Summer vacation is just around the corner and you're still trying to pay off that holiday buying spree. Your credit cards are just about maxed out. Is there anything you can do? Yes. Here are tips to help pay off credit card debt.
It may seem extreme but the first thing you need to do is to put those credit cards away where you can't get at them easily. Only carry one card with you and use it only for emergencies. A café latte isn't an emergency even if you're tired and are having a caffeine attack. Either is being low on gas. An emergency means that you've had an accident and need medical care. Or your roof caved in.
Now drag out the most recent credit card statement for each account you have. If you have a student loan, store credit, bought furniture on time, or other unsecured loans get those statements out as well.
Make a chart listing the name of the account, interest rate, minimum payment, outstanding balances, and payment due date. Add all the minimum payments together to see what your total debt payment is each month. And add all the outstanding balances together as well. You might be shocked to see just how much money you owe and how much you have to pay each month.
Let's say for example that you're like the average family with $10,000 of credit card debt. If you only make the minimum payments it could take you up to 20 years to pay off that $10,000 because of the very high interest rates credit cards carry. If you have 5 cards each with a minimum payment of $50, you'll be paying $250.00 every month and not making much progress towards whittling down your balances.
Your next step is to set a target amount of money that you can pay in addition to the minimum payments. Without getting all tangled up in a complicated math explanation just keep in mind that for every $100 over the monthly minimum payment, you'll be erasing $1200 a year of debt. It will still take about 10 years to pay off the $10,000. But $100 a month isn't that much money if you break it down. If you eat lunch out every day at work that's $100 right there if you switch to brown bagging your own lunch. And that's what you'll have to do next. Figure out where you can find some extra cash.
If you rent movies two or three times a week, get them from the library for free instead. Switch from department store clothing to big box stores. Use coupons to save on groceries. Have vegetarian meals like pasta twice a week instead of meat. Use chicken instead of beef. Once you get started on where you can cut your budget you'll come up with lots of ways. Some of them entirely painless.
Put any cash gifts toward your credit card debt. If you get an income tax refund pay down the debt. Use your raise to pay off even more debt.
Some people are so overwhelmed by their debt that even if they implement the above steps, getting all that debt paid off isn't really possible without some help. If that's you, you still have a couple of options.
Debt settlement is using some of your cash and getting your creditors to agree to take the lesser amount as payment in full. That will hurt your credit rating and there may be some income tax consequences but the debt and the monthly debt payment will be gone.
Credit counseling is a possibility. The counseling service will set up a reasonable, although tight, budget and use every extra dime to go towards debt payment. They'll negotiate with each creditor to adjust the interest rate, waive late fees, and sometimes decrease the amount owed.
Consolidation loans are another option. In most cases you'll use the equity in your home to secure the consolidation loan. Each of your creditors will be paid and you'll have a fresh start.
No matter what you do, at least do something. That credit card debt won't go away by itself.