you move on to the one with the next smallest balance. You work your way up (snowball your way) to tackling your biggest and baddest debts.
This method allows you to start with relatively modest wins and build up your confidence, which can be very helpful if you have debt fatigue or need a boost of motivation.
You might be able to dump your first debt in just a couple of months, which can make your feel really good about yourself. (Way to go!) But you might be vulnerable to big interest charges on the other accounts.
Letting debt avalanche away
Instead of focusing first on your smallest balance, the debt avalanche method has you start by gunning for the account with the highest interest rate. You make only the minimum payments on the others.
This approach might help you pay off your debts faster and at a lower cost, because you'll be reducing your interest charges.
But with this method it may be more difficult to see progress, if your high-interest balances are your bigger debts that take longer to clear away.
It takes patience and discipline to stick with a debt avalanche. To help you stay on your payoff track, make sure you have an emergency fund set aside to deal with any surprise expenses that might arise.
So which method should you use?
Debt snowball or debt avalanche? The right method for you is the one you can stay with. Both options are wins, since they help you get rid of your debt.
So, do the math and dig into the numbers, but also consider the psychology. Which strategy is likely to keep you motivated?
Though the avalanche method would likely save you hundreds of dollars in interest, Forbes reports that multiple scientific studies have found consumers are more likely to pay off debts using the snowball method.
Your choice ultimately depends on the amount of debt you have, your goals, your personality and your situation. There's no one right or wrong answer, just one goal to keep in mind: achieving your financial freedom.