3 Methods for Paying Down Debt
When you eat a bag of jelly beans, do you start with your favorite flavor or save them for last? As a kid, I always ate them in order, saving my favorite for last. If we’re being honest, I still do that today. If my jelly bean eating habits are any indication of my debt pay down inclinations, then I’d probably opt for method three, which in fact, holds true. My favorite method for me personally, is to pay ahead on the highest interest loan first and save the best (interest loan) for last.
However you eat your jelly beans, what’s important is knowing the benefits and pitfalls of each method and making the choice that’s right for you.
Method One: Pay off the loans in size order, starting with the smallest
Paying off the smallest loan first will give you the soonest possible sense of accomplishment when you pay off one loan in its entirety. The drawback here is that your smallest loan may not necessarily be your highest interest loan, so you won’t be saving the most on interest payments using this method. If they do happen to be one in the same, then all the better.
Method Two: Pay off the loans in size order, starting with the largest
Opposite of method one, paying down your largest loan first can give you a different kind of mental boost you need to feel like you are making progress in paying down your debt. Checking off the biggest box on your list can give you an important sense of progress toward your ultimate goal. Once again, you might end up paying more in interest if your largest loan isn’t also your highest interest loan. But, if it keeps you motivated to pay ahead, then that can be a totally valid reason to go with this method.
Method Three: Pay off the loans in interest order, starting with the highest
This may perhaps be the least satisfying of the methods to those of you that like that ‘check it off the list’ feeling, but it is the method that will reduce the interest you pay the most. Using this method, the size of the loans might be all out of order, so those feelings of accomplishment when you pay one off in full may come at varying intervals, but as you knock out those higher interest loans and are left with the smaller ones, those pay-offs will come faster and faster as those lower interest loans charge you less overall interest the closer to the end of your pay down you get.
For those of you reading this and feeling like you don’t know which option to choose, you could look into consolidating your loans into one larger loan with one interest rate so that you don’t have to choose. Consolidating your loans can sometimes give you a better interest rate, but also sometimes come with fees, similar to refinancing, so you’ll want to weigh your options and see if the money saved in interest outweighs the cost of the fees.