Millions of American’s struggle with credit card debt. No doubt they all dream of debt free living. In this article, 15 of the top tips to pay off credit card debt will be discussed. To achieve your goals, you will need to make changes in how you live and how you manage your debt. It may turn out that you need to get outside help to get debt relief. By finding the right combination of these strategies, you can begin your journey towards financial freedom and complete debt relief.
Before starting any plan to pay off credit card debt, be sure you are fully committed to seeing it through. Some of these strategies are helpful only if you stick with them for a long time, years even. Debt free living takes a major shift in thinking and prioritizing and you should make sure you are ready to devote yourself to it.
1. Make a budget and stick to it
No matter what other strategies you use to pay off credit card debt, this one is important. Knowing how much you have coming in and where it is going is crucial to financial health. People often get into trouble with their use of a credit card when they find they have things they need or want after they have spent their paycheck.
The most successful way to make your budget is to track your expenses for a minimum of two weeks. Tracking for an entire month is even better. This way you know exactly where your money is going and can see where cuts can be made. Do not let expenses take you by surprise – have a clear budget and stick to it.
2. Put your credit cards away
This may be a hard one, but you should stop carrying your credit cards. For debt relief do whatever it takes to eliminate any temptation to use them. If your phone or computer has your payment information saved, delete it. The worst thing you can do while trying to get out of credit card debt is go out and acquire more.
Obviously, life happens and you may find yourself in an emergency situation and need to use your credit cards. That is why you shouldn’t cut them up, but rather put them away somewhere and stop carrying them on you. On their journey to debt free living some people choose to put them in water and freeze them so that they have the time it takes for it to thaw to really think about their purchase.
3. Cut down on extravagances
Examine your spending habits closely and look for anywhere that cuts can be made. Any money you can save can be applied to pay off credit card debt and attain debt relief. If you always buy coffee on your way to work, consider making it at home and taking it with you. Similarly, if you go out to eat lunch daily, think about bringing food from home to eat. These small changes can really add up. On a larger scale, you can think about downsizing your vehicle to something more fuel efficient or maybe getting a bus pass. You may also consider canceling subscriptions to things that you do not really need. Any money going towards entertainment can probably be applied towards credit card debt instead.
4. Look into ways to earn extra income
If your job offers overtime, grab it as much as possible. Just an extra couple of days per month can add up to thousands of dollars over the course of a year. There are also many side jobs you can do from the comfort of your own home in your free-time. Some people make good money by filling out internet surveys while watching TV at night. Another way to increase your income would be to sell things you no longer need.
5. Use your tax return to pay off credit card debt
For many people struggling with debt, a large tax return represents their one chance a year to splurge. If you can resist that urge and apply most, if not all, of it towards your debt, you should do so. A large lump payment can save you hundreds of dollars in interest down the road and lead to a quicker feeling of debt relief and debt free living. Plus, it helps you mentally feel like you are getting closer to your goal. By being responsible now, you will be in a better position to responsibly splurge in the future.
6. Make as large payments as possible
You may already be doing this, but if not, you should start. It may be tempting to keep money on hand for eating out or seeing a movie, but while trying to pay off credit card debt you should really be putting as much money towards payments each month as possible. Again, a little discipline now can greatly increase how much entertainment money you have down the road.
7. Split your payments into two, or even four if possible
Since interest is often calculated on a daily average, making two payments of $100 each can save you a bit of interest over paying $200 once. If you can make a weekly payment, you should. For those who are paid bi-weekly, this is not as feasible. People who are paid weekly or who have side income coming in can consider making four payments per month.
Related: Money Management Tips – How to Budget Like A Pro
8. Pay off the card that has the highest interest
Pay off the card that has the highest amount of interest first. This is known as the logical method This will save you the most money in interest. Move onto the next highest interest card. Apply more money to your second card payments. In theory, you will have more money to use on credit card bills. Continue until you have paid all of your credit cards and entered into debt relief bliss.
9. Or, pay off the lowest debt amount first
The other option you have for paying off your debt and debt free living is to go with the lowest balance first. This is known as the snowball method. Pay off the lowest balance. Do this first so that you have one less bill to worry about. Move onto the second lowest balance. Make large payments on it until it has been paid off. Enjoy the psychological boost! By seeing your progress, you will be motivated to keep going.
10. Transfer your balances to 0% interest credit cards
If you transfer as much debt as possible to credit cards with no interest on balance transfers, you could save a ton of money. Look for cards that offer at least six months with no interest. If you can find one that offers a whole year, that’s even better.
Take out a Loan
11. Use a debt consolidation service
For many people, a debt consolidation loan can be a lifesaver in helping to pay off credit card debt. Here are some things to consider before going with this option.
With a debt consolidation you will owe the same amount
The advantage of debt consolidation is that you are making one monthly payment instead of juggling several.
Look for a low interest rate
If the interest rate on your loan isn’t lower than your credit cards, you could actually end up paying more. This will also eliminate harassing phone calls because you will have paid your credit cards in full through a debt consolidation company, and as a result the debt collection calls should stop completely.
Pay attention to the monthly payments
These loans can be either secured or unsecured, but in either case it is important to make sure you can handle the monthly payment. Otherwise, you can end up in a worse position than you started.
Make the lifestyle changes needed for debt relief
The biggest reason debt consolidation fails for people is that they don’t make the necessary changes to their spending to make sure they can make their loan payments.
12. Take out a secured personal loan
If you need a loan to get out of debt, you may want to consider a secured personal loan. Here are some of the pros and cons of doing this as your goal is to find lenders who can be more generous.
Loan is backed up
Since the loan is backed up, lenders often will give secured loans to people they wouldn’t consider for a traditional loan.
Enjoy the lower interest rate
A secured loan will almost always have a lower interest rate than an unsecured one.
Choose what to secure your loan with
This must be an item of considerable value. Many people end up using their car or home. It is essential that you do not fall behind on a secured loan because you will have signed some legal document giving the bank (or other lender) the right to seize your property.
Make it your number one priority
You should not open new credit cards or use your old ones until you have repaid your loan in full.
13. Use your savings
For people who regularly contribute to a savings account, they can in essence “loan” themselves some money. Here is why this option may work for you.
Use your savings to prevent interest charges.
The amount of money you save on the interest will be far more significant than any interest your money is earning sitting in your savings account.
Pay yourself back
Try to treat this like any other loan and repay it as soon as you are able.
Consider refinancing your mortgage
If you are a homeowner with a decent amount of equity in your home, you can refinance and end up with the money to cover your credit card bills. You should only do this once and do so carefully. You do not want to end up ready to retire with a lot of debt and no savings.
Get Outside Help
14. Get advice from a credit counselling agent
In some cases, people cannot get out of debt on their own. This is where credit counseling agencies can come into play. This list is a summary of things to think about when considering going with a credit counseling agency.
These agencies are experts and they’ll help you budget
They will go over your monthly income and expenses and can negotiate with your creditors. It is possible that they can get fees waived or even work out a lower interest rate.
They can consolidate your bills
This is another way to end up with one lower monthly payment.
Keep utilizing their services. Once you are out of debt, checking in with the agency can help make sure you do not end up in over your head again.
15. Hire a debt settlement company
You can consider employing a debt settlement company. This is the riskiest option on the list, but in some circumstances, it may be the right way to go. Here are some important things to realize about debt settlements.
They negotiate for you
Essentially, a debt settlement company works with your creditors to get a lower total of debt owed. This is then paid in a lump sum. Most of these programs work by having you deposit a certain amount of money every month into an escrow account. This usually goes on for a period of three years, and then the lump payment is made.
Be aware of the potential risks
These companies work for profit, so they become an additional expense. They will also advise you to stop making credit card payments while working on your lump sum. If you are trying to salvage your credit score, this can be devastating. You are also potentially opening yourself up to lawsuits and wage garnishment.
Stick with a reputable company
Unfortunately, people have been scammed by people claiming to work for debt settlement companies in the past.
These tips can be applied to debts other than your credit cards. Use these strategies to pay off auto loans, medical debts, and even your mortgage. In all likelihood, you will not be able to live debt free by using just one of the above tips. You may find you need to use all of the lifestyle change strategies in combination with a loan or some outside help.
Monitor your credit now and move forward. Find some free sites and phone apps that will give you your credit score. The scores themselves may not always be the most accurate, but they are good for showing you how much you owe on each account. By doing this, you can dispute any errors and save yourself from having to pay money you do not actually owe. These sites can often give recommendations for balance transfer cards that you are likely to be approved for. The same is true of debt consolidation loans.