Debt management and debt reduction can be a long and frustrating process. Where do you start? How do you stay on track?
Success depends on knowing you have a strong debt management strategy, complete with goals you can work towards.
How should you set your debt management goals?
The best goals are SMART goals. SMART is a popular acronym that can help you make sure your debt management plan is achievable.
SMART goals are:
- attainable or affordable
You need to clearly identify what you want to achieve and how you are going to do so. Be specific, set dollar amounts, due dates, list creditor names. Instead of saying I want to pay off my credit card debt, set a specific goal such as:
“I will pay off my $5,000 in debt to Bank A within 2 years. This means I will need to pay $250 each month on the 17th for 24 months and not charge any new purchases.” or;
“I will pay $175 each pay period towards my Credit Card B debt and stop using the card until the balance is paid in full.”
If you need help finding a debt repayment period you can afford try our debt repayment calculator. Be aware the due date on your statement may change each month. Make sure you are keeping track and never miss a payment or you may be charged late payment fees on top of interest costs.
Establish some way of knowing whether or not you are achieving success. Break your goal into smaller goals that show measurable progress so you will always know you are accomplishing something.
“I will review my expenses and find ways to reduce my spending by $120 each month within the next 3 months.”
“I will pay $250 each month for the next two years towards Credit Card A until it is paid off.”
“I will eliminate my $15,000 in total debts within 5 years.”
Debt reduction takes determination and patience. You need to work hard towards accomplishing your goal but at the same time your debt reduction strategy needs to be affordable. If your goals are too big, you probably won’t stick with them. It may not be realistic to say you will pay $500 each month towards your debt but perhaps $350 is manageable.
Are you willing and able to commit to your goal? If you owe $25,000 in unsecured debt and can’t afford to pay it back no matter what, setting high repayment goals isn’t going to work.
You might find you need help. If your debts are too large to repay on your own, you should look at possible debt reduction programs that can help you reduce your debt with lower monthly payments that you can afford. Try our debt options calculator to see which of these programs can help with your goal setting.
Set a time frame for your goals. In addition, make sure your goals are broken down into smaller steps if necessary. If you have more than one debt, set a time frame of what to do for each and every debt you want to pay off.
“I want to eliminate my total debt of $25,000 within 5 years.”
“I will pay $500 towards my credit card debt for the next three months.”
“I will look for ways to eliminate $150 in monthly spending within the next three months.”
“I will pay $650 towards my credit card debt starting in four months, each month for 5 years until it is paid off in full.”
“I will cut up my credit cards and use cash for purchases until I am out of debt in 5 years.”
Be flexible. Things happen in life like unexpected emergencies such as a car repair. When that happens, sit down and realign your goals going forward to meet your new circumstances. Don’t let a bump in the road derail your overall objective to eliminate your debt.
If your goals are SMART, you can accomplish what you want to achieve. Whether you are managing your debt on your own, or talking to a professional, SMART goals help you manage your debt, and your money, for the long term.
If you need help developing a specific debt management plan you can afford, talk to an advisor today.