Before making extra payments on any debt, you should have a game plan that makes sense.
First, determine whether repaying your debt is realistic. If you’re struggling to pay the minimums or it would take you five years or more to pay off most of your unsecured debt — primarily credit cards, medical bills and personal loans — consider debt relief instead. A nonprofit credit counselor can advise you about debt management plans, but you also should talk with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.
Next, prioritize toxic debt. It doesn’t make sense to pay off low-rate, potentially deductible student loans or mortgage debt ahead of nondeductible, variable-rate credit cards.
Don’t forget to save. You may be tempted to throw every dollar at your debt, but that can be an expensive mistake. You can’t get back the company matches, tax breaks or compounding you miss by not contributing to retirement plans. You’d also be smart to keep at least a small emergency fund to avoid adding to your debt; $500 is enough to start.