Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you can get buried in credit card debt. When you’re only making enough money to afford the base payments each month, it seems impossible to get out of debt. Here’s what you can do to get out of it.
1. Cut out unnecessary spending
Unless you follow a very strict budget, most people have a bit more disposable income than they think – it just gets spent in ways they don’t expect. If there are expenses you can spare each month, do so. Make sure you aren’t wasting your money on frivolous activities. If you realise you’re spending a third of your income each month on fast food or eating out, maybe it’s time to buy groceries and cook for yourself. You’ll save money that can be used to pay your credit card bill. Find out what you actually need with a budget planner like this one.
2. Save money first, then pay bills
Financial gurus often talk about the importance of paying yourself first. It may sound counter-intuitive, but if you don’t set aside money for paying off secondary expenses first, you’ll find all of your income goes towards more immediate concerns like the power bill, internet, and cable bills. Sure, you need those things, particularly if you’re a student or someone who works online. However, it never hurts to set it aside some money each month just for addititional credit card repayments. If you get paid bi-monthly, that’s enough to beat most minimum payments. If you get paid more often than that, say four times a month, then you can really start making headway into your debt. Taking the money out immediately means you don’t have time to miss it, and it becomes second nature to start paying immediately.
3. List all of your credit card payments from smallest to largest
You might think paying off the largest amount first is smart, but here’s what happens to the rest: while you are focused on paying off that big payment (which might take years to pay off completely), those smaller payments are accruing interest and digging the hole even deeper. By paying off the smallest amounts first, you can chisel away at the overall amount you have to pay little by little. The acclaimed financial guru Dave Ramsey calls this the “debt snowball”.
Another easy way to really help get out of debt faster is to get a credit card with a cheaper interest rate. There are two big classes of cards here. The first offers a balance transfer offer, which essentially allows you to transfer existing debt from one card to a new card at a lower rate. This alone can save you a lot of money. However, these cards are not ideal for spending and rolling a balance over from one month to the next. If that’s what you need, then look for a card with an offer on purchases. Either way, be proactive.
4. Try to build an emergency fund
Once you reach a point where you have a bit of disposable income, try building an emergency fund. This fund is to ensure you have the funds to cover any major event (unexpected tax bill, broken down car, etc.) that might happen without resorting to credit cards to cover the payment.
It may seem insurmountable, but credit card debt can be beaten. All it takes is time, patience, and smart budgeting. If you are careful, you’ll be debt-free in no time.
*This post has been brought to you in collaboration with Clydesdale Bank*