Every January, people all over the world get a breath of fresh air and a burst of motivation.  The new year ushers in a fresh start and some time to regroup. People reflect; they make goals and resolutions.  And this year, about 34% of all resolutions will focus on money and personal finance.  People are ready to get out of debt and save more money. If tackling debt in 2016 is a priority for you, I recommend getting started with these 3 basic steps:

STEP 1: Make the decision to be debt free. 

It sounds obvious, but I’m serious. The first step to anything is making the declaration that you are going to do it.  So, if getting out of debt is your top priority, be strong in your decision.  Put your foot down, stomp it if you have to, and declare that you will claim financial freedom this year!

Decide now that you will do whatever it takes to stop using your credit cards and pay off your debt.  Remind yourself that you will have to make sacrifices today, so that you can be free tomorrow. If you mentally prepare ahead of time, it will be easier to say no to all the little temptations that pop up along the way.

STEP 2: Start an emergency fund.

Creating an emergency fund is the best way to break the debt cycle. You have to have something to fall back on, so that you don’t keep digging the debt hole deeper.  Having money set aside will prepare you for those unexpected expenses that always seem to pop up. That way, when life throws you a curve ball, you’ll be able to pay for the window it breaks!

To get started, save $1,000 as fast as you can. I know that may seem like a lot, but it’s an important part of the process.  So, go through the garage and sell some stuff. Work extra hours or get a second job. Stop buying junk. Count your change.  Do whatever it takes to start saving money and build up a cushion. Once you have enough, open a separate savings account and stash the cash there.  Now when you have a sudden, unexpected expense you won’t have to break out your credit card to cover it.

STEP 3: Start your debt snowball. 

This is where it starts to get fun! List all your debts (except the house) in order from smallest to largest. Make your list on a big piece of paper and hang it somewhere where you will see it often.  Have fun with it and get excited!  These debts are standing in the way of your financial freedom and you’re about to tackle them!

Now, to get the snowball rolling, pay only the minimum amount due on all of the debts, except the smallest one. The small one is about to get attacked! You want to pay as much as you can on this one, so you can get rid of it as fast as possible. Once it’s eliminated, take the total amount that you had been paying on it and roll it over to the next debt.  Repeat the process and keep working your way down the list.  Continue crushing your debts one-by-one and rolling the payments on to the next.

By knocking out some of the easier debts first, you’ll see fast results and build some momentum.  This will help you stay motivated to keep working hard. Then, as you pay off each debt, you’ll free up even more money for payments and the snowball will continue to grow.

Be careful, though, as you begin to free up money it’s easy to start spending on “stuff” again.  Remember to stay focused and keep your eye on the prize. Continue to work hard and you’ll blast through debt faster than you thought possible.  Then, all the cash that you had been using to make payments can go straight into savings.  It may not be easy at first, but with only three steps, you can be debt free and building savings before you know it!