by Aidan Kang, CFA
Senior Writer
UPDATED: February 06, 2023

Do you ever feel like your debt is a noose slowly tightening around your neck? It can be hard to know which step to take first when it comes to getting out of the red and into the black. Paying off debt is an intimidating process, but with the right plan in place you can make sure that those creditors won't have their hands on your wallet for much longer.

Just like fitting together pieces of a puzzle, there's an art to understanding which debts should be paid off first. In this article we'll explore how you can create a roadmap towards financial freedom by tackling one debt at a time.

Starting down the road of reducing debt isn't always easy, but if you follow these simple steps then you’ll soon find yourself breathing easier and feeling more secure knowing that all those bills won't pile up so high anymore. So let's get started – it's time to take control of your destiny!

Which Debts Should Be Paid First?

When it comes to paying off debt, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Here are some things to think about when determining what kind of debt to pay off first:

  • What type of interest rate am I being charged?
  • How much money do I owe?
  • Will there be any penalties if I don't pay back my loan in full?

Categorizing Debt By Type

When it comes to debt, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Like a puzzle that needs sorting out, the pieces have to be placed in the right order for you to succeed. Categorizing your debts by type is an important first step when figuring out which ones should be paid off first.

Credit card debt, personal loans and medical bills are considered unsecured debts because they’re not backed up by collateral like auto loans or mortgages. These types of debt tend to carry higher interest rates, so it makes sense to prioritize paying them off first if possible. Meanwhile, federal student loan payments can generally be deferred or lowered during times of financial hardship while private student loans may require more aggressive repayment plans depending on the lender's policies.

No matter what kind of debt you're dealing with, prioritizing payment will help get you back on track financially sooner rather than later. It's always best practice to start with those high-interest debts before moving onto lower-interest options such as auto loans and mortgage payments – this way you'll save money in the long run!

Categorizing Debt By Interest Rate

Another important factors you should consider is the interest rate. According to a recent survey from Bankrate by Ally, more than two-thirds (68%) of Americans said they have some form of debt. That's why it's so important for everyone to know how prioritizing different types of debts can work in their favor.

When deciding which debts to pay off first, you can also look at the monthly minimum payment and extra money available each month to make additional payments on your various kinds of debt. First, start with any high-interest credit card balances that have an interest rate above 8%. Making these higher interest rates a priority will save you money in the long run, as opposed to tackling lower or no-interest loans like student loan debt. After you've taken care of those creditors with the next highest interest rate, continue working through all other types of debt until they're paid off completely!

It’s time to take action and tackle your outstanding debts head on – starting with the ones costing you the most money over time. Putting just a few extra dollars toward your highest interest rate debts every month could save you thousands in interest fees over time. It takes self discipline and perseverance but if done correctly, it can be incredibly rewarding; not only financially but emotionally too!

Categorizing Debt By Remaining Balances And Terms

Financially speaking, tackling debt is like climbing a mountain: You have to take it one step at a time. Categorizing your debts by balances and terms can help you map out the best route to financial freedom.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, you can start with the smallest balance first so that you get quick wins when knocking off those payments. This will motivate you to keep going until your debt load is completely gone. Student loans are often an exception here because they come with tax breaks or other benefits—but if you're able, pay them down quickly in order to minimize interest charges. As for credit cards, try and make more than the minimum payment each month; doing this lowers your total balance faster while also boosting your credit score!

Having all of these pieces lined up before starting on your journey toward financial freedom makes things much easier as you go along. Keep pushing and stay focused—before long, you'll be celebrating being completely debt free!

Categorizing Debt By Financial Stress

When it comes to paying off your mountain of debt, categorizing debt by financial stress can be a great way to make sure you pay off the most important pieces first. Financial advisors recommend this approach because it helps identify which debts should have priority in your financial planning.

The idea is that when you're dealing with a big pile of debt, it's important to focus on the pieces that are causing the most financial stress. You might want to try using the “debt snowball” technique: start by tackling the smallest piece of debt first and then moving onto bigger ones as you go along. This will help build up momentum and confidence so that eventually you'll get rid of them all!

The Different Ways To Pay Off Debt

When it comes to paying off debt, many of us feel like we’re climbing up a never-ending mountain. But with the right strategies and tools, we can turn that daunting task into an achievable goal. Figuratively speaking, I want to encourage you to put on your hiking boots and work out which debt should be paid off first!

If you're looking for ways to pay off your debts in a timely manner, there are several approaches that could help. You may decide to tackle high interest rate loans first as this will reduce your overall costs; or focus on smaller debts so you can experience quick wins; alternatively you could prioritize debts based on financial stress levels by categorizing them according to how much they affect your mental wellbeing. Whatever route you choose, make sure you have an effective strategy in place – because when it comes down to it, having a plan is essential if you want to succeed.

Depending on your goals and resources, you might want to use the debt snowball method or the debt avalanche method. To make sure you're getting rid of your debts as quickly and efficiently as possible, I recommend considering both approaches before deciding which one is right for you.

Debt Snowball Method

The debt snowball method focuses on paying off your lowest balance first while still making minimum payments on all other debts. This can help you build momentum and stay motivated by seeing progress faster.

Debt Avalanche Method

On the flip side, if you’re looking for a more financially efficient approach, then the debt avalanche strategy might be better. Here, you focus on tackling high-interest debt first in order to reduce overall interest costs over time—especially with credit cards and student loans.

Guide: Insert article on snowball vs debt avalanche method here

Debt Consolidation

Debt consolidation is also another option to pay off your debts, especially if you have alot of them. It's a process where you combine multiple debts into one loan with a lower interest rate. This can help you save money on interest payments and make it easier to manage your debt. To do this, you will need to take out a loan from a bank or other lender that will cover the amount of all your existing debts. Once the loan is approved, you can use it to pay off all your existing debts and then just have one monthly payment to make. It's important to note that debt consolidation should only be used as a last resort if other methods of paying off debt have failed.

By taking into account these factors, plus other types of financial stress like collection calls or late payment fees, you can prioritize which debts need to be paid off first. That way, you won't drown under an increasing amount of payments. Focus on reducing one piece at a time until everything is gone – no matter how small – and create a plan for success!

Whichever route you choose, remember that every small victory along the way will eventually add up to big success! The most important thing is to get started now so that you can save money and become debt free sooner rather than later.

No matter what method works best for you – whether it's creating a budget, setting goals or just sticking with good old fashioned common sense – remember that the key is consistency and determination. If you remain focused and consistent with your approach, soon enough those hard earned dollars will be helping pave the way towards financial freedom.

Essential Bills To Pay When Money Is Tight

You know the feeling: you have bills piling up, and not enough money to pay them all. It's a tough situation that no one wants to be in—but unfortunately, it happens more often than we'd like. So what do you do when money is tight?

Well, if there was an easy answer I would tell you to do just that— but alas, there are steps and priorities you should take into consideration. Here’s a list of four essential bills to pay first when your cash flow isn't looking so hot:

1) Rent or Mortgage payments – If you don’t stay on top of these payments, chances are you could end up losing your home!

2) Utility Bills – If these aren’t paid off as soon as possible, then late fees and other penalties will start stacking up quickly.

3) Food & Groceries – When it comes down to it, food is always necessary for survival; prioritize this bill over all others because nothing else matters if your stomach is empty!

4) Transportation Expenses – This includes car payments, insurance premiums and gas/maintenance costs – keeping your vehicle running is key since most people need transportation to get around day-to-day.

Remember “Live like no one else today so that later you can live and give like no one else.” Being intentional about how and where your money goes can make all the difference in times of financial hardship. You may think cutting back on luxuries such as eating out or going shopping will mean sacrificing fun activities — but being smart with finances now pays dividends in the future.

Should You Pay Off Installment Loans Or Revolving Ones First?

When it comes to paying off debt, there are two types of loans you might be dealing with: installment loans and revolving ones. So which should you tackle first? Let me break it down for ya!

My advice is always going to be pay the most urgent bills first — like your rent or mortgage, utilities, food, etc. After that’s taken care of, take a look at the interest rates on all your debts. Generally speaking, if you have any high-interest rate debts (like credit cards) then those should be tackled next. Why? Because they tend to cost more in the long run than installment loans; plus they have no end date until they're paid off completely.

Let's say you're carrying both kinds of loan though — what do ya do then? Well, my best suggestion would be to focus on building up an emergency fund so that if anything unexpected happens (which it often does!) you'll have some money set aside to cover it without having to fall back into debt again. Once you've got that established, start chipping away at whichever type has the highest interest rate and keep working your way down until all your debts are gone!

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take To Pay Off Debt?

It's amazing how quickly debt can pile up, and it's no surprise that so many of us are wondering: ‘how long does it take to pay off debt?' Well, I'm glad you asked! The answer isn't one-size-fits-all, but here are a few helpful tips for paying down your debt:

  1. Get on a budget – Living within your means is key when trying to pay off debt. Take the time to calculate what your bills add up to each month and then set aside money from every paycheck toward those expenses (plus a little extra).
  2. Make more than the minimum payment – You'll get out of debt faster if you make larger payments. But don't forget about making sure you have enough money left over to cover essentials like food or gas.
  3. Tackle high interest rate debts first – Paying off higher interest rate loans will save you more in the end because they accumulate more interest over time than lower interest rate loans.

No matter which approach works best for you, remember that dedication and determination are essential parts of getting rid of debt once and for all. It may seem daunting at first, but with some hard work and perseverance, you can be free from debt before you know it!

Should I Pay Off Debt Before Saving For Retirement?

When it comes to debt and saving for retirement, you have a choice: which should come first? Here's the deal—you can pay off your debts or save for retirement. But I'm here to tell you that paying off debt is always the priority.

Paying off debt before saving for retirement will give you peace of mind and help you get on track financially. When you're in debt, it’s like carrying around an anchor that weighs down everything else in life. It affects how much money you have available to spend each month, and it takes away from what could be saved for retirement. Plus, if you don't take care of your debts now, they'll become bigger over time due to interest charges. And with more debt comes less freedom in other areas of life.

So if there's any question in your mind about whether to pay off debt or save for retirement first, my answer is clear: Paying off debt must come first! By taking steps now to tackle your current debts head-on, you'll set yourself up well for financial success later on in life when it comes time to start thinking about retiring.

What Are The Benefits Of Paying Off Debt?

It's like a weight being lifted off your shoulders when you start paying off debt. No longer do you have to worry about the unknown and you can finally take back control of your financial future. By taking on this challenge, it can be one of the most liberating experiences – really putting yourself in the driver’s seat.

One key benefit of getting out of debt is that it frees up more money for other goals such as saving for retirement or investing. When you pay off debt, those payments are no longer going towards interest, so instead they get redirected towards building wealth and providing long term security. Plus, with less debt, your credit score will improve which means better access to important loans such as mortgages and car loans down the road.

By tackling debt head-on, you're not only making progress but also gaining confidence along the way – something that's invaluable when it comes to creating a solid financial foundation for your future. You'll never regret prioritizing paying off debt first – even if it feels like an uphill climb at times – because doing so puts you on track for achieving all of your bigger life goals.

Are There Any Tax Implications To Paying Off Debt?

The thought of paying off debt can be like a weight lifted from our shoulders. No more sleepless nights, no more worrying about how to make ends meet! But before we relax and enjoy the freedom that comes with being debt-free, it is important to understand the tax implications of such an action.

When you pay off debt, there are usually two types of taxes that come into play – income tax and capital gains tax. Income tax applies when you use your own money to repay a loan; while capital gains tax could apply if you are using borrowed money. Depending on where you live, both may be applicable in some form or another. It’s always wise to check with a qualified financial advisor or accountant beforehand so that you don't get any unwelcome surprises down the line.

It's also worth mentioning that different types of debts have varying levels of impact on your overall finances as well as their own unique set of rules when it comes to taxation. For example, student loans generally offer various forms of repayment assistance which can help reduce taxable income for those who qualify. But regardless of what type of debt you're dealing with, it pays—literally—to do your research ahead of time and know exactly what kind of repercussions might arise once you've paid it all off.


It’s time to make a plan and get out of debt for good! You have the power to do something about your debt, so don't wait. Prioritizing paying off debts first before saving for retirement or other financial goals can help you get on track with your finances faster.

When it comes to tackling debt, start by asking yourself ‘which one should I pay off first?' The answer is simple: pick the highest interest rate debt and focus all your efforts on getting rid of that one first. That way, you save the most money in the long run because you are not wasting any more than necessary on high-interest payments. This strategy will ensure that you are able to pay off all of your debts sooner rather than later.

Once you have paid off your highest interest rate debt, move onto the next one until they're all gone. It's like slowly climbing up a mountain—eventually, each step brings you closer to success as well as freedom from debt. In no time at all, you'll be standing atop the peak soaring above those mountainous bills and feeling “on top of the world” financially speaking!