Got credit card debt? You’re certainly not the only one. Americans owe a total of $905 billion n in credit card debt alone. Finding your way out of credit card debt can be pretty stressful. But maybe the energy you’re expending watching your balance creep up could be better spent devising a payoff plan.
Paying off credit card debt is a crucial step toward saving for the future. Credit card debt, unfortunately, might slow you down if you’re saving for a house, or trying to open your own business. That’s why knocking out credit card debt now may help your finances in the long run.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your monthly credit card payments, creating a debt payoff plan is an excellent way to reclaim control over your debt and your financial life. Even if you’re making multiple debt payments every month, having a plan to get through it all may put you at ease. This guide will help you make a step-by-step plan to getting debt-free.
Organize Your Budget
Before you clean up your debt, you first have to organize it. Start by figuring out your monthly income after taxes, your non-negotiable expenses, and the debt payments you have to make each month.
And when you’re writing this all down, make sure you include every debt, from your student loan payments to that $500 medical bill you you’re paying off over the next few months. When you’re writing out your expenses, don’t forget about utilities, groceries, gas, and your designated take-out budget.
This is a good time to check if there are expenses in your budget that you could easily cut out. Maybe just in going through your bank statements, you’ve noticed you’re spending too much on eating out. To help you easily track your spending, sign up for SoFi Relay. You can keep tabs on your cash flow and spending habits so you know where you stand.
Or perhaps you could save some cash by shopping at a less expensive grocery store, or using public transportation more. The more excess spending you can shave from your budget, the easier it can be to put more money toward your credit card debt.
Based on your monthly expenses, figure out how much money you are able to contribute to your credit card debt each month. If you are just paying the minimum on your credit card each month, determine how much additional cash you could contribute to your debt each month.
Then factor it right into your budget. If you plan to pay $400 toward your credit card debt each month, for example, and you get paid twice a month, maybe you get into the habit of always paying $200 to your credit card debt the day after you get paid.
Choose a Debt Payoff Method
For some of us, our credit card debt isn’t on one card, but is instead spread out over multiple cards. You can either order your credit card debts from smallest to largest (i.e., “The Snowball Method”) or from highest to lowest interest rate.
If you want to use the Snowball Method, you’re going to pay your smallest credit card debt off first, and then turn your attention toward the next smallest, and so on. By ordering your debts from smallest to largest, you build momentum, because you’re potentially knocking out debts more often.
When you are working on paying off your smallest credit card debt, you may want to put any extra resources you have toward getting rid of that debt. In the meantime, don’t forget to pay the minimum balance due to the rest of your credit cards.
On the flip side, the advantage of paying off your credit card debt starting with the highest interest rate card is pretty straight forward: It saves you the most money. Why? Because the cards with the highest interest rates are, naturally, costing you more.
If you want to pay your debt off in the most cost-effective way, start with the highest interest rate credit card, while paying the minimum balance on all the other cards. Once you’re done with the highest interest rate card, turn your debt payoff attention to the next highest interest rate card. Continue until you’re credit card debt free.
And don’t forget to put extra cash toward your debt when you can. Paying additional money toward your debt is called “The Snowflake Method”—there’s a lot of snow analogies when it comes to debt payoff). Holiday bonuses? Put it toward your debt. Birthday cash? Right to your credit card payment. Tax return? Instead of springing for a vacation, re-route that cash to your credit card.
Consolidating Your Credit Card Debt
If you’re not a number cruncher, complicated debt repayment methods might create more stress than they’re worth. Instead of these methods, you could consider replacing your multiple credit cards with a single credit card consolidation loan. That would mean making one monthly payment, instead of trying to keep up with paying off multiple credit cards.
By taking out a personal loan, it’s finally possible to focus on paying off one bill with one fixed interest rate and a set loan term. Depending on your financial history, you could qualify for a much lower interest rate on a personal loan than you’re paying on your credit cards. And paying your credit card debt off with a low-rate personal loan could help simplify and expedite your credit card debt payoff plan.
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