How to Pay Off Your Credit Card Debt and Keep it That Way
April 26, 2019 | Louis Tully
Almost half of all Americans carry debt from at least one credit card. The average amount of debt for those cardholders is around $10,000. But why is this? The thing about credit cards is that they’re too easy to use. As a result, people who opt to carry even just one credit card with them are charging too much and paying back too little. It’s not uncommon for someone to charge up to $400 a month and then only pay back a minimum monthly payment of $25.
So why do so many people fall for the never-ending cycle of credit debt? Because credit card companies have a sneaky way of getting people hooked, that’s why. They use enticing ‘bait’ like, “zero percent APR for the first 18 months” to get consumers to bite. But by the time the introductory promotion’s over and the interest kicks in, it’s too late. Most consumers will have already charged a massive balance that would seem impossible to pay back.
If you’re one of the many millions struggling to get back to ‘debt-free land’, take heart. Paying off your credit cards, much like paying off installment loans, is not an impossible task. Through sacrifice, patience, dedication, and even some thoughtful planning will all play a role in getting there, don’t stress. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Start your journey to being debt-free today by following these simple steps:
Destroy the cards
The first part may actually be the hardest, but it’s necessary if you truly want to be free from credit card debt. DESTROY ALL CARDS! Break out the scissors and (safely) cut each card to pieces and sweep those plastic shards right into the trash. Credit cards are provenly addictive and should, therefore, be treated akin to quitting a drug. Temptation’s easier to deal with when you remove the tempter.
You may also want to close your credit card accounts while you’re at it. Sure, this may put a ding in your credit score, but once you start paying down your debt, your score will shoot right back up again. By taking your credit cards out of the picture, the only direction your debt can go is down.
Paying off a credit card can seem overwhelming at first. Especially if you have multiple cards to pay off. It doesn’t pay to try to tackle too much too soon. Instead, assess the situation. Take a good look at your credit cards, their balances, and their attached interest rates. Then, figure out which card will be the easiest for you to pay off first. Once you’ve chosen your credit card, make it your priority. You could pay the minimum payment on all other cards but be sure to hit your priority card the hardest. Aim for double, or even triple the minimum payment if you can swing it.
This payoff strategy is commonly referred to as the ‘snowball method’ and uses a little phycological trick to keep consumers motivated to pay off their debt, by adopting a ‘baby-steps’ mentality. A few quick wins, in the beginning, lead to a much larger victory in the end.
Enroll in a debt management program
Nonprofit credit counseling agencies specialize in helping consumers get their debts under control as well as offering sound financial advice to prevent similar situations from happening again. They can consolidate your debt, negotiate lower rates with your creditors, and even set up a fixed payment plan that works with your current financial situation. With the help of credit counseling, most consumers have been able to eliminate over $10,000 worth of debt in as little as 24-48 months. If you can’t keep up with the payments, consider enrolling yourself in a debt management program today. Once enrolled, all the heavy lifting is done for you. All you’ll need to do from there is budget around your new payment plan, and then watch your debt shrink down to nothing!
Maximize your income
Another good way to keep on top of your credit card debt is to maximize your income. Giving yourself more room to make bigger payments will not only help you pay off your credit cards faster but can also help keep you busy enough to avoid spending money out of temptation or boredom.
There are plenty of ways to increase your income:
- Find a side hustle: Many people pursue a side hustle these days. It’s a great way to stay busy, exercise your skills, and make some extra money in the process. The perfect side hustle is one that you enjoy doing. Whatever your hobby may be (photography, writing, gaming, playing an instrument, drawing, etc.), use it to your advantage.
- Sell your stuff: Chances are, you’ve got a whole room full of inventory that could easily be turned into cash with a few clicks and a trip to the post office. Whatever you’ve got; be it books, records, old furniture, collectible toys, that guitar you strummed one time and never again. Use it to better your financial situation. If it’s collecting dust and cluttering up your space, sell it!
- Create an online shop: Use Etsy! Etsy is a widely popular online marketplace, which allows you to cash in on your talents by selling your creations online using their simplified platform. It’s a way for you to make money by doing something you love. Here are some other ways you could make a supplementary income online.
- Pick up some odd jobs: Odd jobs are always a great way to make extra cash on the fly. There are no limits to what you could do. Everything from babysitting and dog walking to playing DJ at a party or even cutting your neighbor’s grass is not outside the realm of odd jobs. Ask your friends or relatives if they need anything done and don’t hesitate to offer your services. You may be surprised at how much work you can find.
- Find a part-time job: If nothing else, you could always opt for a second job. Juggling two jobs in order to make a decent living is not uncommon these days. It might keep you busier than you want to be, but you don’t have to do it forever. Just long enough to pay off your credit cards. Plus, who knows? You may find some better work opportunities in the process.
Avoid getting reeled in again
Once you’re out of debt, it’s important to stay out. Keep in mind, you will get tempting offers in the mail and you will consider the pros and cons of having ‘just one’ credit card now that you’re debt free. If you’re thinking that having a credit card will save you from a future financial emergency, think again. The best way to equip yourself from sudden cash emergencies is to have a savings built up. Now that you’re out of debt, you can use the money you were once using to pay down your debt to start building up your savings. Use this experience to motivate yourself to make better financial decisions. Every good choice you make will push closer to financial wellness.