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The Debt Payment Quadrant

Attack your debt like it stole your bike. Seriously, you have to attack your debt from multiple angles. Often, we focus on one quadrant at a time rather than using all four quadrants to go after the debt. Instead of focusing on just reducing expenses, also apply for a new job paying you more and get a side hustle to supplement your new income. While you’re at it, look at ways of reducing the debt burden by negotiating a lower interest rate on your credit cards or using a balance transfer (just make sure to pay it off before the time limit). Find ways to get at the debt, the more you do, the faster you will get your bike back. Here are a few ways to really get at the debt.


This could be by applying for a new job. Don’t discount applying for a new position within your company. You’re already invested with them and they know your potential. But if you’re not successful, don’t be scared to venture out and try a new company. Spruce up your resume and add it to LinkedIn. Add a few projects you’re working on and then apply for a new position and see how quickly you get hired. For some it will be easy, for others it may take a few months, but keep at it. Another thing for you to consider is transferring your skills to a different career altogether. There are opportunities out there, but you won’t know unless you venture out and try something new.

The income quadrant also takes into consideration you asking for additional hours or overtime if you are an hourly worker. If you’re salary, forget it about it and move on to the side hustle quadrant. However, if you can get those extra hours, put them in. There are 168 hours in a week, and you typically work 40 hours out of those 168. If you can find an extra 20 hours to work, do it and pay your debt down faster.


On the expense side it means finding ways to reduce your expenses. Some things can’t be helped because you’re bound by them, but others are more flexible so you should attack them first. You could take the Frugalwoods way of doing things by cutting everything back and slowly adding the things that means the most to you. This is a drastic way of cutting back on your expenses but one that is truly effective, especially if you’re running out of money at the end of the month. I may not always agree with the Woods, but I love their philosophy—pick what works for you.

Even the things that you are bound by can be managed or removed altogether. Say you owe on a car, you could decide to sell it by trading it in for something cheaper thereby reducing your expense and your debt. What about your living situation? If your lease is up, perhaps you move somewhere cheaper or move in with someone else and pay less rent thereby reducing your housing expense.

Here, you’re only limited by your imagination. Everything on your expense quadrant should be considered to see how you can reduce it. The more you go at it, the faster you will get out of debt.


This is my favorite quadrant to work with. Even when I had over a million in our combined retirement accounts I still had a side hustle. I drove for Uber and Lyft while we lived in the DC area. We also became Airbnb hosts by renting out our basement. Of all the side hustles, the Airbnb was the most lucrative and provided the most tax write offs. You really can’t beat it.

On the side hustle side, think of any free time as a potential waste. Use your talent(s) to find a side hustle that brings your joy. While you’re trying to figure what that is, get a second jo—from working at a grocery store, Wal-Mart or Target, to driving for Uber, Lyft, Door Dash or Instacart, or even cut grass. The opportunities are there, but you will have to put in the work. If you’re married and have kids, it may not work for both of you to have a side hustle, but try for one of you to go out there and find a hustle to do. Like the expense quadrant, the opportunities here are limited only by your imagination. If you’re willing to swallow your pride, you can do great things.


You can focus on two things in this quadrant to get you going. The first is the budget. Your expenses are what they are at this point but can you stick to a budget so that you don’t overspend? If you can do that, then you will be able to have a consistent amount to put towards your debt. It may fluctuate by some amount monthly, but the budget will help you be consistent.

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The next is the strategy to tackle the debt. You can do the avalanche system or the debt snowball. The avalanche method involves making minimum payments on all debt, then using any extra funds to pay off the debt with the highest interest rate. On the other hand, the debt snowball method involves making minimum payments on all debt, then using any extra funds to pay off the smallest debt first. The Avalanche will save you money on interest while the snowball will get you quick wins. If you’re a math nerd you will likely gravitate to the avalanche system. If you have a problem staying consistent and motivated, the debt snowball can get you the wins to keep you going. This is strictly a preference to you—personal finance is personal.

Combination play “Super-Nerds”

If you’re a nerd, you’re probably wondering, “well, why can’t I combine both of them?” Well, you can.

You rank and stack your debt from smallest to largest while also noting their interest rate next to them. You then restack them with a combination of the smallest amount with the next highest interest rate. This method allows you to tackle the smallest, getting that quick win, while also reducing some high interest rate first. Pick the system that will work best for you.


Macys 400; 22%

Personal loan 500; 0%

Rooms to Go 700; 15%

Target 1200; 20%

Mastercard 1200; 10%

Visa 1700; 5%

Car 11,000; 3%

Student loan #1 22,000; 3%

Student loan #2 8,000; 8%

Total: 46,700

Should you do a debt consolidation or use balance transfers? I wrote an article on the dangers of balance transfersso I won’t rehash it here. Similarly, I don’t recommend taking money out of your 401k or a home equity line of credit (HELOC) to pay your debt because those have similar pitfalls as well and I learned the hard way. But if you’ve work hard on the other three quadrants, have been consistent for three months or more, and you want an extra boost, then doing a balance transfer may work in your favor. However, that’s how far I would go, and I would make sure that I pay off that balance transfer before the time runs out. And *change the behavior around spending money so you don’t rack up more debt. *

How to use the balance transfer effectively. The goal is to transfer the cards with the highest interest rates and budget so that you pay the balance within the allotted time. If you get a 12-month transfer, you want to pay it back within 10 months and give yourself a 2-month grace in the event life happens and you can’t make the allotted amount a month or two. However, be careful on what you call an emergency, hanging out with friends in Vegas just for fun is not an emergency. Needing three new tires is. Get more information on budgeting here. If you’re lucky and can get a 15 or 18-month balance transfer, then give yourself a 3-month grace period. Finally, in the rare circumstances where you get a 24-month transfer, give yourself a 4-month grace period.

Next, start with the debt with the highest interest and highest balance and work down. When you get the monthly amount that you can pay by the allotted time you can stop. That’s the amount you can transfer. Transferring more means that you will not pay it off on time and will

end up paying the deferred interest or having to do another balance transfer. Remember, a transfer is like robbing Paul to Pay Peter, you just moved the debt, you haven’t paid it.

The ultimate plan is to tackle your debt from multiple angles at every level. Each quadrant offers you more than one opportunity and it is up to you to pick the one that works best for your situation. Have you found unique ways to pay down your debt and increase your income? Share your story below.

**Are you interested in getting a money makeover and have us help you decipher your debt? If you agree to be featured for a money makeover article, you can get our help for free. If you would rather not be featured and get our help, we can help you for a fee of $350 for three one-hour sessions spanning three months. Get help with setting up your budget, reviewing your investment choices, and how to tackle your debt. Send us an email if you’re interested in the free makeover or the in-depth three-session review**

As always, if you need help, feel free to drop us an email.

3 Steps you can take:

1-Learn each quadrant and attack your debt

2-Stay consistent and work on your budget and expenses before doing a balance transfer

3-Pat yourself on the back with small wins in each quadrant and stay motivated.


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