It can be surprisingly easy to accrue credit card debt. You get that envelope in the mail, or you see that amazing deal online—or you sign up for a card in order to make a big purchase. Soon, you’re pulling out your new card at every opportunity. Soon enough, you’re unable to pay your monthly bill, but you think, “I’ll make it up next month.” Unfortunately, for all too many Americans, “next month” never comes.
If you’re dealing with credit card debt, you’re not alone. According to Debt.org, the average American household has over $5,000 in credit card debt—and total consumer debt in America totals up to a staggering $15 trillion.
Sometimes we forget that credit cards exist for a reason. They can be great when you’re in a bind and need to cover an unexpected expense. And, if used properly, they can be great tools for building your credit. But when they’re not used responsibly, credit cards can be an easy way to incur large sums of debt.
Luckily, things aren’t as bleak as they seem. If debt amounts can go up, then they can go down too! And a credit score is just a snapshot in time—it’s not a permanent judgment on your finances. Best of all, there are many solutions available to help you get rid of your credit card debt—and often more quickly than you realize. With a little patience and time—and some savvy small steps—you’ll be watching your debt dwindle and your credit scores bounce back.
Step One: Look at your spending habits and create a budget.
It’s always best to survey “the lay of the land” before you tackle any problem. Start by making a list of all of your bills and other priority expenses. Then look at your discretionary spending to see how you could cut back each month. Every little bit helps when it comes to shaving down your monthly balances. Think about it this way: If you stop for a $5 coffee every day on your way to work, that could add up to $25 per week. Still doesn’t seem like that much? That’s $1,300 a year—which, for many Americans, would cover a month’s rent. Keeping a French press in your office is starting to look a lot more attractive, isn’t it?
Step Two: Track your spending and your credit card balances.
After you’ve created your budget, track your spending throughout the month. It’s OK if you don’t drastically reduce your spending this first month. The idea is to get a sense of where your money is going and start patiently plugging those holes. But beware—don’t be too strict with yourself, or you’ll get frustrated and give up. Incremental improvement that lasts is always better than making radical short-term changes, then falling back into old patterns.
Some people like to set budgets for different categories, such as groceries or entertainment, while others simply track their total spending. Either method is fine; it’s all about what works for you personally and for your lifestyle.
Checking your balances frequently will also allow you to catch potential billing errors more quickly. Depending on your credit card company, you will usually have a 30- to 90-day window to dispute charges before they become permanent.
Step Three: Make at least the minimum monthly payment.
Before you start tackling your heavy debt load, make sure you’re covering the basics. Always paying at least the minimum regular monthly credit card payments can help boost your credit score. Your credit score is the primary piece of information that banks and lenders use to determine how risky it is to loan you money. The better your score, the more reliable you’re considered, and therefore, the more flexibility you’ll have when it comes to financing—especially for large purchases like homes and cars.
Step Four: When possible, pay more than the minimum.
You’ll note that we stressed the at least part. Once you’ve been able to make these minimum payments consistently, consider making payments greater than the minimum amount, when you’re able. This will help you make faster progress against the principal amount—which also means you’re paying less in interest over the life of the debt than you would if you were to continue only making minimum payments. Paying more is always better—even if it’s only $50 more. Do what you can, and be kind to yourself when you can’t pay more than you’d like.
Step Five: Consider debt relief.
Sometimes, we accrue so much debt that paying it all off seems, well, impossible. If you feel like you’ve accumulated too much debt, you could be a good candidate for debt relief. Debt relief is aimed at helping make your debt load more manageable. There are a number of different debt relief programs that could help you reduce your interest rates, secure a new repayment plan, or even negotiate for a reduction in how much you’re required to pay back.
You can read more about debt relief programs in this blog post. There are lots of great options out there—and a lot of trusted advocates who can help you on your journey to becoming debt free. A great place to start is by using this savings calculator to get an estimate on how much you could save.
Step Six: Work with a credit card debt expert.
At CreditAssociates, our team of certified debt relief professionals negotiates with creditors all day, every day. We’ve helped thousands of customers just like you get out of debt quickly—and often for less than they originally owed. In fact, credit card debt is the most common type of debt that we work with.
If you decide you want CreditAssociates to help you resolve your debt, we’ll need to start by learning all we can about your unique case. We make it a point to know your financial situation, so we’re in the best position to negotiate with your creditors on your behalf. Give us a call today at 1-800-983-6693, or fill out our form to start your free, no-obligation debt consultation.
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