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5 Tips for paying down debt - fast

For a growing percentage of people, debt is an unavoidable fact of adult life. That burden is even greater for those who make the decision to get advanced degrees - the average new physician comes complete with over $166,000 in debt, and the typical law student clocks in at about $84,000 in the hole. While these sorts of numbers can be daunting, they don't have to post an insurmountable obstacle. It takes some carefully planning and a little bit of sacrifice, but it's possible to speed up the process of getting out of debt and moving on with your life. Here are five tips for turning that mountain into a molehill:

1. Create a budget
Think of your budget as the GPS for your debt-paying goals. It lets you know exactly where you are, where you need to be and whether you're on the right track. Creating a template where you catalog all of the income you're earning, all of your expenses and how much is left over every month can help you not only organize your finances, but also identify areas where you're overspending and ways to choose cheaper options. 

2. Don't let opportunities pass you by
Chances to make a little bit of extra cash are everywhere. Maybe it's selling some old stuff that you don't need and haven't even thought about in months. Or, it's picking up a freelance project to fill up a few hours every week. It could even be as easy as telling companies what you think about their products in paid surveys, and getting money just for having an opinion. The opportunities are out there, and they add up quickly. 

3. Pay early, pay often
You can get away with just making the minimum payment on your loans every month, but that's not going to help you get rid of them quickly. Instead, pay as much as you can every month, and use any unexpected windfalls toward paying down the principle of loans. Because you won't be paying as much interest, it's like handing money to future-you. 

4. Find some inexpensive hobbies
There are plenty of things to do that cost little or no money on a regular basis. Hobbies like "traveling to Fiji" and "buying and throwing away black truffles" aren't the only ways to have a good time. Exercise, reading, volunteering and gardening are all interesting and essentially free. 

5. Start right now
Even if you haven't been working towards paying your debt down in the past, there's no reason you can't start now - or at least when you finish reading this article. It's never too late to begin cultivating good financial habits, and the first step is the most important. Over time, the smaller changes you begin implementing today will add up, and at some point in the future you'll look back and realize that all it took was a few nudges in the right direction. 

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