If your credit card debt is keeping you from reaching your personal financial goals, and you’re ready to concentrate on paying off your credit cards, here are a few tips to help you get started.
1. Make a budget. If you haven’t already made a budget this is a great first step towards paying down your credit card debt. Until you’ve created a budget it’s hard to decide where you can cut back on spending. Once you start to track your spending, you’ll know exactly where your money goes each month, and you’ll start to see areas you can trim. Once you start to lower some of your expenses, the money you save can be applied to your credit cards.
2. Pay more than the minimum (especially on the higher interest cards). If you’re able to come up with some extra cash through careful budgeting start to increase the payments going to your credit cards.
3. Establish goals and keep track of your success. Check out this Credit Card Payoff Calculator to estimate how long it will take you to pay off your credit card debt. How much do you plan to pay down over the next 6 months – one year – three years? Monitor your balances each month so you can keep track of how far you’ve come, and how much longer you have to go.
4. Keep your payments the same when you pay off a card. If you pay off one of your smaller credit cards take the money going towards that account, and increase the payment on one of your other cards. Keep this up until you pay off your final credit card.
5. Stop using the cards. If you’re committed to paying down your debts one of the first steps is to stop using your credit cards. This may seem simple, but if you charge purchases on a regular basis it can be difficult to suddenly stop using your cards. Focus on your goals, and remember that as much progress as you’ve made paying down your debts, you can set yourself back in an instant with the decision to charge a large purchase to a credit card.
6. Apply extra funds to your debt. If you receive any extra money during the year – whether it’s a birthday gift, a bonus from work, or a tax refund – choosing to apply these funds to your debt will help you chip away faster at your credit card balances. And the faster you pay off your debt, the less money you’ll pay in interest.
If you’re having trouble paying down your credit card debt you may benefit from speaking with a credit counselor about your debt repayment options.
Melinda Opperman is Senior Vice President of Community Outreach & Industry Relations, Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management, Inc; and Executive Director, Springboard Education Foundation. Springboard Nonprofit Consumer Credit Management is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
Views expressed are the personal views of the author, and do not represent the views of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, its employees, its members, or its clients.