According to Creditcards.com, about 40 percent of Americans carry credit card debt from month to month without paying it off. The website also says the average interest rate on those credit cards is more than 13 percent. So it’s easy to see why cardholders often struggle to pay down their credit card balances.
Here are 7 Life Hacks to get out of credit card debt:
1. Stop using your credit cards until you pay them off.
Interest rates of 15, 20, or even 25 percent or more can cause credit card balances to grow rapidly. People often find themselves on a debt treadmill, struggling to make the minimum payments and watching their principal balances grow. Stop chasing your debt balances. Use cash or a debit card until your credit cards are paid off. That way, you can focus on paying down your balances. And you won’t be tempted to spend more than you can afford to pay.
2. Track your expenses to ensure that you spend less than you earn.
It’s a basic concept, but some consumers don’t know exactly how they spend their money each month. They may have good intentions, but they often seem to be short on money. Step one is to track each and every dime you spend. Keep your receipts. Log payments in a notebook. After you understand where your money is being spent, then you can look for ways to cut costs.
3. Cut out discretionary expenses until you get out of debt.
You may need to make some sacrifices for a few months, as you direct as much money as possible toward your credit card balances. Cut back on eating out. Avoid going to concerts or the movie theater. Take a vacation close to home, or even consider a staycation. You’ll need to endure some short-term pain for long-term gain. If you have cable or satellite TV, you may be surprised how much you can save if you call and try to negotiate a better rate.
4. Look for ways to earn extra income.
Have you considered getting a part-time job? You may be able to find part-time weekend or evening work if you think you can juggle two jobs. Or you can consider non-traditional activities such as becoming a mystery shopper. Seriously, opportunities like this do exist. Market research companies pay consumers to perform shopping assignments and report back on their experiences. Reputable market research companies will never ask you to pay any money up front to participate. For more information, check out the Mystery Shopping Providers Association website.
5. Call your creditors. Talk to your creditors to see if they will offer you any concessions. Tell them you are trying to pay off all of your credit card debt and need some assistance. They may be willing to lower your interest rate. Or put you on a short-term repayment plan. You won’t know until you ask.
6. Talk to a credit counselor. A reputable, non-profit consumer credit counseling organization will work with you free of charge to develop a budget, explore options for getting out of debt, and provide you with a customized action plan. You may be a candidate for a debt management plan, for which creditors often lower interest rates, stop collection activity, waive late fees and waive over limit fees. Check out GreenPath or another member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Your counseling session is free, so you have nothing to lose.
7. Develop a plan, set goals and reward yourself. Set realistic dates for when you would like to pay off a bill. Post your goals where you can see them each day, and work to meet those dates. When you pay off a credit card or other bill, be sure to celebrate your success. Treat yourself to some type of small reward, like a decadent dessert, dinner out or a night at the movies.
After you are able to get out of credit card debt, make sure you STAY out of credit card debt and remember you are not alone on the journey to Financial Wellness. Implementing these best practices on an ongoing basis will help ensure that you enjoy a positive financial future.