While many people are waking up to the cyclical, quick-sand type nature of out-of-control credit card spending, a huge percentage of Americans are still drowning in debt.
Recent statistics suggest that the average household owes $7,149, but when you take out those who owe nothing, the actual figure rises to $15,325. Add to that high interest rates — the very reason why credit cards are considered to be one of the worst types of consumer debt – and the total payoff amount for a typical family could be significantly higher.
So what do you do if you are faced with a pile of credit card debt and no exit strategy? You’ve come to the right place. Read below to understand exactly how to pay off that persistent credit card debt as quickly as possible.
Get to the Root of the Problem
When it comes to credit card debt, it’s not just a matter of getting out of the red, it’s determining how and why you got there in the first place.
Many people who fall victim to the “plastic menace” reside in one of two camps: either they don’t have an emergency fund to fall back on when income decreases or unexpected expenses arise, or they routinely spend more than what they are bringing in.
But no matter the outward culprit, the problem still looks the same at its core. And, for the sake of simplification, both can be handled with one solution: budgeting.
Budgeting is the tool that helps you address the underlying actions or behaviors that need to be changed before there can be any assurance that the problem won’t arise again overtime.
Get a Clear Snapshot of the Situation
Oftentimes, those with the largest mountain of debt to tackle aren’t even fully aware of their debt obligation. It can be frightening to say the least.
But no plan of attack can be made without a clear picture of what the enemy looks like.
What you need is an up-to-date list of your credit cards, the amount owed, along with the interest rates and fees of each card. We recommend using ReadyForZero to get your debt organized all in one place and to create your personalized plan for how you’ll begin paying it off.
While the total balances on each account certainly matter, it’s the interest rates that will tell you what cards will cost you over the long run – so order your list from highest interest rates to lowest.
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Create a Plan of Attack
First things first: how much can you commit to debt repayment monthly and how will you budget for it?
Look at your previous 3-6 months worth of spending. Where did your money go? What was a necessity and what could be trimmed down or cut out entirely? Allocate the largest amount possible, without creating a pinch so painful that you might be tempted to return to your old ways.
While there are different schools of thought when it comes to debt repayment, if your goal is to save the most money in the long run, your best bet is to put the most amount of money towards paying down the card with the highest interest rate first, while continuing to pay at least the minimum amount due on the remaining cards every month.
Once that first card is paid off, target the card with the second-highest interest rate, and so on. As you continue to pay off cards, you’ll have more and more money to throw at the remaining debt.
The Pros and Cons of Transferring Balances
In some cases, transferring balances to a new card with a lower interest rate will lower the total amount you pay over the long run.
But there are pros and cons. Here are a few to keep in mind:
- A new card may offer a low interest rate on balance transfers.
- It can be easier to manage the debt repayment process if there are fewer balances to think about.
- Transfer interest rates have an expiration date and, if ignored, could lead to more money owed in the long run.
- Cards will charge a transfer fee right off the bat (usually 3-5%)
- You must have good credit to qualify.
- If swiping plastic is your weakness, it’s probably not a great idea to acquire a brand new card.
Maintain Your Momentum
An important facet to paying off any kind of debt is creating a lifestyle and habits that are sustainable over the long haul.
It’s a lot like trying to get fit – if you commit to a new exercise regimen that requires you to run 20 miles every day, chances are you’ll fall off the wagon sooner than later.
Instead, think big picture. Create a holistic budget that helps you reach your debt repayment goals while still taking care of every other facet of your life and well-being. Cut the unnecessary spending, but leave room for a little bit of flexibility.
Once you see each credit card balance rolled back to zero, chances are you’ll have a hard time returning to the hole you were in before.
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