Here's Your Game Plan for Paying Down Debt

Whether it's from student loans, credit cards, or just little purchases that have added up, debt can overwhelm you to the point of paralysis. Unfortunately, it doesn't go away if you just ignore it, so a game plan is essential to tackle the load. You might find a million and one plans online, or get conflicting advice from lots of other people. This plan is simple, straightforward, and easy to remember.

It's called debt snowballing, and it's especially great if you're juggling multiple debt loads. If you want to feel really smart about it, this plan works like a very simple computer algorithm. Don't let that intimidate you; there's no complex math or coding needed.

First, put all your debts in order, whether from smallest to largest or vice versa. That already helps you break down your big problem into more manageable chunks. Next, set up a payment plan on each debt that fulfills the minimum necessary — except for the smallest debt. Focus all your energy on paying off that smallest debt, and make it go away as soon as possible.

When the smallest debt is paid off, take a lap. Giving ourselves incremental rewards pushes us farther, faster. Then repeat, working your way through the list. Research has shown pretty definitively that making a task you dread into something you can enjoy will help you get it done. That goes especially for anxiety-producing realities like large debt loads. We all respond differently to big problems, but it is possible to get through it. All you need is a plan that sets you up for success.