So credit cards are definitely a double edged sword. At times they can be your best friend and simultaneously be your worst enemy. Credit cards often advertise all their rewards and interest free months but rarely their interest rates. The best tool in your arsenal is always knowledge, which really is power. I know, especially with debt, of any kind, it can feel overwhelming and debilitating. That makes a lot of people bury their heads in the sand and ignore the issue. That, unfortunately will only make things worse. Fear only cripples you, while taking steps empowers you. So here are some tips to getting you get your legs under you if you have credit card debt.
5 Tips To Help Tackle Credit Card Debt
Tip 1: Have patience.
Depending on the amount of credit card debt you have, verses your income and other bills, if you’re under water, it is going to take you some time to get to back to the surface. That can seem daunting so don’t start out focusing on 0, progress will come with each payment. And by progress I mean lessening your overall debt and improving your credit score. Once you have more actual breathing room your options will open further, such as refinancing and consolidation (explained further below).
Tip 2: Go through your statements for the last few months, average out how much you have been spending, and spend less!
In order to make a real dent in any debt, you will want to make substantial payments. This means making more than the required minimum payment. (FYI: If you happen to have a Chase credit card, on your statement it will tell you how long it will take you to pay off your balances if you are making minimal payments). So go through your expenses and see how much you are spending monthly. If you’re a millennial like me, your food budget is probably a good place to start, I have the “there is food at home” conversation with myself all the time.
Once you find your areas of excess, make your cuts and decide to devote that extra money to your credit cards. You may have to get rid of some small luxuries, like cancelling your gym membership (you probably aren’t using it anyway). Do you need Netflix and Hulu? Can you skip this event? Maybe you can do your own nails or extend your bi weekly visit to once a month. Be honest with what are needs and what are wants, then prioritize your financial future and not instant gratification.
Tip 3 Pay smart:
Figure out the interest rates of all your cards with balances. Which ever has the highest interest rate, that’s the first card you want to tackle. That way you will stop paying the company the most for giving you this loan, I.e. the interest. Focusing on one card at a time will also help the process seem less hopeless if you have many cards in need of tackling. Also, figure out if the cards with lower interest rates offer balance transfers. If so move some of your balances around so you are paying less interest overall.
Tip 4: Consider a financial advisor
You don’t have to go at it alone. A lot of financial advisors will give you many free consultations and advice. They want to help you get on your feet so you can make more money (that they can later help you invest). They can provide you options like consolidation and refinancing. Consolidation can solve two of your potential problems, you’ll be making less payments (i.e. 5 credit card payments a month transform into one), and pay less interest, so less money out of your pocket over time. Keep in mind refinancing and consolidation may be something you have to work up to. Depending on your credit score and usage you may not be able to qualify (right away) for a new loan or interest free card that can make a substantial difference, it’s all about slow and steady progress.
Tip 5: Be diligent and forgiving.
This is going to take time and honesty with yourself. What are things you need, and what are things you can do without. Make this list and stick to it. And that doesn’t mean you can’t go to happy hour, it just means you may have to go once in a while instead of every week. Forgive yourself and focus on your overall progress. Also when you start making dents, don’t relax! The goal is financial freedom and if you want it you’ll get there!
** I am not a financial advisor and this is neither financial advise. Just tips from me to you