It’s easy to get into credit card debt, but getting out of it is a different story. Fortunately, the steps to eliminating credit card debt can be simple. They just take discipline and usually a bit of sacrifice.
So, let’s get started! Here’s a guide to getting out of credit card debt.
Know what you owe
Sometimes it can be scary to look at the actual amount you owe on a credit card bill, but you won’t be able to set clear financial goals if you don’t know exactly what you owe. So, sit down with your bills and make a list, ideally on an Excel spreadsheet or Google doc. Or, if you are a paper person, write it down by hand. No matter the medium, just get a solid look at your debt.
Write down the name of each card, what you owe, minimum payment, and the interest rate.
Renegotiate your rates
If you call up your credit card company and ask for a lower interest rate, many will see if they’re able to help you out. You’re more likely to have luck with this if you’ve been on time with all of your payments and your card is in good standing.
Even if it doesn’t work, it won’t hurt to try, and any percentage point of interest reduction helps improve your bottom line.
Call each card company. Request a lower rate. If you’re successful, write down the new rate on your list or spreadsheet.
Consider balance transfers
If your credit is still in good standing, you may be able to take advantage of credit cards with 0% introductory offers on balance transfers. Be careful, however, because if you’re able to do this, you may be tempted to relax and start spending on credit again.
Commit to paying off the card during the intro period so you can actually take advantage of the great deal you’ve been given.
Before you make any transfers, make sure you read the fine print on the deal. Michael Banks, founder of The Fortunate Investor, an investing and personal finance blog says, “Be wary of balance transfer deals that seem too good to be true — there are often hidden fees and higher interest rates associated with them. If you aren’t able to pay off your balance transfer amount before the introductory interest rate period ends, you could end up paying a much higher rate than you were paying in the first place.”
Research cards with low introduction Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) on balance transfers and apply for the cards that make sense for you.
Pay off your cards with a loan from an online lender
Again, this will only be possible if your credit score is still high. If it is, you might consider trying to get a loan from a lender, such as LendingClub or Prosper. If you can get a loan with a lower interest rate than your credit cards, use it to pay off the cards, then dedicate your energy toward paying off the loan.
There can be two advantages to this: you will have a lower interest rate and you can make one payment a month instead of several if you owed on a lot of cards.
However, some personal loans carry origination fees of anywhere from 1% to 6% that offset savings you might otherwise realize. Several online lenders that don’t charge loan origination fees include SoFi, Discover Personal Loans, and LightStream.
Research online lenders with low rates and see if you can qualify for a loan. Often, you’re able to do this quickly without impacting your credit score. Supermoney’s personal loans review can help you find a good option.
Trim your budget
To find out if you have areas in your budget that you can trim, you first need to create a budget. However, many people will find that they’re spending a lot on things they don’t actually need.
“It may seem obvious, but one of the first things you need to do is find ways to trim your budget. Switching to a more affordable cell phone carrier, cooking more meals at home, or replacing your premium cable package with Netflix are all ways to spend less and have more money to reduce your debt,” says Barnes.
Create a budget and see where you can afford to trim
Find “squandered” money
Mitchell Walker, the author of the PouchPlan Budget and former Vice President of Finance for a Berkshire Hathaway Company, suggests searching for money in your budget that you already have. This is a bit different than trimming.
Instead, look closely at where you’re spending and where there’s extra money you’ve been wasting. He says, “The best and easiest way is to find squandered money. People who put a doable and usable budget in place average finding 10% extra money over the first two paychecks. What could be easier and quicker than finding money you already have?”
Go over your budget with a fine-toothed comb. Look at every single detail of your bank account. Add up what you’re spending on anything superfluous and consider whether or not that’s money you can put toward debt instead.
Tackle one card at a time
If you owe money on several cards, pay the minimum balance each month for every card, but double up your payments on one card. List your cards in order, from the minimum amount owed to the highest amount owed.
Tackle the lowest amount first, then continue to work your way down the list. Paying off a card will give you a sense of accomplishment and keep your momentum going.
Take the list of your cards and put it in order from the lowest amount owed to the highest amount owed. Figure out how much extra you can pay each month on the first card on the list and write the amount down. Dedicate yourself to paying this amount each month until the card is paid off.
If you’re really dedicated to getting out of debt, look around you and decide what you don’t need. Then, sell it and use that extra money to help pay off the card you’re currently tackling. In this day and age, it’s easy to sell things on a variety of sites, from eBay to Close Five.
Make a list of what you own of value. Circle anything you think you can sell. List it on a site. Or, hold a garage sale!
Get a side hustle
Do you have time for an extra job? If so, get out there and earn some extra cash. If you’re a writer, take on some freelance work. If you have time in the evening, find a job at Starbucks or a local fast food restaurant. It might feel difficult at first, but the payoff of being out of debt will be worth it.
Start pounding the pavement, or at least start looking online for an evening gig. You might even consider driving an Uber or Lyft for a year and using all of your extra income to pay off debt.
Consolidate your debt
If you decide that all of your cards are too overwhelming to keep track of, you might consider a debt consolidation loan. By doing this, you may be able to put all of your debt together with one loan and make one monthly payment. Some lenders specialize in offering debt consolidation loans to homeowners. These loans can help you negotiate lower interest rates and help you pay less in the long run. However, they can also cost a fortune and endanger your home if you use your house as a security.
Do your research and make sure the company you contact is reputable. Check out SuperMoney’s list of lenders in order to make an informed choice.
Getting out of debt can be simple, but it won’t be easy. Follow these steps, stay the course, and you can achieve your goal of ridding yourself of credit card debt.
Heather Skyler writes about business, finance, family life and more. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Newsweek, Catapult, The Rumpus, BizFluent, Career Trend and more. She lives in Athens, Georgia with her husband, son, and daughter.