If you have credit card debt that’s been hanging over your head, you’re certainly not alone. A lot of people have credit card debt that they want to pay off as quickly as possible. Almost 50% of Americans have a credit card balance and the average amount of household debt is approximately $16,000. Unfortunately, a lot of people who are currently in their 20s or 30s will be outlived by their debt. It’s time to make a change – improve your finances and start living the life you’ve wanted. If you have credit card debt, take the following steps to get rid of it as quickly as possible.
1. The first thing you should do is pay off your high interest rate card. Any extra cash that you have at the end of the month should go straight to paying off this card. In the meantime, continue paying the minimum balance on your other cards. Every time you fully pay off a card, you’ll have extra cash at the end of the month. Then, you can put that extra money toward the next card you want to pay off. The reason you want to start getting rid of the high interest cards is so that you stop racking up debt as you’re trying to get it down.
2. Don’t use your credit cards for the time being. The quickest way to eliminate credit card debt is to stop collecting it! Pay in cash whenever you make a purchase – you’ll start to be more aware of how much you’re spending and you’ll naturally begin to spend less. Research shows that people are willing to pay up to two times the price of an item when they use a credit card instead of cash. Until you’re debt-free, vow to only pay with cash.
3. Still can’t put enough toward your cards every month? It’s time to re-think your budget. Take a good look at everything you spend. Are there any areas where you can cut back to save money? Maybe you can dine out less, make your coffee in the morning instead of stopping at Starbucks or use coupons when you go grocery shopping. Ultimately, you want to reduce your spending so you can contribute more to paying off your debt.
4. Don’t hesitate to call each credit card company and request a lower interest rate. When you have a lower rate, you’ll also have lower monthly payments and associated fees. Every time you make a payment, you’ll be paying off more of the principal. If you have a good credit score or if you’ve been offered a lower rate by a competing creditor, mention that to the credit card company – it may make them more willing to reduce your interest rate so that they keep you as a customer.
5. Make two minimum payments each month instead of one big payment. Whenever you make a payment, your average daily balance goes down, which means you’ll get lower interest charges. You’ll pay off your debt quickly and improve your credit score at the same time.
6. If you have a high interest rate credit card and the company won’t lower the rate, consider transferring the balance to a card with 0% interest for the first few months. Many card companies offer this type of deal as a promotion for new customers. This will give you more time to pay off the balance while focusing only on the principal. At the same time, you can start paying off your other high interest rate cards. Just be aware that some balance transfers charge a 3% fee for the service. Make sure you’ll still be saving on the interest after paying this fee.
7. Consider consolidating your debt. Depending on the size of your debt, this may be the best option. You can do this by borrowing from a bank, a peer-to-peer lender or a private lender. You’ll then use the loan to pay off all your credit card debt. Then, you’ll focus on paying back just the one large loan, which means one manageable payment per month. Just make sure you can make that one large payment every month. Loans come with interest rates as well, and you don’t want to get into more debt than you started with.
8. Don’t stop paying off your debt! After you’ve paid off a card or two, or once you’ve consolidated your debt into a loan, it’s tempting to start pocketing any extra money you get every month. Continue paying off your debt, though, whether that means contributing more to your credit cards or paying extra toward your loan. The only thing that will truly put more money in your pocket is having less debt to worry about. Once you’re finished paying off one credit card, you’ll have even more money to contribute to the others. If you continue to spend your extra cash, you’ll never get that debt paid off completely.
9. Whatever you do, don’t close all of your credit cards! Once your cards are paid off, keep them open. Your credit score is partly based on how much credit you use. When you close a card, that’s less credit that can work in your favor. Keep your card open and aim to carry 30% balance on it. Make sure to pay a majority of the balance off each month. Use the card to pay for necessities and only the items that you have the actual cash for.
Before you do any of the above, get yourself organized so you can realistically see your budget and what you owe. Make a spreadsheet that includes detailed information about your cards and balances. Be sure to include the interest rate for each card, too. You’ll need a true idea of your total amount of debt so that you can come up with a strategy for paying it off. You can’t tackle a problem unless you’re clear on exactly what that problem is.
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