Guide to Achieving Financial Minimalism: 12 Ways

Minimalism is a lifestyle choice that centers on embracing simplicity and eliminating physical, mental, or emotional clutter. Financial minimalism is an extension of that idea. It advocates for spending less on material items and investing your time, money, and energy into experiences that enrich your life in some way.

Becoming a financial minimalist can help you to improve your money situation if you’re able to pay down debt, grow savings, and invest to build wealth while still enjoying life. Adopting a minimalist finance approach can take some getting used to but can have a significant payoff and lower your financial stress too.

Read on to learn:

•   What financial minimalism means

•   What the benefits of financial minimalism are

•   How to practice financial minimalism.

What Is Financial Minimalism?

There’s no set definition of financial minimalism or what it means to be a financial minimalist. Broadly speaking, financial minimalism is about taking a “less is more” point of view when it comes to spending on unnecessary things and focusing more of your attention, money, and energy on experiences and purchases that add value to your life.

Minimalist finance emphasizes being intentional about how you use your money. Rather than spending money impulsively or mindlessly, you’re considerate of whether a particular purchase might offer any lasting benefit.
Instead of clearing out the junk in your home, you’re clearing out the clutter in your financial life.

In this way, becoming a financial minimalist can alleviate some money stress. You have guardrails in place for spending, you likely make fewer purchases, and you hopefully have less debt to worry about as well.

How Does Financial Minimalism Work?

Financial minimalism works by requiring you to be conscious of how you spend money. Becoming a minimalist with money doesn’t mean you live a deprived lifestyle. Instead, you choose to include only those things in your life that are meaningful to you and align with your values and minimalist belief.

Here’s what financial minimalists don’t do:

•   Spend money aimlessly, without thought to what they’re spending it on

•   Rack up high-interest credit card debt for unnecessary purchases

•   Live above their means and spend more than they earn

•   Forget about planning for the future and their long-term goals

•   Neglect saving and investing.

Because financial minimalists don’t do these things, they also don’t worry as much about money, as mentioned above.

Sixty percent of Americans say they feel anxious when thinking about their personal finances, and 50% of Americans say thinking about money in general makes them feel stressed, according to joint research from the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at George Washington University and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. Adhering to a minimalist finance strategy could help you to overcome the money stress in your life.

Benefits of Financial Minimalism

The exact benefits financial minimalism can deliver will depend on how you apply it. But generally, financial minimalism can benefit you in the following ways:

•   Minimalist finance can help you reduce or eliminate unnecessary spending from your budget.

•   Spending less allows you to save more or use extra money in your budget to pay off debt more quickly.

•   You may be less likely to run up new debts if you’re living within or below your means.

•   Minimalism can help you clarify and prioritize needs vs. wants in your budget.

•   Being intentional with spending can help you to plan out your financial goals and direct money toward the things that matter most to you.

•   Your home is likely to be less cluttered with “stuff,” since you’re cutting back on unnecessary spending.

•   Your mind may feel less cluttered as well if you’re not constantly worrying about how much debt you have or how to stretch your budget and bank account until your next payday.

Those are all good reasons to consider minimalism. It can be an especially wise path if you’re interested in how to gain financial freedom for yourself and your family.

Tips for Achieving Financial Minimalism

Ready to give financial minimalism a try? These tips can help you create a personal financial plan for embracing a minimalist lifestyle.

1. Removing Monthly Subscriptions

Streaming and subscription services can seem like a money-saver. After all, spending $15 a month on Netflix is a bargain compared to spending $100 a month on cable. The problem is that many people end up paying for subscriptions they don’t use. That can include streaming services, gym memberships, subscriptions for apps or financial products like credit reporting, magazine subscriptions, and other recurring memberships.

Auditing your subscription services can help you find ones that you aren’t using and can afford to cut out. Even eliminating $25 or $50 a month in unnecessary subscriptions can free up money that you can use for something else.

2. Budgeting

A budget is essential for managing your money and pursuing a minimalist lifestyle. When you have a budget, you have a plan for how you’ll spend each month. If you don’t have a budget, it’s a good idea to make one (even a basic line-item budget) before tackling anything else on this list.

Here’s how you make a budget:

•   Add up your monthly after-tax income

•   Make a list of basic living expenses (your needs, including debt payments)

•   Make a second list of everything else you spend money on (your wants)

•   Subtract expenses from income

Ideally, you have money left over after doing the math. Those funds might go towards savings goals. If you don’t, you’ll need to go back to your expenses to see what you can reduce or eliminate in order to bring your budget in line.

3. Being Mindful of All Your Purchases

Financial minimalism is all about not spending money on things you don’t need. If you struggle with impulse spending, you might try imposing a 48-hour waiting period on purchases that you didn’t plan for in your budget. That cooling off period can give you time to decide if it’s something you really need.

You could also try a no-spend challenge where you challenge yourself not to spend money on anything for a set time period. No coffee to-go, movies on-demand, and so on. Some people pull this off as a 30-day no-spend challenge.

4. Cutting Eating Out and Focusing on Eating at Home

Eating out can kill your budget and sabotage your financial minimalist efforts. Planning meals at home and grocery shopping only for the items on your list can be an easy way to get food spending under control.

If you’d still like to eat out occasionally, you can set up what’s known as a sinking fund just for dining out and add a little money to it every payday. For example, you could save $20 per month in the fund, then once you hit $100 you could treat yourself to a meal out. That way, you still get a reward while being disciplined about saving and planned spending.

5. Not Showing Off for Social Media

FOMO or fear of missing out can lead you to make poor financial decisions in order to keep up with what everyone on Instagram is doing. If you’re tempted to show off on social media and purchase things to do so, consider a social media fast. Taking a break from your social accounts can be a good way to put what matters to you into perspective. You may well feel less pressured to spend money projecting a certain lifestyle online.

6. Reducing Debt If Possible

Getting rid of debt can allow you to reduce your monthly expenses and stretch your money further. If you have credit cards, student loans, or other debts, consider which ones you’d like to pay off first. Then formulate a plan for paying down the balances. There are ways to pay off debt without using savings.

You might also seek guidance from a nonprofit like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC.

7. Cutting Out Unnecessary Expenses

Anything you don’t need to live is technically an unnecessary expense. You might try minimizing purchases by avoiding those things that aren’t vital. Depending on what your budget looks like, that might include new clothes, electronics, online shopping, or anything else that doesn’t add positive value to your life in some way.
The more unnecessary expenses you can cut out, the better when aiming for financial minimalism.

8. Living Below Your Means

Those who are thinking about “how to improve my life financially,” take note of this idea. Living below your means simply means that you don’t spend more than you earn. If you’ve done your budget and your expenses are higher than your income, you’ll either need to find ways to cut spending down or earn more money. The wider the gap between what you spend and what you earn, the more money you’ll have to fund the financial goals that are important to you.

Recommended: Guide to Financially Downsizing Your Life and Saving Money

9. Getting Rid of Items You No Longer Need

Extra stuff around the house can make your home feel cluttered and disorganized. Ditching things you no longer need or use can make it easier to breathe and reinforce your commitment to living simply. As you sort through your things, consider what you can donate or give away, what should be trashed, what can be recycled, and what you might be able to sell for a little extra cash. Whether you try a Freecycle site, post things on eBay, or give your excess stuff to a local charity, your loss can be someone else’s gain.

10. Investing If Possible

Saving money is important, but investing it can be the best way to build wealth. If you’ve pared down your budget and have money to save and invest, consider putting some of it into the market for long-term goals. While there is risk involved, historically you can reap the best rewards this way. Following advice about investing for beginners can help you get started.

(Have a shorter-term goal in mind? or a high-yield savings account, where it can benefit from the power of compounding interest.)

11. Embracing Free Time

When financial minimalism is the goal, you sometimes have to be creative about how you spend your time. Rather than going out for a pricey dinner with friends, for example, you may be spending more time at home instead. Hosting a potluck or taking a walk with a friend can be an inexpensive way to socialize.

Finding ways to embrace your free time can be a good reminder of why you’ve chosen to pursue minimalism. Some of the ways you can do that include exploring free (or low-cost) hobbies, getting into an exercise or meditation routine, or contemplating your financial goals and your next steps along the minimalist path.

12. Separating Money for Yourself First

“Pay yourself first” is an oft-repeated piece of financial advice and it simply means that before you pay any other bills or expenses, you set aside something in savings. How much you should save a month will vary person to person, and where the money goes may differ.

It could mean depositing $50 to start an emergency fund whenever you are paid or contributing 10% of your annual salary to a 401k at work. Automatic transfers on payday can help whisk the money to where you want it, rather than have it hit your checking account and tempt you to spend it.

Managing Your Finances With SoFi

If you want to spend less, save more, and lower your money stress, giving financial minimalism a try could help. Becoming a financial minimalist can help you really take control of your money and grow it.

Keeping your money in the right place can give you a boost, too. With SoFi, you can get checking and savings in one convenient place, with no hidden fees. When you open a bank account online with direct deposit, you can earn a competitive APY on balances, which means your money may grow faster. Eligible accounts can also access their paycheck up to two days early.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Can minimalism cause financial freedom?

Minimalism can help you to achieve financial freedom if you’re committed to paying down debt, cutting out unnecessary spending, saving, and investing. If you follow minimalist principles, it’s possible to live well on less, build wealth, and perhaps even retire early.

Can minimalism hurt financial freedom?

Minimalism won’t necessarily hurt financial freedom, though it may take some getting used to in the beginning if you feel deprived because you’re spending less. Implementing one or two steps toward financial minimalism at a time can make it easier to transition to this kind of lifestyle gradually.

Is it OK if I am not a financial minimalist?

Financial minimalism may not be right for everyone and that’s perfectly acceptable. You can, however, apply some of the principles of financial minimalism to improve your money situation. For example, making a budget and dropping a subscription or two can be relatively easy ways to help rein in overspending and avoid debt.


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SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

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Using Your 401(k) to Pay Down Debt

Let’s say you have debt from high-interest credit cards, a student loan, and a car loan. But you also have a stash of cash just sitting in your 401(k) plan. You might think that taking money out of your 401(k) is a smart way to pay down that debt or even pay it off completely.

But is using your 401(k) to pay off debt really a good idea? We’ll go over the rules around withdrawing money from your 401(k), the costs associated with loans, and how a loan can ultimately affect your retirement. Finally, we’ll offer some alternatives to 401(k) loans to pay off debt.

What Are Some Options for Taking Money Out of a 401(k)?

There are two basic options for taking money out of a 401(k): withdrawals and loans.

401(k) Withdrawal

A 401(k) withdrawal removes money from your account permanently — you don’t pay the money back. You should expect to pay taxes on the amount you withdraw. Depending on your age, you may have to pay an early withdrawal penalty as well.

401(k) Loan

A loan lets you borrow money from your 401(k) account and then pay it back to yourself over time. You’ll pay interest, but the interest and payments you make will go back into your retirement account.

There are pros and cons for each of these options. And the rules can vary depending on your age and what your employer’s plan allows. Here are some things to consider.

What Are the Rules for 401(k) Withdrawal?

Tax-deferred retirement accounts, such as 401(k) plans and 403(b) plans, were designed to encourage workers to save for retirement. So the rules aren’t super friendly when it comes to withdrawals before age 59 ½.

Depending on your financial situation, however, you may be able to request what the IRS calls a hardship distribution. Employer retirement plans aren’t required to provide hardship distribution options to employees, but many do. Check with your HR department or plan administrator for details on what your plan allows.

According to the IRS, to qualify as a hardship, a 401(k) distribution must be made because of an “immediate and heavy financial need,” and the amount must be only what is necessary to satisfy this financial need. Expenses the IRS will automatically accept include:

•   Certain medical costs.

•   Costs related to buying a principal residence.

•   Tuition and related educational fees and expenses.

•   Payments necessary to avoid eviction or foreclosure.

•   Burial or funeral expenses.

•   Certain expenses to repair casualty losses to a principal residence (such as losses from a fire, earthquake, or flood).

You still may not qualify for a hardship withdrawal, however, if you have other assets to draw on or insurance that could cover your needs. And your employer may require documentation to back up your request.

You probably noticed that credit card and auto loan payments aren’t included on the IRS list. And even the tuition requirements can be tricky. You can ask for a hardship distribution to pay for tuition, related educational fees, and room and board expenses “for up to the next 12 months of post-secondary education.” The student can be yourself, your spouse, your child, or another dependent. But you can’t use a hardship distribution to repay a student loan from when you attended college.

Recommended: How Does a 401(k) Hardship Withdrawal Work?

Are 401(k) Withdrawals Subject to Taxes and Penalties?

Even if you can qualify for a hardship distribution, plan on paying taxes on the distribution (which is generally treated as ordinary income). Unless you meet specific criteria to qualify for a waiver, you’ll also pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you’re younger than 59 ½.

Now let’s assume you’re 33 years old, and you have enough in your 401(k) to withdraw the $20,000 you need. Right off the top, unless you qualify for a waiver, you can expect to pay a $2,000 early withdrawal penalty. Then, when you file your income tax return, that 401(k) distribution will most likely be counted as ordinary income, so it will cost you another 25% or so. If the added income bumps you into another tax bracket, your tax bill could be higher.

But taxes and penalties aren’t the only costs to consider when you’re deciding whether to go the distribution route.

Compound interest creates the potential for your initial investment to grow significantly over time. So every dollar you take out now could mean several dollars less in retirement. Essentially, withdrawing from your 401(k) now is like borrowing money from your future self, because you’re losing long-term growth.

Recommended: 401(k) Early Withdrawal Penalties Explained

What Are the Costs Associated With 401(k) Loans?

You may be able to avoid paying an early withdrawal penalty and taxes if you borrow from your 401(k) instead of taking the money as a distribution. But 401(k) loans have their own set of rules and costs, so you should be sure you know what you’re getting into.

There are some appealing advantages to borrowing from a 401(k). For starters, if your plan offers loans (not all do), you might qualify based only on your participation in the plan. There won’t be a credit check or any impact to your credit score — even if you miss a payment. And borrowers generally have five years to pay back a 401(k) loan.

Another plus: Although you’ll have to pay interest (usually one or two points above the prime rate), the interest will go back into your own 401(k) account — not to a lender as it would with a typical loan.

You may have to pay an application fee and/or maintenance fee, however, which will reduce your account balance.

Of course, a potentially more impactful cost to consider is how borrowing a large sum from your 401(k) now could affect your lifestyle in retirement. Even though your outstanding balance will be earning interest, you’ll be the one paying that interest.

Until you pay the money back, you’ll lose out on any market gains you might have had — and you’ll miss out on increasing your savings with the power of compound interest. If you reduce your 401(k) contributions while you’re making loan payments, you’ll further diminish your account’s potential growth.

Another risk to consider is that you might decide to leave your job before the loan is repaid. According to IRS regulations, you must repay whatever you still owe on your 401(k) loan within 60 days of leaving your employer. If you fail to pay off the outstanding balance in that time, it will be considered a distribution from your plan. And when tax time rolls around, you’ll have to include that amount on your federal and state tax returns, where it will be considered ordinary income.

If you’re under age 59 ½ and the loan balance becomes a distribution, you may also have to pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty. There may be similar consequences if you default on a 401(k) loan.

Recommended: Pros & Cons of Using Retirement Funds to Pay for College

What Are Some Ways of Minimizing Risks to Your Retirement?

If you decide using a 401(k) to pay off debt is your best (or only) option, here are a few things that could help you lower your financial risk.

•   Stop using your high-interest credit cards. If you continue to use your credit cards, and then have credit cards and the 401(k) loan payments to make every month, you could end up in even more financial trouble.

•   Continue to make contributions to your 401(k) while you’re repaying the loan — at least enough to get your employer’s match.

•   Don’t overborrow. Creating a budget could help you determine how much you can comfortably pay each quarter while staying on track with other goals. And try to stick to taking only the amount you really need to dump your debt and no more.

Why Do People Use Their 401(k) To Pay Down Debt?

Although there are significant costs involved in taking money out of a 401(k) to pay debt, many people still do it. It can seem like a good option if you have high-interest debt like credit cards. If you have lower interest debt like student loans, personal loans, auto loans, or a home equity line of credit (HELOC), then the early withdrawal penalty and other consequences may be a deterrent.

But if you’re paying high interest on your current debt, or if you have debt payments due and no way to cover them, using your 401(k) might seem better than the risks of missing payments on those bills. Late payments can rack up fees, interest, and can ding your credit score.

And if you default on a debt, that can have even more dire consequences, potentially including court actions and wage garnishment — depending on the type of debt and the creditor or lender. You can’t exactly wait it out and count on winning the lottery or inheriting money from some long-lost relative.

If your credit score ends up damaged due to late payments, that, too, could have a huge impact on your finances. Having a low credit score can make it more difficult to get loans in the future. You might have to pay a higher interest rate or there might be limits on how much you can borrow.

Given the dire consequences of doing nothing, using your 401(k) to pay off debt might seem like an attractive choice. But before you contact your HR department or plan administrator to request a loan or withdrawal, you may want to take time to look at some other options that could help you repay your debts.

What Are Some Alternatives to Taking Money Out of Your 401(k)

When it comes to paying down debt, your 401(k) isn’t the first or only place you can look for relief. There are some solid alternatives.

For example, refinancing your debt might be an option. Refinancing your student loan or auto loan can mean getting a lower interest rate than you’re currently paying. This is especially true if your credit score or income has improved since you first took out your loan. If you took out educational loans when you were still a student, for example, you’re likely making more money now and might have built up a credit history that could make you eligible for a better deal.

If you have federal student loans and are still working toward that dream job (and salary), you could look into income-driven repayment plans that limit the amount that you pay each month to a certain percentage of your monthly discretionary income — which could help keep your monthly payments more manageable.

Many of these plans will also forgive any remaining balance on your federal student loans after 10, 20, or 25 years of qualifying, on-time payments — something that you won’t be able to take advantage of if you pay off your loans with your 401(k).

If you still need help, you could look into whether you qualify to have your federal student loans put into forbearance or deferment. (You’ll want to consider these programs carefully, as you may still be responsible for any interest that accrues).

If you have credit card debt or other high interest debt, you could look into a credit card consolidation loan. Debt consolidation loans are designed to pay off your current loans or credit cards, ideally at a lower interest rate or with more favorable terms.

You can get these loans from a bank, credit union, or online lender, often by filling out a quick form and sending a few scanned documents. But it’s important to remember that this is still taking on debt, even if it’s debt with different terms.

One critical thing to remember when using a personal loan to refinance or consolidate debt is that you may have the option to extend the length of your loan, which can reduce your monthly payments and free up some near-term cash flow.

While extending your loan term means you’ll likely pay more in interest over the life of your loan, it might be a worthwhile move to ensure you can cover your debt payments.

The Takeaway

While using your 401(k) to pay down debt is possible, it’s often not the best financial move you can make. That’s because 401(k) withdrawals often come with taxes and penalties that can eat up a third of your loan amount. Taking a loan from your 401(k) has its own disadvantages, including interest charges and strict repayment rules if you leave your job. But the most compelling reason is the effect that withdrawing retirement savings will have on your future lifestyle: Because of compounding interest, every dollar you withdraw results in several dollars of lost investment gains.

Before you use your 401(k) to pay off debt, consider other available alternatives. With a SoFi Personal Loan, for example, qualified applicants can get a low fixed interest rate. And there are no fees required. Check your rate in 60 seconds without affecting your credit score.

SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2022 winner for Best Online Personal Loan.


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If you are a federal student loan borrower, you should consider all of your repayment opportunities including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. Please note that once you refinance federal student loans you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans or extended repayment plans.


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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Credit Card Statement Balance vs Current Balance

When you buy with credit, it’s easy to forget that you’re paying for that item with money that doesn’t belong to you. It’s like taking out a short-term loan to make a purchase. If you’re putting charges on your credit card throughout the month, the value of that loan — your “current balance” — fluctuates.

You may notice there are other numbers on your credit card statement, such as your statement balance. Wait a minute, you may ask, What’s the difference? Here we’ll discuss the meaning of statement balance and current balance, along with a few tips for paying down your credit cards.

Statement Balance vs Current Balance

Each credit card issuer may have a slightly different method of presenting and even calculating the numbers on your monthly statement and online portal. Still, you will likely see one number called the statement balance and another called the current balance.

The statement balance means all transactions during a designated period, called a billing cycle. If a billing cycle covers one month and starts on the 15th of each month, this statement balance will include all of the activity on an account between, say, January 15 and February 15, in addition to any previously unpaid balances. Until the close of the next billing cycle, the statement balance will remain unchanged.

Your current balance means the running total of all transactions on your account. It changes every time you swipe your card to pick up Chinese takeout or return a T-shirt that didn’t fit right.

To understand the interplay between the statement balance vs. the current balance, consider this. On February 15, the statement balance is $1,000, meaning that the total charges between January 15 and February 15 add up to $1,000. Two days later, you make a $50 charge to the card. Your current balance will reflect $1,050 while the statement balance remains the same.

In this case, the current balance is higher than the statement balance. The reverse can also be true, and the current balance can potentially reflect a smaller number than the statement balance.

Recommended: Personal Loan vs. Credit Cards

What to Know About Paying Off Your Credit Card

As each billing cycle closes, you will be provided with a statement balance. You will also likely be provided with a due date. At the time you make a payment, you may decide to pay off the statement balance, the current balance, the minimum payment, or some other amount of your choosing.

Recommended: Credit Card Closing Date vs Due Date

Paying the Statement Balance

If you regularly pay your statement balance in full, by its due date, you likely won’t be subject to any interest charges. Most credit card companies charge interest only on any amount of the statement balance that is not paid off in full.

The period between your statement date and the due date is called the grace period. During this period, you may not accumulate interest on any balances. It’s worth mentioning that not every credit card has a grace period. It’s also possible to lose a grace period by missing payments or making them late. If you have any questions about whether your card has a grace period, contact your credit card company.

Paying the Current Balance

If you’re using your credit card regularly, it is possible that you will use your card during the grace period. This will increase your current balance. At the time you make your payment, you will likely have the option to pay the full current balance.

If you have a grace period, paying the current balance is not necessary in order to avoid interest payments. But paying your current balance in full by the due date can have other benefits. For example, this move could improve your credit utilization ratio, which is factored into credit scores.

Paying the Minimum Monthly Payment

Next, you can pay just the minimum monthly payment. Generally, this is the lowest possible amount that you can pay each month while remaining in good standing with your credit card company — it is also the most expensive. Typically, the minimum payment will be an amount that covers the interest accrued during the billing cycle and some of the principal balance.

Making only the minimum payments is a slow and expensive way to pay down credit card debt. To understand how much you’re paying in interest, you can use a credit card interest calculator. Although minimum monthly payments are not a fast way to get rid of credit card debt, making them is important. Otherwise, you risk being dinged with late fees.

Missing or making a payment late can also have a negative impact on your credit score.
So, if the minimum payment is all you can swing right now, it’s okay. Just avoid additional charges on your card.

Making a Payment of Your Choice

Your last option is to make payments that are larger than the minimum monthly payment but are not equal to the statement balance or the current balance. That’s okay, too. You’ll potentially be charged interest on remaining balances, but you’re likely getting closer to paying them off. Keep working on getting those balances lowered. A good goal is to pay off your balance in full each month.

Your Credit Utilization Ratio

The balance you currently carry on your credit card can impact your credit utilization ratio. Credit utilization measures how much of your available credit you’re using at any given time. Credit utilization is one of a handful of measures that are used to determine your credit score — and it has a big impact. Credit utilization can make up 30% of your overall score, according to FICO® Score.

Not every credit card reports account balances to the consumer credit bureaus in the same way or on the same day. Also, the reported number is not necessarily the statement balance. It could be the current balance on your card, pulled at any time throughout the billing cycle. Again, it may be worth checking with your credit card issuer to find out more. If your issuer reports current balances instead of statement balances, asking them which day of the month they report on could be helpful.

Sometimes, the lower your credit card utilization is, the better your credit score. While you may feel in more control to know which day of the month that your credit balance is reported to the credit bureaus, it may be an even better move for your general financial health to practice maintaining low credit utilization all or most of the time.

If you are worried about your credit utilization rate being too high during any point throughout the month, you can make an additional payment. You don’t have to wait until your billing cycle due date to reduce the current balance on your card.

According to Experian, one of the credit reporting agencies, keeping your current balance below 30% of your total credit limit is ideal. For example, if you have two credit cards, each with a $5,000 limit, you have a total credit limit of $10,000. To keep your utilization below 30%, you’ll want to maintain a balance of less than $3,000.

Recommended: When Credit Card Companies Report to Credit Bureaus

3 Tips for Managing Your Credit Card Balance

If you’re struggling to juggle multiple credit cards and make all of your payments, here are some tips that may help.

1. Organizing Your Debt

A great first step to getting a handle on your debt is to organize it. Try listing each source of debt, along with the monthly payments, interest rates, and due dates. It may be helpful to keep this list readily available and updated. Another option is to use software that aggregates all of your finances, such as your credit card balances and payments, bank balances, and other monthly bills. Check out SoFi Relay if you haven’t already.

Whether you use existing software or your own calendar system, keep in mind that staying on top of your due dates and making all of your minimum payments on time is one of the best ways to stay on track.

You can also ask your credit card providers to change your due dates so that they’re all due on the same day. Pick something easy to remember, such as the first of the month.

2. Making All Minimum Payments, But Picking One Card to Focus On

While you’re making at least the minimum payments on all your cards, pick one to focus on first. There are two versions of this debt repayment plan: the Debt Avalanche and the Debt Snowball.

With the Avalanche method, you attack the card with the highest interest rate first. With the Snowball method, you go after the card with the lowest balance. The former strategy makes the most sense from a mathematical standpoint, but the latter may give you a better psychological boost.

If and when you can, apply extra payments to the card’s balance that you’re hoping to eliminate. Once you’ve paid off one card, you can move to the next. Ultimately, you’re trying to get to a place where you’re paying off your balance in full each month.

3. Cutting up Your Cards

Whether you do this literally or not, a moratorium on your credit card spending can be a great strategy. If you are consistently running a balance that you cannot pay off in full, you may want to consider ways to avoid adding on more debt.

A word of warning: Don’t be tempted to cancel all your cards. This can negatively affect your credit score. However, if you feel you really have too many credit cards to manage — say, more than three or four — cancel the newest credit card first. This will ensure your credit history length is unaffected.

The Takeaway

Your credit card statement balance is the sum of all your charges and refunds during a billing cycle (usually a month), plus any previous remaining balance. It changes monthly with each statement. Your current balance is updated almost immediately every time you make a purchase. It is the sum of all charges to date during a billing cycle, any previous remaining balance, and any charges during the grace period. Whenever you can, pay off the full statement balance to avoid interest charges.

Trying to pay off credit card debt? Taking out a personal loan can consolidate all of your credit card balances. You’ll have only one monthly payment to make, a low interest rate, and no fee options. Plus, there is an easy online application and access to live customer support seven days a week.

See if a SoFi Personal Loan can help you get on top of your credit card debt.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi Relay offers users the ability to connect both SoFi accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc.’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. Based on your consent SoFi will also automatically provide some financial data received from the credit bureau for your visibility, without the need of you connecting additional accounts. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score is a VantageScore® based on TransUnion® (the “Processing Agent”) data.

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7 Tips for Paying Off a Large Credit Card Bill

Credit card debt can go from zero to thousands with one quick swipe. Or it can build slowly like rising water — a nice dinner here, some retail therapy there. Before you know it, your balance is uncomfortably high. You’re not alone. Almost half of American households carry credit card debt. Of those consumers, the average balance is $5,315.

If you’ve vowed to pay off your credit card balance, you’re making a smart financial move. You’ll save money on interest, boost your credit history, and position yourself to achieve other financial goals. Here, we reveal the top tips and strategies for getting it done, from the Snowball strategy to hardship plans to the boring-but-effective debt-focused budget.

What Is a Realistic Payoff Schedule?

If you’ve been carrying a balance on one or more cards, it may take longer than you’d like to pay off the debt. Determine how long you need to become debt-free while still covering your monthly bills comfortably. A longer payoff term will allow you to continue to save and invest while paying down debt. But a shorter payoff term can save you a considerable amount in interest.

If there’s no scenario where you can cover your living expenses and pay off your credit card debt in five years, these strategies may not be enough. In that case, it may be time to consider applying for credit card debt forgiveness.

7 Credit Card Payoff Strategies and Tips

There are numerous ways to tackle debt and pay off credit cards. The approaches below will work best when you mix and match several to create your own custom debt-payoff plan.

1. Create a Debt-Focused Budget

Achieving financial goals always starts with a budget. This exercise is designed to help you discover extra cash you can put toward your credit card bill.

First, make a list of your monthly bills. Along with your rent payment, phone, gas, and other required living expenses, include your credit card payment. You can leave the amount blank for now. This is your “Needs” column.

Now look at your “Wants.” These are things that you can survive without — restaurants, new clothes, gym membership — but that often make life better. Which items can you do without temporarily so you can put their cost toward your credit card bill?

It’s OK if your budget isn’t the same from month to month — flexibility is good. While you’re at it, look ahead for unavoidable big purchases (that upcoming destination wedding) and leave room for unexpected expenses. Your credit card payment may be lower some months to accommodate these other costs. Just always pay at least the minimum payment.

Your new budget should prioritize your credit card payment on par with other bills, and above nonessential treats. One way to make budgeting easier on yourself is to download an app like SoFi Relay, which pulls all of your financial information into one place.

2. Zero Interest Credit Card

The frustrating thing about credit cards is how interest can take up more and more of your balance. Zero-interest credit cards, also known as 0% APR cards, allow card holders to make payments with no interest on transfers and purchases for a set period of time. The promotional period on a new credit card can last as long as 18 billing cycles, long enough to make a large dent in the card’s principal balance.

Consolidating your credit card debt on one zero-interest card serves to simplify your monthly bills while also saving you money on interest payments. The key here, of course, is to avoid racking up even more credit card debt.

One drawback to these cards is that you often need a FICO Score of 690 or above to qualify. And once the promo period expires, the interest rate can climb to 27% or higher. In an ideal world, you’ll want to achieve your payoff goal before the rate rises.

A credit card interest calculator can give you an idea of how much your current interest rate affects your total balance.

3. The Snowball, The Avalanche, and The Snowflake

The Snowball and Avalanche debt repayment strategies take slightly different approaches to paying down debt. Both involve maintaining the minimum payment on all but one card.

The Debt Snowball method focuses on the debt with the lowest balance first, regardless of interest rate, putting extra toward that payment each month until it’s paid off.

Then, that entire monthly payment is added to the next payment — on top of the minimum you were already paying. Rinse and repeat with the next card. It’s easy to see how this method can quickly get the snowball rolling.

The Debt Avalanche is based on the same philosophy but targets the highest-interest payment first. Getting out from under the highest debt can save a lot of money in the long run. Just like the Snowball method, applying that entire payment to the next-highest-interest debt can lead to quick results.

The third snow-related strategy, the Debt Snowflake, emphasizes putting every extra scrap of cash toward debt repayment. If you have extra money to throw at your debt, even $20, that can still make a difference in your overall amount owed.

4. Make More Money

Sure, increasing your income is easier said than done. But if you have the time to spare, it can make paying down debt a whole lot easier. Here are the top ways that people can bring in more cash:

•   Start a side hustle (or monetize and existing hobby)

•   Get a part-time job (on top of your current job). Two shifts a week can help you bring in another $500 to $1,000 per month.

•   Sell your stuff. It’s easier than ever to resell clothes, books, old electronics, and jewelry.

•   Negotiate a raise. Labor shortages have given workers extra leverage to ask for more.

5. Negotiate with Your Credit Card Company

If your large credit card balance is the result of unemployment, medical bills (yours or a loved one’s), or another financial setback, inform your credit card company. You may be able to negotiate a lower interest rate, lower fees and penalties, or a fixed payment schedule.

Hardship plans have no direct effect on your credit rating. However the credit card company may send a note to the credit bureaus informing them that you’re participating in the program. They may also close or suspend your credit card while you’re paying off the balance, which can ding your credit score.

6. Change Your Spending Habits

Changing how you spend your money is key to paying down debt — and to avoid racking up more in the future. You can approach this in two ways: as a temporary measure while you pay off your cards, or a permanent downsizing of your lifestyle.

The advantage of the temporary approach is that people are generally more willing to give things up when it’s for a limited time. For instance, can you suspend your gym membership during the warmer months when you can work out outdoors? Perhaps you can challenge yourself to cook at home for 30 days to save on restaurants. Imagine going without paid streaming services for six months.

String enough of those small sacrifices together to cover a year or two, and see how quickly your credit card payments grow. And your payoff term shrinks!

Downsizing your lifestyle has its own appeal, even for people who aren’t paying down debt. Living below your means is key to accumulating wealth. How exactly you accomplish that isn’t important. For instance, you can frequent cheaper restaurants, reduce the number of times you go out each month, or merely avoid ordering alcohol and dessert. The bottom line is to save money, avoid debt, and enjoy the financial freedom that results.

7. Personal Loan

Similar to a zero-interest credit card, a personal loan is a form of debt consolidation. Personal loans tend to have lower interest rates than credit cards, saving you money. And if you’re carrying a balance on multiple credit cards, a personal loan allows you to simplify your debt with one fixed monthly payment.

Personal loans are a great option for people with good to excellent credit. That’s because your interest rate is determined largely by your credit score and history. You can typically borrow between $1,000 and $100,000, and use the money for just about anything.

The Takeaway

Credit card debt can sneak up on you. If you’re carrying a balance on one or more cards, there are numerous ways to approach paying down your debt. Start with a new budget that prioritizes your credit card payment along with your other monthly bills, and trim your spending accordingly. Then combine a broad payoff strategy (the Snowball, the Avalanche) with other tips and tactics (zero-interest credit cards) to minimize your interest payments and shorten your payoff term. And remember: You’re not alone, and you can do this!

If you’re thinking about consolidating credit card or other debt, a SoFi Personal Loan is a strong option to consider. SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2022 winner for Best Personal Loan for Good and Excellent Credit, and Best Online Personal Loan overall.

Compared with high-interest credit cards, a SoFi Personal Loan is simply better debt.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How To Lower Credit Card Debt Without Ruining Your Credit

One of the best things to do for your anxiety and your credit score is to pay off credit card debt. People who commit to a payoff strategy (like Snowball or Avalanche) will make quick progress while building their credit history. People in financial crisis may benefit from negotiating with creditors to freeze their account or lower their interest rate, though their credit rating may suffer. Simplifying payments with a debt consolidation loan is also an increasingly popular tactic.

We’ve compiled several strategies that can help you consolidate credit card debt without hurting your credit score. Find the one that best suits your circumstances.

What Not to Do: Ignoring Credit Card Debt

When it comes to credit card debt, the consequences of avoidance and procrastination are steep. If you miss payments, your creditor will likely reach out and notify you of your delinquency.

Miss enough payments and your account might be closed. Your credit card issuer will report your missed payments to credit reporting agencies, which can negatively impact your score. Remain delinquent long enough and your account might be sent to collections (either in-house or third-party). Needless to say, this is not good for your credit score and history.

What You Should Consider: Paying off Credit Card Debt Using a Planned Approach

We mentioned anxiety earlier. Well, trying to pay down a large credit card balance without a debt payoff strategy is a recipe for more anxiety. Sure, making a plan may require taking a close look at your bad habits, which is stressful. But trust us when we say, a good plan is the best way to set yourself up for smooth sailing. Two common approaches to getting out of credit card debt without ruining your credit rating are the Snowball and the Avalanche.

With the Snowball method, you work to pay off your debts from smallest balance to largest, regardless of the interest rate. As you pay off each card, you roll that monthly payment over to the next smallest balance. Meanwhile, it’s important to make minimum payments on your other cards. (Take a deep dive into the Snowball method here.)

The Avalanche method advises focusing on the debt with the highest interest rate. Let’s say you have two credit cards, one with an interest rate of 8% and the other of 15%. Start with the balance accruing 15% interest. When you pay off that card, turn your attention to the debt with the next highest interest rate. And of course, be mindful that you’re making credit card minimum payments on all your debts.

Both strategies serve to build a positive credit history as you get out of debt. Not only will they not ruin your credit, you may even end up with a higher FICO Score.

Negotiating and Settling Credit Card Debt

If you have been struggling to make payments on your credit cards, there is a good chance your credit score has dropped. Before the debt is sent to collections, you may be able to negotiate with the credit card company.

Like any business, the primary goal of a credit card company is to make a profit. When it becomes apparent that a cardholder is unable to pay their bills, companies are sometimes willing to find an arrangement that will enable the customer to make payments based on their situation. Three possible options are a debt settlement, a hardship repayment plan, and temporary forbearance.

In a debt settlement, the credit card company agrees to reduce the balance owed in exchange for a lump sum payment. If your balance is $15,000, the company may agree to a payment of $8,000 and “forgive” the rest. There are two disadvantages with this scenario: The card holder has to come up with $8,000, and their credit score can be negatively affected.

With hardship repayment, the company freezes the current debt and works with you to create a repayment plan based on your current income and circumstances. The company may lower your interest rate and waive fees during the repayment period. You may qualify for a hardship program if your debt is the result of unemployment, serious illness, family emergency, or a natural disaster. In hardship cases, your credit rating is usually not affected, though your participation in the program may be reported to the credit bureaus.

Finally, in a temporary forbearance, the credit card company freezes any combination of the current debt and interest rate, and eliminates late fees and penalties for an agreed upon period of time. This is usually reserved for card holders who are currently in financial crisis. One drawback is that your debt isn’t resolved but merely put on hold while you sort out your finances.

You should know that most forgiven debt is considered income by the IRS. So if you had $15,000 in debt but settled for $8,000, the IRS may consider that extra $7,000 to be taxable income.

Recommended: What Is Credit Card Debt Forgiveness?

What Is the Statute of Limitations on Credit Card Debt?

The statute of limitations governs how long a creditor can sue you for nonpayment of a debt. The statute of limitations on credit card debt varies from state to state, but is typically between three and 10 years.

You can find out yours by requesting a debt verification or validation letter from your creditor. The statute of limitations clock starts from the last moment the debt was active. When you contact your creditor, don’t agree to any payment plan until you confirm the statute of limitations on your debt. Otherwise, you may inadvertently restart the clock.

Even if your debt is past the statute of limitations, it may still be within the credit reporting time limit. This is the amount of time delinquent account information can appear on your credit report. In most cases, the credit reporting time limit for negative information is seven years.

If your debt is sold to a third-party collections agency, try to negotiate a payoff amount to close the collections attempt. Debt collectors buy debt from the company you owed for a fraction of the original unpaid balance. Because of this, collectors might take less than what you owe if you have strong negotiation skills.

Say Goodbye to Credit Card Debt with a Personal Loan

Personal loans are a type of unsecured loan. There are a number of uses of personal loans, but paying off credit card debt is one of the most common. Loan amounts vary by lender from $1,000 to $100,000, and are paid out as soon as the loan is approved. The borrower then pays back the loan — with interest — in monthly installments.

Many unsecured personal loans come with a fixed interest rate. An applicant’s interest rate is determined by several factors, including credit score, income, and debt-to-income ratio, among other factors. Typically, the higher an applicant’s credit score, the better their interest rate will be, as the lender may view them as a less risky borrower.

When using a personal loan for credit card debt, the loan proceeds are used to pay off the cards’ outstanding balances, consolidating the debts into one loan. This is why it’s also sometimes referred to as a debt consolidation loan. Ideally, the new loan will have a much lower interest rate than the credit cards. By consolidating credit card debt into a personal loan, a borrower’s monthly payments can be more manageable and cost considerably less in interest.

In the long run, the borrower’s credit history and rating is strengthened by paying off the personal loan.

The Takeaway

To pay down a large credit card balance, it’s essential to have a strategy. Two of the most popular are the Snowball and the Avalanche. The Snowball entails working to pay off the lowest balance card first, while making minimum payments on the others. The Avalanche advises paying off the highest-interest card first, while making minimum payments on the others. Neither method will hurt your credit rating, and may help it. It’s also fairly common to take out a debt consolidation loan to pay off cards.

If you are considering consolidating your credit card with a personal loan, check out SoFi. SoFi Personal Loans offer low fixed rates and no fees required. And if you lose your job, SoFi will temporarily pause your payments and even provide career coaching. SoFi’s Personal Loan was even named NerdWallet’s 2022 winner for Best Online Personal Loan.

If you’re ready to get your credit card debt under control, see how a SoFi personal loan can help.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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