The average U.S. household carries $15,675 in credit-card debt and pays about $6,600 in interest every year. The really bad news is that you’ll continue paying that interest year after year unless you take steps to get rid of your debt. Here are some quick and easy ideas about how you can do just that.
Track Your Spending
Forgo that designer bag, that silk tie, and that imported wine. Pay only for necessities. Track your spending for a month and record every little thing you buy. You’re likely to find some areas where you cut back. Try using a personal finance tool like Mint.com or Quicken or carry a journal with you to jot things down.
Create a Budget
How much can you save by cutting out morning lattes and lunches out with colleagues? Whatever you save gives you more to work with. Consider establishing an emergency fund of $1,000 for unexpected car repairs or minor medical needs. This will help you cover the expense while keeping you on track.
Pay More than the Minimum
Always pay more than the minimum monthly payment on credit cards. That extra money goes toward the principle, which lowers the amount the loan company charges you in interest. You will start seeing the benefits immediately, even if the changes are small at first.
Pay Down the High-Interest Debt First
List your credit cards and other charge accounts in order of interest rates that you’re paying. Put the money that you’re not spending on lattes and lunch into paying off the highest-interest card first. When you’ve done that, use the entire amount from that monthly payment and add it to what you’re paying on the card with the next-highest rate. If you like working with numbers, consider an accounting degree from MVU Online.
You can save several hundred dollars by taking advantage of the great rates offered by competing card companies when you transfer a card balance. Be aware that the introductory rate expires in six to 12 months and a much higher interest rate takes effect. Look at the length of time you’re being offered with the low- or no-interest rate and weigh that up-and-coming higher rate against the rates you’re now paying before making this decision. Learn more about UAB’s online accounting degree program.
Put Extra Money Toward Debt
When you receive money gifts (think Christmas, birthdays and other special occasions), put it toward your card debt. Did you receive an inheritance or perhaps a company bonus? Use it on your debt and you’ll really start to see some movement in the loan amount. You’ll learn to love that movement as it gets you closer to your goals.
Tightening your belt and cutting down on spending may feel like a punishment at first. But stick with it and remember your goal of becoming debt-free. When you hit a milestone, such as paying off 10 percent of your debt, treat yourself to dinner at a favorite restaurant, buy a new shirt or splurge (within reason) on another activity. Make it a milestone to remember, and it becomes positive reinforcement that will help you get to the next one.