How should I get out of debt?

I currently owe about $18,000 in credit card debt with a minimum payment of about $500 a month, $1,300 on my car with a payment of $250 a month, and I have about $12,000 in student loans, on which I pay $200 a month. Rent costs me $750 monthly. I work at a university where I make just over $45,000 with no state income tax. I feel like I am drowning in debt. What should I do to get out of debt?

Co-Published on Investopedia

Co-Published on Investopedia

Other than the credit card debt, your other debt and your housing costs actually look quite good. If you can get the credit card debt paid off, you'll be doing very well financially. Your best bet is to make minimum payments on your student loans and your car loan and put everything you can toward your credit cards. Once you have killed those credit card debts, you'll find a lot more flexibility in your budget.

To accelerate your debt payoff, look for opportunities to get rid of unnecessary expenditures which don't add anything to the enjoyment of your life (the linked article will help give you ideas). Also, look for any opportunity to put extra money toward your credit card payments. This could include tax refund money, bonus money from work, or money from a side job. Finally, look for items you own which you don't use anymore, but you could sell them to raise money for paying off the credit cards (I had one student in my Personal Finance class pay off $20k in credit card debt with this strategy). 

I'm going to guess your take-home pay after taxes is approximately $2,600 to $2,750 per month. With this income, a reasonable budget might look something like this.

  • $1,000 - Housing (rent, utilities, & other housing bills)

  • $300 - Groceries & household supplies (toilet paper, shampoo, etc.)

  • $400 - Car (loan payment, insurance, gas, & maintenance)

  • $200 - Student loan

  • $100 - Entertainment & discretionary

  • $50 - Miscellaneous

  • $550 to $750 - Credit card repayments

Once you pay off your car loan in 6 months, you'll have another $250 to put toward your credit cards, which will make them disappear that much faster. It is reasonable to assume you could be out of credit card debt in about a year to eighteen months!

If you want help building a more specific budget, this article will guide you in building a budget in about 15 minutes.

Joshua Escalante Troesh is the President of Purposeful Strategic Partners and a tenured professor of Business at El Camino College. To explore working with him on your personal financial planning and investment advising needs, simply schedule a free Discover Meeting.

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