Should You Cut Up Your Credit Cards?
Credit cards and credit card debt are popular, real popular—and not in an enviable sort of way. You might even be dealing with some credit card debt of your own. Maybe you signed up for a credit card in college and it still has a balance hanging around. Maybe you had an emergency repair on the car and had to put it on a card. Or maybe you couldn’t resist that one really, really good sale. You’re not alone.
The typical American household carries nearly $7,000 in credit card debt and nearly half of all Americans have credit card debt.
With so many of us carrying those cards, and that debt, it’s not surprising that folks have tried extreme tactics to stop using them as a way to deal with the balances and interest rates that can make credit card debt so hard to pay off.
But before you begin slicing up those plastic playthings, read on for a few other ideas.
Here are nine strategies for dealing with credit card debt:
Fireballs Might Beat Snow and Ice
Paying off debt might feel insurmountable if you have multiple debt accounts. Luckily, there’s an easy trick you can play on yourself that might help make it feel manageable.
The fireball method can help build motivation by giving you wins over time while also using common sense to prioritize your debt. To implement this approach, you could start by separating your debt into good debt and bad debt. Good debt carries a low interest rate and, ultimately, may help raise your net worth. Bad debt carries higher interest rates and works against your greater financial situation.
Next, you could look at your bad debt and pick the debt with the smallest balance. You could make the minimum payments on everything else and attack that debt with extra payments. When that debt is paid off, you might roll that payment to the next lowest balance and continue until all of your bad debt is gone.
Getting a Budget. Sticking to the Budget.
Budgets are like a hidden financial superpower that’s pretty easy to learn. Getting a firm grasp on your spending could help you find hidden savings, keep your responsibilities top of mind, and maybe even make you a credit card debt–crushing superhero.
The days of using a paper and pencil or a spreadsheet to track your spending are over. You could leverage a personal finance app, such as SoFi Relay, to track all of your money from your phone.
Giving the Freezer a Try
At the very least, you could try to find a method that works for you to stop using your card while you pay down your balances. Your budget might help you examine where you’re using your card. Do you reach for it when you’re out with friends? Leave it at home when you go out and pay with a debit card. Is it your default payment on your phone? Unlink it.
Are you auto-paying for subscriptions? Put in a different payment method, maybe even think about canceling the service. Failing all that, you could give the freezing trick a try if it feels right for you. If you have credit card debt, you may want to consider not using your credit card for spending. Of course, it’s hard to cut off credit card usage completely, especially because everyone loves rewards points, but the interest you pay every month may outweigh those points .
ATM Time Machine
Desperate times call for desperate measures. There was a time, long before the internet and widespread credit cards when spending was limited by draconian bank hours and cash on hand. Money came in the form of crisp bills in white envelopes and you could only spend what you had.
You might be able to curb some spending by giving yourself a set budget and taking that money out, in cash, on a weekly basis. There’s even evidence that shoppers spend more money with credit cards because it’s easier, emotionally, than paying with cash. Handing over those bills for an impulse purchase may make you think twice.
What else can you do to lower those debts? Do you have free time for a side hustle? Can you freelance in your field? Can you make things to sell online? Are you a vintage T-shirt expert who can flip thrift store finds? Why not go for broke and ask your boss for a raise? Are you getting married soon? You could opt for a donation registry instead of gifts.
Using Windfalls for Debt
You might be tempted to think of an unexpected windfall as free money. You could put that money to work for you by putting it toward outstanding credit card debt. A raise, bonus, tax refund, or any other lump sum income may be a smart way to tackle that debt as quickly as possible.
Practice Makes Habit
The jury’s still out on how long it actually takes to form a habit. A quick search will yield results with 21 days, 30 days, and weeks at a time to really make a habit stick. Regardless of how long it actually takes, paying down your credit card debt could be a new habit.
This might mean it’s going to take some time to feel natural or that you fail every once in a while. It also might mean you develop healthy habits that will help you kick all that debt. This is another area where expert advice and help could prove invaluable, especially if you’re new at all this.
Getting a New Payment Plan
A credit card debt payment plan might be the solution for your credit card debt in the form of a personal loan. Personal loans don’t have the same interest structure as credit cards. You may even be able to get a better rate and a monthly payment that feels more manageable.
Cutting Them Up
Cutting up your credit cards might be the thing that works for you. It might be cathartic and it might be what you need to break the habit. Most card issuers will replace cards within a few days to a week if they get damaged. So you’d only be in a bind if you absolutely needed to use the card soon after you hacked at it with some scissors.
Getting Started Today
No matter how you decide to conquer credit card debt, the important thing is to figure out the best method for you. You may find that cutting up your cards works. You may find that the fireball method is right for you and your debt-cutting journey. Or maybe you find that a personal loan to consolidate your high-interest credit card debt is the right option for you.
SoFi personal loans offer low rates with no fees required, and a simple, all-online application and access to live customer support seven days a week.
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