I know what it’s like to have debt. In fact, it was less than two years ago that I finally paid off the last of my debt. Most of my $14,000 debt was made up of consumer loans and credit cards, so I understand how much it stinks to see your debts being paid down so slowly.
It takes hard work, discipline and dedication to get out of debt. But once you get the momentum going, it’s a lot easier to kickstart your progress.
If you want to stay motivated during this process, here are some creative options to help pay off your credit card debt faster — many of which I used during my journey towards financial freedom.
Make a Plan for How You’ll Pay Off the Credit Cards
It always helps to start with a plan. And while it used to be a real hassle to create a debt free plan, it’s much easier now that we have tools like ReadyForZero. You can sign up for ReadyForZero (a free tool) and in just a few minutes you will be able to make a plan based upon how much you are able to pay each month toward all your debts.
When you make a plan, be realistic about how much you can pay. If you can only pay the minimum payments for now, that’s okay. But if you can pay a little bit extra, dedicate that amount to the debt with the highest interest. Try to focus on that high interest debt like a laser until you get it wiped out, and then you can move on to the next one.
Use Your Peers for Competition (or Support)
Some people are motivated by trying to outpace everyone else. Other people are motivated by encouragement and collaboration. No matter which one you are, your friends can help you stay motivated to get out of debt. If you like to measure your progress against others, it will be easier to talk about money with your friends and family if you make a competition out of it. How? Make a game out of how much you can save this week. Ask for a few overtime hours at work and compete with your friends on how much extra you can throw at your credit cards this month. Then whoever pays down their balance the most this month will win a cool reward, or at least bragging rights.
On the other hand, if you are more motivated by encouragement, then share your goal with your friends and family and ask them to keep checking in and offering their advice and words of wisdom. You can use their support to keep you on track.
Negotiate a Lower Interest Rate
If you want to see more of your hard-earned money going towards the principal balance and not interest payments, then listen up. Take a quick minute to call your credit card company and ask for a lower rate on your account.
This could potentially save you hundreds of dollars on interest payments and knock months off your debt-free date. Be sincere in your request and kindly ask to have them review your account for an interest decrease.
What’s the worst thing that could happen? The credit card issuers could decline your request and you’ll transition to another strategy — no harm done. So why not give it a try?
Consider a Balance Transfer
There are some good pros to using a promotional balance transfer to pay down your credit cards faster. For one, you’ll be able to save a ton of money on interest, while giving yourself more time to make the monthly payments.
Second, you can avoid any potential late payments and other fees that credit card companies can charge consumers with high balances. If you have decent credit a balance transfer can be a really good option as you could get approved for a 0% rate. Of course with the pros comes a few cons, so it’s important to know if choosing a balance transfer is right for your situation.
Stop Using Your Credit Cards
One of the best ways to watch your credit card balance plummet is to stop using them. Yep, it’s that simple!
It’s surprising how quickly your balance will decrease when you stop charging purchases to them every month. Even if it’s just $20-$50 that small amount can keep you in debt much longer than you realize.
Once you stop using credit cards, you’ll be able to truly see how much money you can afford every month. And since your balance will stop increasing you’ll be saving loads of money on interest payments too.
Make a pledge to stop using your credit cards for one month, and instead use cash or debit cards. It might be hard at first, but then it will become a lot easier to stick to a budget and live within your means.
Pay More Than the Minimum Payment
As mentioned above, this can be the key to your faster progress, which is why it bears repeating. And since now you’ve stopped using your credit cards, you should have more money in your budget to increase your monthly payment.
It’s nearly impossible to pay down a mountain of credit card debt if you don’t pay more than the minimum amount due. In fact, due to the high interest rate and outrageous late fees, the credit card game is all about keeping you in debt for a long time.
Don’t let your finances be ruled by creditors and financial institutions. Start paying more than the minimum payment on your accounts and watch your balances decrease rapidly.
Increase Your Cash Flow
In order to really pump up the volume and pay down your credit cards faster, you’ve got to increase your income. There’s only so much you can do by cutting back your expenses before you need to make more money.
Not sure where to start? Try starting a weekend business or turning your craft hobby into a side gig with Etsy. Look around the house and see what you can sell this weekend by hosting a yard sale, or sell your really nice things at a consignment shop.
Also, check with your CPA and see if you can adjust your tax withholding so you have less money taken out of your paycheck. You could even make money with simple $5 gigs on a site like Fiverr and start increasing your cash flow today!
Whatever extra money-making ideas you choose, make them a fun and exciting experience. It’s tough to pay down credit card debt with seemingly no immediate return, but if you stick with it you’ll soon be rewarded with debt freedom!
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