If you are like millions of other Americans, chances are that you are carrying around some debt on your credit cards. As of March 2010, U.S. revolving debt equaled $852.6 billion, 98% of which was from credit cards, and the average household carried $16,007 in credit card debt. That’s a lot of debt to have hanging over one’s head! With the economy the way it is, jobs being lost, and houses being foreclosed on, it’s a difficult time to try to get ahead and out of debt. But it’s vital that anyone who is in debt works to get out from underneath it, so I wanted to put together a list of things that could maybe help people get out of debt faster than if they were doing it without a plan. A long time ago I wrote a series called “The Start Digging Out Of Credit Card Debt Challenge” which you may want to check out in addition to what is to follow.
In order to get out of debt you need a plan. Just paying the minimum on your credit cards each month for years on end isn’t going to push you toward solvency very quickly and will just leave you frustrated and angst-ridden. So that’s a good place to start — put a plan in place.
- Jot down all your credit card debts
- Find out their respective interest rates
- Note the minimum payments for each
Now at least you know what you are battling — you can see how much you owe, who you owe it to, and just how much it is costing you in interest. Scary, right? That’s why you need to get out of debt! While there are several different schools of thought on how to go about attacking your debt, my personal belief is to try to pay off the card with the lowest balance first, as it may give you a mental boost to continue attacking the other cards once you see progress being made. Put as much money as possible toward this card with the lowest balance; make it hurt. Have a savings account? Take most of it and pay off debt. You don’t really have any savings if you have debt, it only feels that way. Leave a little for an emergency fund and use the rest to pay down debt. It’s vital that you shove money at this debt to start making a debt.
Once that first card is paid off, move on to the card with the next lowest balance. Continue sending as much cash to that card as you sent to the first one, but now you can also add in the minimum payments you were making while paying off the first card. I don’t really need to keep going with this theory as it just repeats itself, but that’s how I paid off debt and what I feel is the best way to do so as quickly as possible. While you are working this system, I want you to keep in mind a bunch of tips that kept me going until I was out from under my debt.
- Spend less than you make. Always. Even when not in debt. Sell your car and get something cheaper if you can’t afford it. Move. Cut back. Above all, spend less than you earn.
- Keep one credit card in your wallet for emergencies only. But make sure it’s not one you are currently paying off.
- Budget. I hate budgeting, but it’s a necessary evil in order to keep track of where your money is going.
- Don’t worry about other debt like mortgages, cars, or student loans. Concentrate on credit cards only.
- Be patient. This could take a while, but the important thing is to keep moving forward.
- Always pay all your bills on time. Not only can late payments ding your credit score, but they can also jack up interest rates even higher.
- Call your credit card company and ask for a lower interest rate. The worst they can do is say no.
- Keep going. You may cry, you may get pissed, you may think it’s hopeless. It’s not. Be determined to get that monkey off your back!
- Don’t try to keep up with your friends. They may be going to dinner or bars every night, but that doesn’t mean you have to. They will still like you and understand if they are true friends.
The single most important thing to remember when you want to get out of debt fast is that it’s never going to be “fast”, but it can be “faster” if you have a plan in place. You have to stay focused on your end goal, being free of credit card debt! It’s the best feeling ever, and once you are there you will never go back.
Do you have any tips for readers on getting out of debt? Something that worked for you? Please let us know in the comments!
(photo credit: SqueakyMarmot)