The biggest debt a consumer faces is the credit card. Reducing or eliminating this debt takes commitment and a plan. The following ten steps can ease that debt-load and bring the consumer out of the red and into the black.
1. Practice Frugality
Credit card debt will not be reduced if you continue to use them. Your very first step is to stop charging. Make a commitment to use your credit card for emergency purposes only. Pay your monthly expenses out of your recurring revenue (income). Practice frugality. Buy only what you need. Eliminate impulse shopping. Stay away from sales.
2. Analyze Your Debt
The next step in this process is to review your credit cards. Pull out your most recent statements. Write down each creditor and record the interest rate, the minimum monthly payment and the outstanding balance.
3. Prioritize Your Debt
The cards with the highest interest rate should be at the top of your payoff list. Let’s say you have seven credit cards with outstanding balances ranging from $10,000 to $2,000. You may be inclined to repay the card with the highest balance first or you might want to eke away at the card with the lowest monthly payment. But these may not be the best routes out of debt.
4. Understand Accrued Interest
Let’s compare two credit cards. One has an interest rate of six percent and a balance of $5,000. Its minimum monthly payment is $35. The second credit card has an interest rate of 22 percent and a balance of $3,000. This credit card company may not require a minimum monthly payment. Many consumers breathe a sigh of relief and skip payments or send $10-25 a month.
Do not be taken in by this – it is not a gift. The credit card with the higher interest rate will continue to accrue interest over the length of the repayment. If you skip payments or send a few dollars a month, your debt will never decrease. In fact, it will grow.
5. Pay Smart
To get out of credit card debt, always make a maximum payment on the credit card with the highest interest rate. Even when no payment is required, pay the maximum. Pay the minimum amount due on all other cards. Your goal is to pay off the interest-heavy card first. By doing this, you will literally save thousands of dollars in interest over the length of the credit card debt.
6. Make a One Time Boost
In conjunction with this plan to repay the highest interest loan, make a one-time payment from your savings. If you can afford a couple of hundred dollars, then send it, along with your regular monthly payment. This injection of extra funds will reduce the balance. Reducing the balance will reduce the amount of accrued interest.
7. Reduce Monthly Expenses
Go through your monthly expenses and find areas where you can cut back. Are you spending $300 a month on clothing? Buy at consignment shops and save half that amount. Keep a daily journal of the money needlessly going out of your pocket. Stop visiting the vending machines at work or dining out. Pack a lunch instead. Remember, you must make a firm commitment or your debt reduction plan will not work. Each reduced expense gives you cash toward repaying the credit card.
8. Repeat the Process
Once that interest hog of a credit card is repaid, repeat the process with the next in line. Commit to a one-time extra payment from savings, pay the maximum amount you can afford monthly, reduce unnecessary spending.
9. Maintain Required Monthly Expenses
During your debt reduction plan, do not neglect payment on your monthly necessities like housing and utilities.
10. Use a Personal Finance Software Application
Quicken offers a low cost, personal finance application that can help tremendously in managing your expenses. Invest in this program or a similar one.
Getting out of debt is possible. Make a commitment. Design a plan using the ten steps outlined. And then feel the relief when you meet your debt reduction goals!