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Carrying credit card debt for the rest of your life isn’t the answer. Even if you’re hopeless, you can still cut your debt.
How do I know?
Because I’ve been there, I had over $6000 of credit card debt at one point and felt it was normal. Then, one day I became fed up and did everything possible to cut my debt.
Here are a few tactics to help you get out of credit card debt.
1. Eliminate Credit Card Debt Using Your Support Group
Paying off credit card debt is a lonely journey.
Many go about it alone, feeling like they’re the only ones who’ve made financial mistakes. But this is the time when you need to seek help the most.
Odds are, you carry a credit card balance that’ll take at least a few months to pay off. You’ll benefit from having someone hold you accountable and motivate you during these months.
Seek help from a friend or family member, or get professional help depending on your scenario.
Don’t make the mistake of paying your credit card debt alone. You’ll be more likely to quit and continue being in debt.
2. Thoroughly Analyze Your Expense To Track Everything You Owe
It sounds simple, but this is an area most people miss.
When I carried thousands of dollars of debt, I didn’t know my total balance. Because I had many credit cards, it was easy to look at my largest balance and assume that was all I carried. Knowing what you owe is one of the most important steps you’ll take toward paying off your debt.
When you know your total balance, there’s no denying what you owe. If you owe a large balance, this will finally be your wake-up call to progress toward debt free. The best way to know your total debt balance is by inputting all your accounts in Personal Captial.
Otherwise, log in or call each of your credit card providers to get your total balances. Then write all your balances and your credit card’s interest rate.
3. Persuade Your Credit Card Companies
Did you know that you can negotiate your credit card interest rate?
Most credit cards have an interest rate ranging from 15%–25%– lowering this rate can make all the difference. When I carried thousands of dollars of credit card debt I was making $50-$70 monthly interest payments!
Search for the number on the back of your card and call your credit card company. Start with your oldest credit card since you’ll have the most leverage. You don’t need to be a pro negotiator, but it helps to use techniques that have worked for others.
The worst that can happen is that the customer rep will tell you “no.” Unless you have a bad payment history, it’s worth hanging up and immediately calling them back. Repeat this process until you have the best interest rate for all your credit cards.
4. Create A Fail-Proof Strategy
Now that you know your balance, it’s time to set up a payment strategy.
This doesn’t have to be fancy, only enough to help you pay off your debt. For example, if you carry $5,000 in credit card debt, you can set a plan to pay this entire balance off in 18 months. The next step would be to break down the monthly payments you’d need to make.
From the example above, you’d need to make a $278 payment each month to pay off your entire credit card balance. Be realistic with your goal. If you set a due date too soon, you’ll not only miss your goal but also lose motivation.
5. Combine All Your Balances To Save Money
By this point, you have already negotiated your credit card’s interest rate or intend to.
But, this is money wasted that you could’ve applied towards paying off debt. To save even more, you can roll over your entire credit card balance into a new credit card.
Apply for a credit card promotion that offers a 0% introductory offer. If you have good credit (700+), you’ll have good odds of getting approved for this offer with a high credit limit. After getting approved, you can transfer your balances to your new credit card.
The problem with bad credit is not getting approved for a 0% introductory credit card or a low credit limit. Use tools like Credit Karma to know where your credit stands and decide your choice.
Consolidating your debt into one credit card has perks, like making payments to one card or saving money on interest.
6. Stop Buying Things You Can’t Afford
You may have heard not to use more than 30% of your credit card limit.
Although this is “ok” advice, it’s best not to buy anything you can’t pay in full. After paying off my entire credit card balance, I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. Without wanting to carry a balance, I ended up owing an extra $200-$300 each month for my credit card.
There are many psychological factors that credit card companies are using against you. Many entice you with accruing points, so you have another reason to swipe. But it’s best not to use your credit card to buy things you can’t afford.
Open a separate savings account and save up money to make big purchases. You’ll avoid credit card payments and paying interest.
7. Be Super Organized With Your Money
Making credit card payments isn’t fun.
Most of us wouldn’t carry credit card balances if we were more organized. Being organized means tracking your expenses and having a budget to save money consistently while eliminating debt. Take it further by setting a weekly reminder to review your budget.
This is how you’ll be able to catch errors before they turn into thousands of dollars in debt. Use tools like Personal Capital or a simple spreadsheet to keep track of your budget. Whatever helps you stay organized consistently is the right choice.
8. Stop Fueling Your Credit Card Addiction
As mentioned, credit card companies use many psychological factors to get you to spend more.
Despite having discipline, using credit cards puts you at risk of over-using them. For the past few years, I vowed only to use my credit card for points, but I’d realized that I couldn’t avoid overspending. Companies like Paypal and Amazon make buying seamless, and racking up debt is easier than ever.
If you’ve never carried a large credit card balance, using your credit card for points may be a viable option for you. For most people, leaving their credit cards at home and removing them from all their online wallets (Paypal, Amazon, etc.) is the best option.
Don’t risk going back into debt after you’ve worked hard to get out.
9. The Best Way To Pay Off Credit Card Debt
There are dozens of ways to go about paying your credit card debt.
So, how do you know which option is best for you?
Choosing a strategy that’ll help you make consistent progress. When paying off my credit card debt, I didn’t search online for any strategies. I’d set a payoff date and broke my credit card balance into monthly goals.
Don’t get fixed on the “how,” focus on your “why.” For example, will you feel happier without having to make monthly payments? If you dig deep, you’ll find a reason big enough to help you figure out how to achieve your goal.
Be Happier And Make Fewer Debt Payments Each Month
I felt miserable when I carried thousands of dollars of credit card debt. Although I managed to become debt free, it was a long and painful process.
I didn’t let my friends or family know what I was going through. I didn’t take enough time to plan. I was hard on myself.
This doesn’t have to be your reality. You can pay off your credit card debt and feel happy. Use these steps as your checklist before you make your next credit card payment.
Taking time to plan and having emotional support will make all the difference. You’ve got one life to live, don’t let debt steal any more of your happiness.
This article originally appeared on Financially Well Off.