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Most Americans struggle with personal debt and count money worries among life’s top stressors. Rising debt is creating a financial crisis for many families, and if you find yourself struggling to pay off debt, you may wonder why financial freedom seems so hard to achieve. Oddly enough, your own beliefs about debt and how to pay off debt effectively may be holding you back. Looking at your debt and how you handle it in a new light can help you understand which payoff strategies are working and which need to be changed or discarded.

1.      Student Loan Payments Are Rigid

Student loan debt is quickly outpacing credit card and mortgage costs for many families, thanks to the rising cost of education. You might even be working to pay off your own student loans as you look for ways to make college more affordable for your children. However, how you view your student loan debt may be preventing you from paying it back efficiently.

One common misconception about student loans you may be laboring under is that your monthly payment amount is rigid and difficult to lower. However, there are ways to make it more affordable. One strategy is to contact your lender and ask if you qualify for income-based repayment. Under IBR, your lender will review your yearly income, the total cost of your loans, and then gauge whether you qualify for a lower monthly payment. Depending on your income, taking advantage of IBR can significantly reduce student loan payment costs.

2.      Always Budget for Minimum Monthly Payments

You may think of your household budget as a fixed amount that probably will not vary much from month to month. However, you may find that some months are easier on your wallet than others, whether you worked overtime to earn some extra cash or earned an unexpected bonus. During these times, adjusting your budget to pay a greater amount on your credit card debt can put you ahead of the game. Read more about how to get rid of credit card debt.

For example, if your total monthly credit card debt is $150 and you know you will have extra money during one or more of your pay periods, adjust your budget to pay $50 or even $75 dollars above the minimum. This can increase your credit line and have a significant impact on interest costs.

3.      Complete Freedom From Debt Is Impossible

It could be that you are not proactive about paying off debt because you believe that you will never be free from it completely. While overcoming personal debt can seem impossible, it is achievable with effort. One roadblock to paying off all your debt is that the goal is not a tangible one, so it may be difficult to visualize. However, you can make this more of an actionable task by treating it like other long-term goals and planning for it just as you would any other challenging financial hurdle.

One way to visualize a debt-free life is to create a mock budget that does not include all the debt you currently pay monthly. When you realize how much money you pay toward credit card and other erasable debt, you may realize that having access to this additional income can help you achieve other financial dreams, such as home ownership.

4.      Learning About Debt Management Is Too Difficult

Educating yourself about debt management and how to pay off loans and other bills can be helpful, but you may think it is too time-consuming or difficult. However, even learning the basics might be effective in helping you lower your personal debt. Learning from financial industry leaders such as Don Gayhardt, the CEO of a major lending corporation that specializes in payday, title, and installment loans, may help you learn more about how to borrow within your means when necessary.

Learning about debt management does not have to be complicated. Gather tips from your bank, credit union, recognized industry leaders, and money blogs to help you become a savvy saver.

5.      Everyone Lives Beyond Their Means 

You may not be proactive about reducing your credit card debt because you believe most families live beyond their means to acquire all they need to live comfortably. However, you may be using this mindset to allow yourself to use your credit cards more than is necessary. Changing how you view debt and your reasons for amassing it may help you alter your way of thinking and improve your spending habits as well.

For example, if you use your credit cards to pay for monthly entertainment expenses, review how you spend your leisure time and be realistic with yourself about where you might cut costs. Entertain friends at home, have family movie night at home and make your own snacks, and learn how to make your own gourmet coffee drinks to cut costly coffee house prices out of your budget.

While debt management and erasing debt can be a challenge, there are many ways to turn your dreams of living a debt-free life into reality. Being realistic about your finances, learning more about how to clear debt, and careful planning can all put you on the road to financial wellness.