Dig out of debt before spending on school

(ARA) – Raising kids is a lot of things – rewarding, challenging, fulfilling and, of course, expensive. No parent would ever deny that raising kids is worth far more than the cost of doing so. But kids cost money, and a lot of it. As costs of living increase, so too does the cost of having a family. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, it will cost more than $220,000 to raise a child born in the last year, depending on your income level and where you live.

That figure doesn’t take college into account, either. Costs vary widely, but you can count on it being a minimum of a few thousand dollars per year, up into the tens of thousands. However, the costs of college have to be weighed against the benefits of having a degree. For example, unemployment rates for college graduates are lower than for those with a high school diploma or even some college.

With record numbers of Americans in debt, it might seem difficult to find a way to add college to the family budget. However, if you can tackle your existing debt to free up funds for a university education, you’ll be doing your kids a favor in the long run.

The first step to clearing the way for your child to go to college is to put the brakes on your spending. Paying off one credit card while continuing to spend on another will keep you drowning in debt. For many people, the cycle of debt is an unending one. Money that comes in goes back out so fast that relying on credit cards and other lines of credit seems necessary. Beyond simply stopping spending, Equifax suggests taking a methodical approach to paying down debt faster. Organize your debt, including information such as the outstanding balance, the minimum monthly payment and the interest rate so you’ll be able to see which debt you can pay off fastest.

For those looking for an automated way to chart their debts and their debt repayment plan, the credit reporting agency recently introduced an online debt reduction tool, Debt Wise, that automatically prioritizes the debts from your Equifax Credit Report in the optimal order to help you pay them off faster. As you pay off your debts the system updates your Fast Pay Plan and shows you your Debt Freedom Day.

In addition, it’s a good idea to add funds to college savings accounts whenever possible to make sure that you have even more to rely on when it’s time to choose a university. As you pay down your debt and create a college nest egg, you’ll be banking on your child’s future.

Getting out of debt to reduce stress is one thing; doing it to give your children the opportunity to pursue a valuable college education is quite another. Keeping that goal in mind provides the right motivation, and using an organized, automatic debt-prioritization system can provide the right means to tackle the problem.