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Have you looked at your credit card balances and asked yourself …where did all this debt come from? We pull out our cards so easily to pay for dinner, clothes, gas, Uber, etc, without realizing how balances get out of hand. You can make plans to pay off debt, but unless you stick to them they will not work! Use my tips to help you pay off your credit card debt and ultimately keep it off.
List Your debt
This first step is definitely a crucial one. When you are in debt it can be hard to face, but in order to tackle it, you must understand it. Make a list of all your cards/loans with their Interest Rates, Credit Limit, Current Balance, Min. Payments, Monthly Interest Charges, etc. By seeing all of this information compiled, it will help you begin to set a plan to pay off our debt.
- Pay close attention to your interest rates, they may actually be higher now than when you opened your account. This is especially true if you had an introductory interest offer that has expired.
- Examine the percentage of your credit limit used or Credit Utilization, as keeping high balances on your cards will affect your credit score.
Make a Plan
Now it is time to decide how to start paying off your debt. Two common approaches are:
- Debt Avalanche Method – Paying Highest Interest Rate Card First
- This strategy is popular because it makes the most sense from a purely mathematical perspective. You can save a lot of money in interest charges by getting rid of that highest interest first. Depending on how long your get-out-of-debt timeline is, you might even save thousands of dollars of interest with this plan.
- Snowball Method – Paying Lowest Balance First
- This approach will help you stay committed to your goal. Psychologically, people are more likely to stick with something when they feel tangible signs of progress; by paying off the lowest balance first you can give yourself a sense of momentum which will might help carry you all the way to being debt free.
Utilize Balance Transfer Offers
I know those credit card offers filling up your mailbox can be annoying, but they also can be the key to getting out of debt. Balance transfers allow you to move and/or consolidate your credit card debt to a card with a lower interest rate. The interest is usually very low and can even be 0%.
The credit card companies make money from the transfer fees which are typically 0% – 5% of the total balance transferred. A transfer could save you a lot if interest fees especially if the duration of the offer is over 12 months.
- Pay close attention when the offer expires – Update your Debt List to include the current interest rate, expiry date, and what the standard rate will be
- Be diligent and try to pay off the balance during the introductory period. If that is not financially possible, you could utilize another balance transfer offer. Remember that credit card companies make the most profit from these offers when people continue to carry a high balance after the introductory rate.
Pay More than the Minimum Balance
Ever wonder why it takes so long to pay off your credit card when you are paying minimum balance every month on time. Well, that is because the minimum payment was designed to maximize the profits of the credit card companies. If you have a plan for paying off your debt, whether it is the highest balance, highest interest, or lowest balance first, the key is to put as much as you can afford to the card that you are paying off to pay down the debt quickly.
Stop Credit Card Spending
The final step to help you to get out of debt may seem like the easiest one of all. By switching to cash, you will ensure that your debt will not increase and it will help you stick to a budget. It will also reduce the urge of impulse buys. Give yourself an allowance each week for lunch, coffee shops, and other small purchases. Start saving for big purchases and only allow yourself to buy when you have the money. This will be a healthy start to your financial freedom.
A plan is only as good as your motivation and determination to stick to it. For more great tips for on managing your money, check my post about Mint.com