Looking for a debt repayment calculator with some specific requirements
April 14, 2019 5:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to take better control of my finances this year. I have $10k of debt. I want to know the best way to pay them off. The problem I have is that ALL of my debt is in zero interest cards. So debt repayment calculator view them all as equally pressing.

For example, one is a CareCredit card with zero interest for a year. Another is a Best Buy "zero interest for X months" financed purchase. For both of those, if the debt isn't paid in full by the end of the promo period, all of the interest from the promo period will be added to the balance. I also have cards with varying levels of time left on their zero interest promo periods. Clearly, the ones that charge retroactively for interest are a higher priority.

All of the debt repayment calculators don't seem to have a spot to enter in info like how many months of zero interest are left before the actual APR kicks in. Are there any out there that do this? An app would be great!

I know I could probably sit down with a piece of paper but I honestly do not have the time or energy to do this. I work FT and spend every free second outside of my FT job working on building a side business. I am stretched thin as it is and am trying to outsource some of my tasks to apps when I can.

I just need something to tell me
1. How much I need to set aside each month for paying CC bills
2. How to allocate that money in a way that most efficiently pays them off
3. Sending me notifications/reminders to pay stuff would be nice too, as I am so busy, I sometimes forget things.
posted by galaxypeachtea to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on how much you make, this should not take you long at all... Certainly not even a year. Pay the smallest one first and get it out of the way. Then pay the next smallest. Work your way up. It feels good to see progress.

Also, stop using credit cards while you have a big debt like this. You can't get out of debt if you keep borrowing. Start using cash and debit until you have 0$ balance.
posted by KMoney at 6:00 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]

Don't know of an electronic system, but here's how I'd do it on paper, and then maybe transfer it to a google sheet?

Knowing those the expiration dates of those promo periods is the key. For each CC, write down the date the promo period expires (and some cards have terms where an entire year of interest kicks in retroactively - so don't let that happen). And for each CC, calculate how many months you have before the interest free promo period expires. If it's a partial month, round down. Divide the amount owed by the number of months to get how much per month. Add up the monthly for all the cards, and that's your monthly payment until the first card is paid off. Then re-calc.

If that total amount is more than you can handle, subtract the payment of the card with the longest promo period.

CC A has 3 months left of promo period and a balance of $3K. So $1K pmt/month.
CC B has 8 months left, balance of $3K. So $375/month.
CC C has 12 months left, balance of $4K, So $334/month.
So this month, you need to pay $1K + $375 + $334. If you can't swing that, can you handle $1K + $375? Then, after 3 months, you'll be done with CC A, still paying on B, and re-calc and start on C.

That last payment of a card might be enough to remind you that month to re-calc, otherwise, put a reminder in your calendar.
posted by at at 6:26 PM on April 14 [5 favorites]

The tough part is the difference between the ones which inflict retroactive interest and the ones which don't... you can't just model those as a new loan taken out on the day zero interest ends. It seems like the ones with retroactive interest are unquestionably going to be the ones you need to get paid off first, though, unless all the interest rates are really wildly different.

I'm just guessing but I'd think that even if you find a piece of software flexible enough to do this, learning to use it to do specifically what you want to do, and figuring out if it's really doing what you want, may take as long or longer than just working the calculations yourself.

(Except perhaps that if you already know how to use a spreadsheet, that might be easier than paper. Particularly if you realize you've made a mistake somewhere, so you can fix it and the spreadsheet software will re-calculate everything.)
posted by XMLicious at 6:37 PM on April 14

Just do it in sequence. This will give you a good-enough answer without taking up a ton of time.

You know how long you have til Card A's interest accrues. First do a simple calculator as though that were the only debt and you had [that many months] to pay it off. It will tell you how much you have to pay to avoid incurring interest: $X.

Then do Card B, with its longer period til the interest accrues. That gives you $Y. Iterate until done with those.

If I understand you, you also have cards where the interest-free period will expire, but you won't be charged retroactive interest if you don't pay them off. Once you are done with the cards where you would be charged retroactive interest, take however much money you have left in your budget for debt repayment (so, total amount - ($X + $Y + ...)) and put it into a calculator that will apportion payments, prioritizing by the highest interest rate after the interest-free period expires, even though it hasn't yet. This will give you roughly the best allocation; the only way it will be meaningfully off is if there is a big difference in expiration dates (i.e., many months) and interest rate. To be more precise is trickier.
posted by praemunire at 7:20 PM on April 14


I'm not sure there's a plug-in-template kind of calculator that would do this for you, but I have a hunch that mocking one up in Excel isn't quite the burden you may think. Here's what I'd do.

I was thinking of you using the "snowball" method (discussed here). Usually, the snowball method has you start by making a list of the cards you've got, figuring out how much total you can devote to debt payoff monthly, and then dividing that amount up among the cards, making sure you at least pay the minimum each month. But you start off putting more than the minimum on the card with the smallest balance, so that gets paid off faster and you get a psychological "yay" moment that keeps you motivated. Then when you're done with that card, you apply the money that you were using to pay off the smallest card to the next smallest, paying it off even faster. And then the next, and so on.

I'm thinking maybe you should do that - except instead of paying them off in order from smallest balance to biggest, you pay them off in order from "shortest span of time with zero interest to longest". For example:

Card A's zero interest period expires in 6 months.
Card B's zero interest expires in 12 months.
Card C's zero interest expires in 14 months.
Card D's zero interest expires in 18 months.

So: figure out how much you can pay each month, and split it up among those four cards so that the bulk of what you're paying goes towards Card A, since its zero-interest period expires more quickly. (Say that you can pay $400 per month - and say all three cards have a $75 minimum payment. You'd start with $175 towards Card A, and $75 each to the other 3.) Then when that's paid off, then you take whatever you were paying towards Card A and add it to what you're already paying towards Card B ($175+75 = $250 towards Card B). (Keep C and D's payments where they are.) Then when B's paid off, roll that payment into what you're putting towards C (250+75 = 325) . Then when C's paid off, then that leaves you with the whole amount now going towards card D.

The actual numbers might take some tinkering to figure out (I just pulled those numbers out of my ass), but that's the basic principle.

As for the "reminders to pay your bills" - honestly, what helped me more was setting up an automatic transfer out of my checking to my bill payments. What helped me even more was doing it on a weekly basis - it was a smaller hit each week, so it felt less noticeable, which in turn ultimately let me pay a little more than I thought I could ("yikes, $50 a month feels like a lot" vs. ".....eh, $15 a week isn't that bad"). Try setting up automated transfers so you don't need to be reminded to pay your bills - just set-it-and-forget-it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:58 PM on April 14 [10 favorites]

I'm back! :-)

This site has the exact debt reduction calculator that my financial coach uses - it's a "snowball" method and is more focused on calculating interest, but it also shows you a projection for how long it would take you to pay off each different card, so it could be a good place to start - plug in the different balances and various interest rates, figure out the total amount you can put towards debt, and then play with different ways to split it up until you find the specific amounts to allocate to each so that they're all paid off in time.

Paying a little more than the minimum on each card is best no matter what, of course. But the snowball approach emphasizes "figure out one that you want to attack first, and then when it's cleared out add that amount to the next line instead of keeping that amount for yourself" or whatever.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:43 AM on April 16

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