Top Tips That Really Work!
If you are facing credit card debt, you are not alone. Carrying large balances on your bank cards is a big problem that many people struggle with. And, as interest rates and inflation continue to rise, more people will be at risk of falling into this dangerous financial cycle.
While it may seem impossible to get rid of these balances, there are good techniques that you can use to help you pay them off. It takes time, but these simple steps can help you chip away at the balances and get your finances back on track.
Use Real Money Instead of Credit
The first step to getting out of credit card debt is to stop using your credit cards. It’s time to put away the credit cards and pay cash.
Using your credit card can be an expensive habit. According to a 2021 study at MIT Sloan, “credit cards serve to ‘step on the gas’ by putting costs out-of-mind regardless of the price of the product.”
Use this knowledge to help you save money. By spending cash, you may be more likely to pay attention to your spending as well as the cost of each item. In the end, this new habit can help you spend less money.
Lock all of your credit cards up in a lock box, except for one. Keep this one card for real emergencies. (Ordering Uber Eats or Door Dash does not count as an emergency.)
Find All of Your Credit Card Paperwork
It’s time to write everything down. Before you get out of debt, you need to figure out where you stand. I know it’s scary. I didn’t want to look at my debt either. But you need to see what the total amount of the debt is. Look, the good news is that we can track your progress after we see the truth of it, right? The best part is that you can watch it go down!
So go ahead and gather your paperwork. Print out your most recent statements or look at the PDF files, whatever your heart desires. Make sure that you include all of your credit card debt including the store cards that you wish you had not opened. Yes, we will tackle those as well.
Write Down All Your Credit Card Debt
Okay, it’s time to record all the numbers. If you are a spreadsheet person, now is the time to shine. Write down all of the information that is relevant: Credit Card Name, bank name, credit card balance, and interest rate. Note: Do NOT include the credit card number. Keep that information secure and private.
If you are not a spreadsheet person, just make it work for you. Maybe you like to write it out by hand. Or is there another method that you prefer? You’ve got this.
Here are some tips to consider:
- If you have more than one credit card at the same bank, give it a unique name. For example, Bank XYZ – Person A and Bank XYZ – Person B.
- If you have a special low rate that expires, include extra columns for the special interest rate, the expiration date of the special rate, and the interest rate that will go into effect when that expires.
Set Your Monthly Budget
The next step is to look at your monthly budget.
Honestly, I hate looking at my budget too. But it is the first step in paying off your credit card debt, and we will have to just do it. After all, if you do not know your monthly budget, then you won’t be able to plan the best way to pay off your credit cards.
Remember, no one expects you to stick to your budget exactly. In fact, build in a little extra room for discretionary spending. But you need a general idea of your income and expenses. Plus, you want to know how much money will be left over each month so you can send it off to pay off your credit cards. Remember that most banks charge you interest every single day when you carry a balance. Yes, that is right. So let’s figure out where you have a little extra after you have paid for your food, rent, gas, and utilities.
Decide How To Reduce Credit Card Debt
So now you know that tricky little secret: most banks charge you extra interest every single day when you carry a balance. (*Side note: You can see your bank’s information in the financial disclosure information that they send you.)
So, if you like to play video games (and who doesn’t?), here is where we will strategize to help you save money. If the credit card charges you interest every day, that means two things:
- If you pay something off earlier, then you pay LESS interest.
- If you buy something later (or don’t buy it), then you pay LESS interest.
So if you have an extra $40, pay off some of your credit cards. You just saved on interest.
Alternatively, let’s say you cook at home instead of ordering takeout. You just saved that money, plus additional interest on the credit card.
Most people use either the snowball method or the avalanche method when they are paying off their credit card debt. The snowball method focuses on paying off the smallest debts first, and the avalanche method focuses on paying off the debts with the highest interest rate first.
Personally, I recommend paying off your credit card debts using the avalanche method. Why? Because it saves you more money. The banks make money using math to their advantage, so you should save money the same way.
There is one exception to this recommendation: if you can transfer your debt to a low-interest rate card. (Make sure that you take a close look at any fees that you will be charged.)
So, my recommendation would be the following:
- Sort your credit cards in order by the highest interest rate cards first.
- Look to see if any of the cards can be transferred to a low-interest rate card.
- If they can be transferred, does the fee that the bank will be charged, plus the length of the low-interest period make it financially sound? If yes, then make the transfer.
- Re-sort your credit cards in order by the highest interest rate cards first.
- Pay the minimum amount every single month on every single card EARLY via autopay.
- Pay every cent that you can toward the highest interest card as soon as you can (even if it is by one day).
Make Credit Card Debt Payments As Soon As You Can
Now, it’s time to finally start making payments. There are two important rules when you begin making payments:
- Make payments as soon as possible.
- Always make the minimum payment on every card every month.
If you have more than one credit card, make sure that you pay at least the minimum payment on each card every month to avoid late fees and penalties. Once that card is completely paid off, you can put that money towards paying off another card.
Reduce Your Expenses
Wendy’s and Sonic spend millions of dollars on their marketing campaigns. Burger King knows the tricks, too, and they are counting on your hunger and exhaustion to feed their profits. But every time you pick up fast food, let’s say you charge $50 to your credit card. If you do this four times a week, you’ve wasted $200. This is no way to pay off your credit card balances.
We have a lot of resources on how to reduce your expenses. You can see it on our Save Money blog page.
Make Extra Income
Another quick way to pay down your credit card expenses is to make extra income. Then you put as much money as you can toward the credit card with the highest interest rate.
We have a lot of resources on how to make extra income on our Making Money blog page.
It may seem impossible to pay off your credit card debt, but you can do it. You just need the right strategies. Remember that credit card companies use simple math techniques to make money, and you can use these same techniques to pay them off. Decide what works best for you, and start making payments as soon as you can. Just work hard, send in those payments, and do a bit of hustling.
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