Sometimes debt can be so suffocating that it feels like you are struggling to survive.
So, is it really that far-fetched to imagine that hundreds of people would put their lives on the line for a chance to gain financial freedom?
This is the concept behind the Netflix hit Squid game. Desperately in need of cash, 456 participants compete in dark twists and turns on traditional children’s games. The winners walk away with millions; losers die.
In real life there is no Squid game – but neither does it need to be. Here’s what protagonist Gi-hun and the rest of the cast should have done to escape debt with their bodies intact.
Evaluate your opponent
One of Gi-hun’s biggest failures is his inability to stop, think, and plan ahead. He always acts out of instinct and emotion, but as he learns throughout the series, knowing what you’re up against can be a huge advantage.
Start by gathering all of your invoices and balances and go over them as a group. This includes all of your credit cards, student loans, car loans, mortgages, and any other source of debt.
It allows to create a worksheet with a column for the outstanding balance of each debt, the interest rate and the minimum monthly payment. The final list might seem like a lot, but breaking it down will help you decide which debts to tackle first.
Choose your strategy
Just like there is more than one way to cut an umbrella shaped cookie, there is more than one way to approach debt.
The “avalanche” method will save you the most money, but some people find it more difficult. Tackle your highest interest debt first, even if it has the highest balance, while making minimum payments on all your other bills.
If you find this too demoralizing, you can try the “snowball” approach instead. Throw your money on the bills with the smallest balances first, clearing them off and providing the boost of confidence you need to solve your most important issues.
There is another factor to consider if you are unable to make all of your minimum payments. Some debts, like mortgages and car loans, are “secured” – you agree to give up your house or car if you can’t pay your bills.
Part of what made failed investor Cho Sang-woo so desperate was that he (somehow) used his mother’s house and business as collateral. You may also decide that there are assets that you cannot afford to lose.
Reduce your targets
A common strategy for eliminating high interest debt, like the one you get with credit cards, payday loan shops, and bloodthirsty loan sharks, is consolidation.
The concept is simple: you take a new loan with a much lower interest rate and use it to pay off your other balances. That leaves you with only one bill to worry about, and you can spend more money on paying off the balance instead of interest charges.
Some Squid game players would have had a hard time using this strategy because you have to convince someone to give you a new loan. Gambling addict Gi-hun probably trashed his credit rating – that three-digit number that tells lenders how reliable you are – while North Korean defector Sae-byeok may not have had a chance to build your score.
After looking at your own score and taking a few steps to improve it, you may want to consider a number of consolidation options:
Personal loan. Find out what rates are available at banks, credit unions and online lenders. You will be required to repay these unsecured loans in equal installments over a set period of time.
Balance transfer credit card. These cards charge low or no interest for a limited time, giving you a brief window to pay off your debts without getting burdened. However, some cards charge a hefty fee to transfer your balance, and once the promotional period is over, the regular interest rate can be painful.
Home equity line of credit. If you own a home and have built up enough equity, this will be one of your cheapest options. A word of warning, though – you’ll be using your home as collateral, so if you don’t make your payments, you could lose it.
Reduce your monthly expenses
Many of the Squid Game’s competitors, including Gi-hun, Sang-woo, and the gangster Deok-su, found themselves on the remote island spending more money than they had.
Before you try to steal from family members and business associates, learn about some of these strategies for lowering your monthly expenses.
Reduce your insurance bills
And don’t plan to go without health insurance for a while. When Gi-hun’s mother fell ill, they were helpless as he had canceled his mother’s insurance policy for money.
Instead, consider Medicaid if your income is low enough to qualify, or take advantage of the generous grants available now with market plans. As a result of the US bailout earlier this year, about half of new registrants on HealthCare.gov got a monthly bonus of $ 10 or less.
Refinance your mortgage
Homeowners can save hundreds of dollars per month by refinance your mortgage at one of today’s ultra-low interest rates.
If you’re buried in credit card debt – tens of thousands of dollars – you might even consider consolidating that balance with your mortgage into a “payback” refi.
There will be significant upfront costs, so make sure you plan to stay in the house long enough to make the move worthwhile.
Find lower prices automatically
If Gi-hun had planned ahead and shopped, he might have found a much better gift for his daughter than a fancy lighter – and for a lot less money than he wasted on this crane game. .
With thousands of stores online, it can be difficult to be sure you’re getting a good price. Try downloading a free browser add-on that automatically scan the internet for lower prices and coupons before proceeding to checkout.
Boost your income
Not all Squid game candidate got into debt because of his own mistakes.
North Korean defector Sae-byeok needed a huge sum of money to get his mother to safety, and factory worker Ali Abdul was not making a dime from his corrupt employer.
While both characters have struggled to find new jobs, depending on their skills and immigration status, you can find opportunities in unexpected places. And we’re not talking about accepting a challenge from a stranger on the subway.
Some advanced job boards will use artificial intelligence to match your skills with jobs you would never have known how to exist.
Online concert markets can help pick up extra work to do at homewhether your talents lie in writing, dubbing, graphic design or something else.
And even if you don’t have a lot of money to spend, you can still profit from soaring stock markets by using an app to invest your “spare currency” daily purchases, turning pennies into a diverse portfolio.
This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.