How to Pay Off Debt - 3 Methods for Gaining Control

Written by Taylor Davis

Debt is one of the few things we can control.

Your life might be spiraling out of control, or you could just be starting your career – either way you probably have an extra stress on you that you don’t need. That’s why we’ve listed three different methods for paying off debt to get you out of that slump and working on a better future.

Avalanche

The avalanche method focuses on paying the debt with the highest interest rate first. Self-explanatory, right?

  1. List your debts from largest interest rate to smallest interest rate.
  2. Pay the minimum amount necessary on all your debt.
  3. Put any extra money you were likely to place on all those debts to the one with the highest interest rate.
  4. Then do so on the next one when that one is gone.

This method focuses more on the mathematical aspects of debt, allowing you to pay less money over the life of your loan.

Do you have high interest debts sucking the life out of you? This one’s for you.

 

Snowball

This method is probably one of the most popular due to Dave Ramsey’s program, and the positive reinforcement or “quick wins” foundation.

Basically this method advises you to pay off your debt from smallest to largest in a lump sum so you get the wins quicker. It’s a proven method to boost motivation and see those numbers dwindle.

  1. List your debts and their payment minimums.
  2. Pay the minimum amount necessary on all your loans, credit cards and other debt you have.
  3. Any extra money will go to the debt with the lowest payoff.
  4. When that one’s gone, put all that money you were spending on the first one to the next one.

Is motivation your struggle? Use this method.

Momentum is key

Snowflake

The snowflake method is similar to the snowball method, but seems less burdening. Instead of paying off your debt in a lump sum, you can sprinkle the payments over the month.

For example, if you are paying $100 in a month then you can divide that up to $25 per week. It makes the payments seem less and your bank account look a little better week to week. The snowflake method is like slowly peeling away a band aid, while the snowball method is ripping it off and getting it over with.

If you have income that’s irregular, then snowflake might be better for you.


Motivation might be your issue, or just getting started. Either way, you can easily start paying off debt with these options, but remember that only paying the interest or the bare minimum is like treading water. You can only go so long before you drown. Take on this experiment and see what works best.

But don’t paralyzed by something that is unnecessary.

These methods are all named after something cold if you didn’t notice. Why? Because paying money leaves you frozen while it’s happening, but don’t worry. You’ll thaw in the end


Which debt method would be best for you?

Are you struggling with something in particular from stopping you? Motivation? Fear? Other life issues?

Leave us a comment and we’ll ask our experts the best way to help. 

Common Money Mindsets That Hold You Back

Originally posted on USNews

Consumers often get caught up in financial rules, believing they need a certain amount of money to retire or that they should have a specific amount saved by a given age. But money management isn't just about the numbers; it's about the emotions and attitudes behind our decisions to spend, save or invest.

"You're not managing money as much as you are managing your choices," says financial behaviorist Jacquette M. Timmons. "How do you make your choices? How do you evaluate option A versus option B? You'll begin to see that money is no different from any other domain," she explains.

Here's a look at common mindsets that could be sabotaging your wallet, along with strategies for reframing these thoughts in a more positive way.

 

There's never enough money

Within this scarcity mindset, there are two distinct groups. One involves experiencing a cash crunch and feeling that there isn't enough money; the other has plenty of money but irrationally worries that it's not enough or that they'll suddenly lose it. When the latter occurs in middle-aged women, it's called "Bag Lady Syndrome," and it's relatively common. In fact, the 2013 Women, Money and Power Study conducted by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America found that nearly a third of women with a household annual income of at least $200,000 reported a fear losing all their money often or sometimes.

By understanding that money is a finite resource, you can avoid making rash financial decisions. But too much of this attitude isn't healthy, and it can create a negative feedback loop that prevents you from earning more and moving forward. Timmons recommends starting with gratitude. "As corny as it sounds, it really is important to be grateful for what you have," she says. "At least you have a place to spring from." Next, brainstorm ways to get more money, whether that's selling old cellphones or getting a part-time job.

For those suffering from Bag Lady Syndrome, she recommends listing the steps that would need to happen in order for you to become homeless. She suggests asking yourself: "Is this really possible? Is this really going to happen?" Listing those steps could help you recognize your fears as unlikely, she explains.

 

Why bother

My situation isn't going to change.

This attitude of resignation is similar to a defeatist mindset, and it can turn toxic when it prevents you from taking smart steps to save for a rainy day or plan for retirement.

If you feel powerless with money, Timmons recommends looking at other aspects of your life where you may feel more empowered. She recommends asking yourself: "What's my behavior in those situations?"

According to Timmons, it's also a good idea to "analyze it as if you were having an out-of-body experience. Look at some of the attributes there, and apply that to your money," she says. For instance, maybe you feel that your money always runs out before the end of the month, but you are disciplined about running several times a week. Think about how you can apply the discipline you already have in training to better manage your spending habits.

 

You only live once

This catchphrase (or YOLO for short) has been used to justify all sorts of purchases, from designer bags to luxury vacations. We all need some fun in our lives, but people who take this to financial extremes are what Susan Zimmerman, a chartered financial consultant and licensed marriage and family therapist, describes as jugglers. "The juggler has lots of spontaneity but is often in financial crisis because they've not looked into the future at all," she says. In contrast, the planner falls at the opposite extreme and the balancer sits somewhere in between, planning purchases but allowing for some flexibility and fun, says Zimmerman, who is a partner and co-founder at Mindful Asset Planning.

Consumers who fall into this mindset should practice a 24-hour rule, Timmons says. Wait a full day before committing to a purchase and then ask yourself how it will impact your life and what you're willing to give up to accommodate that purchase. Ask yourself questions such as, "If I do this, what am I going to let go of?"

Those who put off future planning or hate creating a budget can benefit from reframing. "If you can, just reframe something simple, like reframe saving for retirement as spending for retirement," says Rick Kahler, a registered financial advisor in Rapid City, South Dakota, and past chair of the Financial Therapy Association. "For people who love to spend, don't create a budget. Create a spending plan," he says.

 

The universe will provide

Kahler says he sometimes sees an avoidant attitude in people who work in professions such as teaching, nursing, social work and ministry. Often, these professionals don't make a lot of money, but many think "if you do all the right things for the right reasons, you're not going to have to worry about the future," he says. They think "[their] good karma is going to guarantee that good things are going to happen." Adjacent to this mindset is some women's expectations of being rescued by a man and never having to worry about money. While these mindsets take a more upbeat approach than a "why bother?" framework, they're still passive – and using any attitude to justify a failure to plan can get you into trouble.

Kahler suggests asking yourself: "First, is that [statement] true? And second, is that really true?" In some cases, the universe does provide, but in others "a lot of good people have done the right things [and] have ended up in poverty," he says.

 

More money will fix everything

Regardless of income or net worth, many of us erroneously believe that more money will solve our problems. "That's an issue with our society: the thought that more money is magically going to bring us meaning or happiness or security," Kahler says. He points to a financial therapy client who had hundreds of millions of dollars and still felt unhappy because her money separated her from other people. "There wasn't once in her life that she knew she was asked to be on a board or committee that wasn't because of her money," he says, adding that the client wanted to be seen for her human attributes not her wealth.

But if you keep thinking that more money will right all wrongs, think again. This can lead to workaholism and disappointment when expectations aren't met. "It's liberating to stop looking for more money as the solution," Zimmerman says. "Instead, define the problems and ask how they can be solved in ways other than extra money."


One of the first actions you can take in an effort to handle your spending habits and debt is to shift your mindset. 

Which mindset are you? How does it affect your financial freedom?

6 Surprising Hidden Costs of Running a Private Practice

Originally posted on WebPT

This information is valuable for any practice, not only Physical Therapy. 

You have to spend money to make money. This tenet of business is as true now as it was when my dad gave me a loan to cover the start-up costs for my lemonade stand back in third grade. And like many small business owners, I had a tough time forfeiting nearly half of my revenue to cover the cost of the lemons and sugar (it was a slow day on the cul-de-sac, and despite my best negotiation efforts, my mom wouldn’t let me set up shop on the high-traffic street a few blocks down the road).

If you’re a PT private practice owner, you’re probably all-too-familiar with the seemingly continuous disappointment of watching your sweet, sweet revenue pour out of the bank like lemonade from a pitcher—but where, exactly, is it going? After all, you covered all of your expense bases in your budget—at least, you thought you did. But all the QuickBooks savvy in the world can’t protect your profits from the following sneaky budget sucks

 

Legal Expenses

If you ever find yourself in court—and fingers crossed that you don’t—you could be out thousands of dollars. As this Small Business Trends article explains, the cost of a lawsuit isn’t limited to attorney fees: you also could face expenses associated with court settlements and insurance rate hikes. And outside of the courtroom, even a small oversight—like creating signage that violates a city ordinance—could end up costing you a decent chunk of change. That’s why it’s important to invest in legal consultation upfront, both when you’re starting your business and when you make any significant changes that could have regulatory implications. At the very least, make sure all of your employee and patient documents, contracts, disclosures, and waivers are air-tight—before you find yourself at the center of an expensive legal dispute.

 

Employee Turnover

For most business owners, employee salaries and benefits packages make up a substantial portion of the annual budget. What you might not realize, though, is just how expensive it can be when an employee leaves your practice. Sure, you might experience a temporary drop in payroll expenditures, but as this Small Business Trends article points out, you also must contend with:

  • Productivity loss. For example, if you suddenly lose a staff therapist, you may lose patient appointments—or even patients themselves if they decide to follow that therapist to his or her new clinic.
  • Recruiting. If you’re in a pinch and trying to hire someone ASAP, you may have to pump some advertising dollars into promoting the position. Plus, the process of sifting through applications and conducting interviews takes time away from your actual job duties—which may include treating patients. And that all adds up to lost revenue.
  • Training. When you hire someone to fill a vacancy, it could take time for him or her to adjust to your processes and learn how to use your tools and equipment. And as good ol’ Ben Franklin once said, “Time is money.”

Obviously, the best way to combat these costs is to prevent employees—especially the good ones—from leaving in the first place. 

 

Taxes

As a business owner, you have to write a lot of checks—to employees, landlords, and utility companies, to name a few. And if you’re a smart business owner, Uncle Sam is on that list, as well—and not just during tax season. According to this Under30CEO article, “Often, business owners hold-off employing a tax service until April rolls around; however, this may not be best practice.” And on the topic of services, the same article strongly discourages do-it-yourself tax prep, as business taxes are much more complex than personal taxes: “While high quality tax services can be expensive, a mistake on your tax filings can be even more costly.”

And there is plenty of room for mistakes. As this Hiveage article explains, in addition to paying tax on your profits and—depending on how your business is classified and where it’s located—forking over an annual LLC fee, you may need to pay:

  • payroll tax,
  • property tax, and
  • sales tax.

 

Association Memberships and Industry Conferences

We’re big proponents of APTA membership—after all, if you’re a physical therapist, the APTA is your association, and it’s the industry’s most powerful voice in advocacy. However, annual membership is a bit pricey—and if you add on state chapter and section membership, it’s even spendier. Plus, if you’re a practice owner, you may cover—either fully or partially—employee memberships as an extra perk.

Even if you’re feeling a budgetary pinch, that’s one expense you definitely don’t want to trim: as WebPT president and cofounder Heidi Jannenga writes in this Founder Letter, “It might be tempting to cut a local or national APTA membership from your benefits package. However, I can’t advise against this one enough. Doing so diminishes the advocacy power of our profession—which we really can’t afford to do.” The key to getting your money’s worth is ensuring that you cash in on exclusive, members-only discounts—like the ones available forcontinuing education courses.

And speaking of getting your money’s worth: if you decide to attend any industry conferences, make sure you choose the ones that give you the biggest bang for your buck—not only in terms of networking opportunities, but also with respect to educational offerings. Also, keep an eye out for events that cater to your specific interests as a physical therapy business owner. That way, you have the best possible chance of gleaning useful, actionable insight that’ll have an immediate—and positive—financial impact on your practice.

After all, conferences aren’t cheap—especially when you add travel, meals, and lodging on to the registration fee. But, the payoff could be well worth the price.

 

Equipment Repairs and Replacements

Anyone who has started a physical therapy practice knows that high-grade medical and exercise equipment often comes at a high cost. “The basic equipment includes treatment tables, which retail from around $1,500 each, fitness equipment such as upright bicycles costing from $800, and treadmills, which start at $1,800 each,” this Houston Chronicle article explains. Prices for sophisticated treatment machines are even steeper: the same article notes that ultrasound muscle stimulators sell for “around $3,600 each.” Yikes. And when crucial treatment equipment goes on the fritz, you have no choice but to repair it—or, if the damage is bad enough, replace it altogether. Those unplanned expenses can add up. So, to extend the life of the equipment you have, make sure you’re properly servicing and maintaining it. Or, if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly alternative to an outright purchase, consider leasing instead.

 

Technology

In this day and age, it’s tough to run a private practice on paper alone. Technology is essential to streamlining and optimizing operations in the modern business world. Of course, software solutions—the good ones, anyway—aren’t free. But if your practice uses a practice management system that charges per-chart or per-patient—or if the vendor tacks on extra fees any time you need customer support—then your monthly bill could be a real pain in the pocketbook.

If you’re already in that boat, consider switching to a system that features straightforward pricing on a per-provider basis, free support at no extra cost, and built-in compliance and business reporting to help you maximize the amount of revenue you get to keep.

 

Whether you’re hawking fresh lemonade or providing life-changing physical therapy treatment, running a business costs money—and it’s important to know exactly what those costs are. That way, you can work to keep them at a minimum. So, if you’re feeling a budgetary squeeze, look beyond the obvious; you might just find that the path to your financial sweet spot is clearer than you thought.


What are your practice’s biggest hidden costs?

Share your experiences in the comment section below.