How to better manage your debts and improve credit scores

Paying down your debt is a great way to stay on track financially and boost your credit scores. Which accounts should you pay down first? Where do you put your extra money each month to make the most difference? Here are a few ideas that we think make the most sense financially.

Priority #1: Pay down the highest interest rate accounts first.

Doesn’t’t matter what the amount is. I’m sure you would rather be paying down a debt than applying money to interest each month. Start with the accounts that have the highest interest rates and tackle them first. Then move on to the next one. Keep in mind the 50% rule. Keep revolving account balances at no more than 50% of the total credit limit. In this economy that’s easier said that done but doing so will produce a better credit score. Regardless, pay off the highest interest rates first. Then tackle the rest of your debt accordingly.

Priority #2: Don’t add any more debt.

Probably the most important part of the plan to raise your credit scores. Old habits die hard, emergencies pop up that swallow money that otherwise would go towards reducing your debt. Credit cards that should be used sparingly can quickly add up. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.

Priority #3 Negotiate better terms with your credit cards You’ll never know unless you ask.

Often times credit card companies will reduce your interest rates if you ask. I recently received some convenience checks in the mail from one of my credit cards companies offering a lifetime rate of 3.99%. I quickly called and asked if I could simply have my current balance lowered and they obliged. Wow. All I did was pick up the phone.

Priority #4 Pay extra on secured debts.

Secured debts are things like your home, car, boat or other assets that secure your loan. Credit cards are not secured and therefore not tied to any particular asset. Secured debts are usually for large amounts and as a result take longer to pay for. The interest charges on a $100,000 mortgage over 30 years at 6.75% is 133,493.82. Making extra payments on a secured debt such as your mortgage has the potential to really work in your favor. You’ll pay your loan off sooner and free up extra money for the finer things in life.

All of this is easier said than done. Watch and track all of your cash expenditures. Be mindful of how much you are spending on things like groceries and dining out. You’ll be amazed to see just how much you can save.

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