If you are struggling to afford just the minimum payments on your credit cards, you are not alone. A large percentage of the people you pass on the street each day are suffering under the weight of the exact same stress. They are also concerned about upcoming (or past) due dates and an ever-increasing credit card debt balance.
You don't have to continue to lose sleep worrying about your debts, but you do need to take action—today. Little by little, one-step at a time; you can change your credit situation from an ongoing nightmare to a bad dream of the past.
Scrutinize Your Expenses
Hard as it may be to face, until your credit card debt is paid down to a manageable level, you will need to start living frugally. Start by keeping a daily expense log, detailing everything from your morning coffee to the monthly electric bill. Then go through this list, line-by-line, and determine which expenses can be eliminated and which can at least be decreased.
Look for New Money
Consider taking a second job, tutoring on weekends, or baby-sitting. Look around your home for clothes, furniture, or other items that you can sell, either in the classifieds or online at sites like Ebay. Return unnecessary recent purchases for credit back to your card.
Stop Using Your Cards
It is nearly impossible to significantly lower your debt if you keep adding onto it each month. At the very least, take all specialty and department store cards out of your wallet and store them in a safe place (or cut them up entirely). Before you charge anything to a card from now on, ask yourself if it's really necessary, and if there's any way to either not make that purchase or to delay it until you have enough funds to cover the cost.
Pay Off Your Highest Interest Rate Cards First
After you've pared down every possible expense, sold what you could, and sought out new sources of income, determine how much you have left at the end of the month in excess of all your minimum payments. Then apply all of the excess funds to the card with the highest interest rate, and continue to do that until that card is paid off. Start the process again with the second-highest rate card, and so on. This will pay off your debt the fastest.
Call and Ask
If you need to send a payment in late, call and let your credit card company know. Customers who communicate honestly receive better treatment. It never hurts to call and ask if your interest rate could be lowered; even half of a percentage point can make a big difference for someone living month-to-month.
Your credit card company may also have some sort of hardship program in place for customers who are temporarily unemployed or who are dealing with a serious illness. If you think you may have a hardship case, again, call and talk to someone. You may qualify for a lower interest rate or a few months of grace.
Individuals everywhere, looking to get out of debt and begin investing can turn to the debt aide organization National Association of Responsible Lending and Investment at http://www.NARCLI.org
. You may reach debt relief and investment experts via email to Question@NARCLI.org.