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Seven Steps to Eliminate Credit Card Debt

Here are Seven common sense guidelines to eliminate credit card debt:

1) DO make a budget listing all your fixed expenses. Rent or mortgage, car insurance, car payments, mobile phones, utilities, day care, fixed loans, etc. Then try to estimate a reasonable budget for discretionary items like food, entertainment, clothes, etc.

2) DO make a second list of all your outstanding balances and sort by balance, minimum payment, and interest charges if you have multiple credit card debts.

You may think the wisest thing to do is paying off the credit card with the highest interest rate. However, there are 2 preferred methods to follow.

First, you should reduce the number of credit cards. Pay off the smallest balance first with larger payments until the number of credit cards you have in debt is down to one. Your ultimate goal is zero, or when you can pay your monthly balance in full every month.

The other strategy is to pay the balance on any card exceeding 50 percent of your credit limit because balances above this level may affect your credit score.

3) DO use cash or a debit card linked to your bank account. You can’t spend what you don’t have.

4) DO look for extra income. Most likely your rent or mortgage is your biggest expense, so consider a roommate if possible. If you like your occasional privacy, consider an International student for shorter periods of time.

5) DO look for the little things that add up in your expenses. Maybe change your phone plan if you are constantly going over the monthly minutes? How about that $3.50 latte or cappuccino every work day? That’s almost $1,000 a year!

6) DON’T sign up with a new credit card with a 0% Interest Rate for the first 6 months.

You probably receive a lot of junk mail enticing you to sign up with a new credit card with a 0% Interest Rate for the first 6 months before it jumps to 18% or even higher. Then 6 months later you would transfer your huge balance to another piece of plastic. Unfortunately, the biggest risk is they are simply giving you more credit to spend, and the number of cards and liability increases.

Unless you are extremely disciplined, this doesn’t really work as you end up bigger and deeper in the hole! Reducing the number of credit cards is the goal.

7) DO consider refinancing your home (if you have one) and consolidating all your debts into one

Logically, a 4.50-5.50% home loan is a lot less than 18% on a credit card. You can’t spend what you don’t have. You will be asked to have all your cards cut up (except maybe one with a small credit limit) and you have reduced the number of credit cards. You are now paying back that debt at far lower interest rates – often we find that the overall new monthly mortgage payment incorporating the consolidated debts is lower or at least equal to what you were previously paying out across several loans (credit cards included). Plus – the temptation has now been removed as you no longer have the credit cards!

Melanie Burns

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