Debt sucks. There’s just no prettier way to say it and for the past four years, I’ve been dealing with more non-mortgage debt than most Americans will ever see. You see, after being extremely stupid and attending a private university for five years (to obtain a four year degree no less), I took on the best jobs I could. Mathematics is a tough field to be employed in and since I have no accounting certifications, it’s even more difficult. You teach, or you move on.
And so, I’ve been maneuvering more than $200,000 in credit card, student loan and other debt for quite some time. My self employed business has really come on in the past six months, so making payments and creating a budget that is working has been much easier than it used to be. Now having money to meet all of my bills, I decided to take on Quicken Deluxe, the famous budgeting software to help me out. So far … so good.
When starting with Quicken, I can tell you there were growing pains. As smart of a guy as I think I am, it was difficult for me to initially grasp how to set up and interlock all of my personal accounts. Setting up accounts are pretty easy but maintaining them can be difficult. Some of the accounts I have, like Chase for example, offer the ability to update for a $10 monthly fee. Kind of defeats the purpose of using Quicken if you ask me so instead, I’m forced to perform hard updates which can take some time. But after spending a few months using the software and learning how to manage by budget quickly, I love this stuff!
One of the primary reasons I started using Quicken Deluxe was to track the progress I’ve made with my debt. You can see from the screenshot above (sorry for the size) that I now sit on $156K in debt from student loans. I have 11 different places in which that debt is housed, and some loan providers have multiple loans being paid back (like Sallie Mae and my Government loans). Just six months ago, this number was north of $200k so I’ve made quite the dent in my debt. On the surface, it would appear that I simply paid off $45,000 but it’s not that simple.
The hard work came in negotiating my debt down. You may not realize it, but you have a lot of power when it comes to paying back the debts you owe. Here’s a quick list of what I did to reduce my debt load:
- Re-budget My Life – Now that business is good, I decided to put as much money as I can toward my debt. This means absolutely no savings. I understand this is a risky move, but considering my average loan interest rate is 7% and the best I can do with an online savings account is 1%, it’s a no-brainer.
- Ask For Forgiveness- If you offer to pay more every month, some lenders will forgive any fees you’ve generate on your account over the years. A few years ago, I was a habitual late payer (or no payer) so I had a few hundred dollars in fees on every loan I had.
- Double Up – Every extra dollar you put toward the loan today is another dollar plus interest you won’t have to pay in the future. I’ve decided to double all of my current loan payments in the attempt to pay them off lightning fast.
Watching the progress of my debt dwindle down is great motivation to keep it going and Quicken allows me to watch the numbers drop, as well as set up a full monthly budget and track every single purchase I make. It may sound counter-productive to spend $40 to manage your debt but 2011 Quicken Deluxe is perfect for anyone needing stability in their financial lives.
Published or updated June 6, 2011.