Credit cards are convenient for shopping and can come in handy during emergencies, but unless you’re careful, it’s easy to rack up debt fast. If you’re one of the millions of Americans that hold credit card debt, the following tips from the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors will help set you on your way to living debt-free:
Hit the Pause Button. Take a look at exactly what you’re spending during any given month, and determine if there are any automated payments that can be eliminated or paused temporarily while you work to pay off your debt. You might even consider putting off large expenses for one year to help you pay your debt off faster.
Reduce Interest Rates. Once you’ve taken stock of all the credit cards in your wallet, as well as interest rates and minimum payments, call your credit card companies to see if there’s any chance they could waive late payments or reduce interest rates.
Work Toward Eliminating Your Most Expensive Card First. While it’s important to pay the monthly minimum on all cards to avoid fees, any leftover money should be applied to the card with the highest interest rate. Once you’ve paid this card off, apply the same strategy to the card with the second-highest interest rate while making minimum payments on all other cards. Repeat the process until all of your credit cards have been paid off.
Create a Written Budget. Putting pen to paper and creating a written budget will go a long way toward helping you stay out of debt in the future. Be sure to include an emergency fund in your budget so that you’re financially prepared should you experience a job loss or health crisis. And don’t forget to check in with your budget each and every month.
Set Goals and Keep Your Eye on the Prize. Whether it’s saving for a down payment or preparing to go back to school, write down your goals so that you’re more driven to reach them. Remember that the changes you’re making now will help you reach your goals well into the future.