Do you feel like your credit card debt is out of control? If so you are not alone. According to a study by indexcreditcards.com, the average adult American is carrying over $3,700 in credit card debt, the average household has over $7,300. For households that carry a balance, the average debt is over $10,000.
When you are looking at thousands of dollars of credit card debt it can seem like it would be almost impossible to pay it off. But as they say, the longest journey starts with a single step. Stick to the plan and you will get your credit card debt under control and paid off quicker than you think.
Before you start paying down your credit cards you need to gather some information. You need to know exactly how much you owe on your credit cards, and you need to know how much you are paying in interest each month. Assemble all of your credit card bills and do a little research. First add up how much you owe on all of your cards. Then add up the total of your minimum payments, and then your total interest payments. Write these numbers down, I am going to refer back to them a little later.
The first number you want to take a look at is the amount of interest your are paying each month. If you are an “average” household you are paying more than $100 per month just in interest. The money you are paying in interest is money that isn’t doing anything for you. If you didn’t have to pay the interest on your credit cards what could you do with that money?
Next take a look at your total credit card balance. Most people I have talked to don’t know exactly how much they owe. It can be a very scary number! However, you need to have a starting point so you can watch your progress. Take a look at your total credit card debt and tell yourself this is the last day it will ever be that high!
Finally take a look at your total minimum payments. Can you pay it every month? Can you pay more than the minimum payment each month? How much extra money would you have every month if you didn’t have to pay your credit cards?
Now that you are motivated, it is time to get serious about getting your credit card debt under control. And like most challenges in life, the first step is the hardest, but it will get easier with time. The first rule of getting control of your credit, and really the only rule you need to follow, is: Pay Cash or Do Without.
I will repeat myself. At first it will be really hard, but it will get easier. I still remember the first time I “needed” something and didn’t have the cash to pay for it. It was really hard, but I did without until I could save the money and pay cash. I was so proud of myself!
Now if all you do is pay the minimum payments on your credit cards it will take years to get them fully paid off. But as long as you are not continuing to charge, you will eventually arrive at a zero balance. To make that moment happen sooner it is important to have a plan that will gradually have you paying much more than the minimum payment.
Let’s take another look at those minimum payments. As you begin to pay down your credit card balances, those minimum payments will go down. But the amount you are paying on that credit card should never go down. Let’s say that your current minimum payment on a card is $50. The least you will pay on that card is $50 per month. Even if the minimum payment goes down to $15, you will continue to pay $50 per month.
If you want to quickly get rid of your credit card debt you will need to pay more than the minimum payments. One somewhat painless way to do this is to use “extra” money to make “extra” payments on your credit cards. Extra money could be a raise or bonus from work, a tax refund, rebates from store purchases, or even gifts from family and friends.
To summarize, credit card debt can be overwhelming, but you can pay it down. As long as you quit charging on your credit cards, and pay cash or do without, you will eventually pay off your cards. To speed up the process, pay the same amount on your cards, even if the minimum payment goes down and use extra money to give your payments a boost.
I know what I am talking about. Five years ago I made my final credit card payment on over $26,000 in debt. It took years to pay it all off, however, I am now debt free and I couldn’t be happier about it!