How to Get Out of Credit Card Debt: 8 Strategic Steps[yoast-breadcrumb]
How to Get Out of Credit Card Debt: 8 Strategic Steps
Getting out of credit card debt can feel overwhelming and impossible, but with some strategic planning, it is totally doable. Here are 8 steps to help you crush your credit card debt for good:
1. Stop Using Your Credit Cards
The first step is obvious but essential – stop using your credit cards! This may require some discipline and lifestyle changes, but it’s crucial for getting out of debt. Put your cards somewhere safe but inconvenient to access, like a locked box or buried in your freezer.
Going cold turkey on credit cards forces you to live within your means. You may need to temporarily lower expenses to avoid further debt. Review non-essentials like cable bills, gym memberships, etc. Meal prep at home and bring lunch to work. Downgrade your cell phone plan. Every dollar not spent is a dollar towards debt freedom!
2. Make a Budget
Now that your cards are locked up, it’s time to make a budget – your roadmap for getting out of debt. List all sources of income, then make columns for essential and non-essential expenses.
Essentials are bills you must pay to survive – housing, utilities, food, transportation, minimum debt payments, etc. Non-essentials are wants, not needs – dining out, vacations, shopping.
Total your income, subtract essential expenses, and what’s left can go towards debt payments. Getting clear on where your money is going is key to managing it wisely.
3. Increase Your Income
If your budget reveals more going out than coming in, it’s time to raise income. Here are some ideas:
- Ask for a raise at work if you’ve been there 1+ years. Prepare talking points highlighting your contributions.
- Find a side gig – drive for a rideshare service, bartend or wait tables, offer tutoring services, etc. Work nights or weekends for extra cash.
- Sell stuff you don’t need – clothes, electronics, furniture, etc. Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist make this easy.
- Lower expenses to free up cash – downsize housing, reduce subscriptions and bills, limit eating out.
Every extra dollar earned goes straight to debt repayment. Even an extra $100/month makes a difference!
4. Talk to Your Lenders
Contact your credit card companies directly, explain your situation, and ask for lower interest rates. Try goodwill letters – be honest about hardship, take responsibility, and request help. Many lenders want to retain customers, so this works more often than you’d think.
If they won’t budge on rates, ask about repayment programs. These let you pay a fixed monthly amount towards your balance over several years. It closes accounts to prevent more spending and gives a predictable payment schedule.
Be persistent and escalate to supervisors if needed. The worst they can say is no, but a “yes” can save thousands in interest.
5. Pay Off Highest Interest Debt First
There are two popular methods for approaching credit card payoff – the debt avalanche and the debt snowball.
The debt avalanche tackles balances with the highest interest rates first. You pay minimums on all cards, then put any extra funds towards the card with the highest APR. When that’s paid off, roll that payment amount plus the minimum into the card with the next highest rate. Repeat until every card is paid off.
This method saves the most money by eliminating high interest costs sooner. Make a list of your cards ranked by APR for easy reference.
6. Consolidate with a 0% APR Balance Transfer
Balance transfer cards offer 0% APR for an intro period, usually 12-18 months. Transferring all your balances to one of these cards lets you pay down principal without accumulating interest.
Make sure to get one with a long 0% term and low balance transfer fee (ideally 3% or less). Pay as much as possible during the intro period so the balances are gone when regular APR kicks in.
Set calendar reminders to shop for new 0% offers every 12-15 months. Transferring balances between cards takes advantage of multiple intro rates while steadily paying down debt.
7. Consider Debt Consolidation Loans
Debt consolidation loans roll multiple debts into one fixed monthly payment at a lower interest rate. Personal loans or home equity loans/lines of credit can be used to pay off credit card balances completely.
This gives a predictable payment plan and saves money on interest. Be sure to close paid off cards to avoid racking up more debt. Shop rates from online lenders, banks, and credit unions.
Loans work best for large debts and people lacking the discipline to stop overspending. But they put your home at risk if securing the loan with equity. Weigh options carefully based on your situation.
8. Celebrate Small Wins
Paying off debt is a long process. Celebrate milestones to stay motivated – your first card paid off, hitting 25% of the way, half paid off, etc.
Make debt payoff charts and graphs to visualize progress. Reward yourself (without spending!) when you hit goals – movie night, picnic at the park, pedicure using gift cards.
Staying positive keeps you in the game. Remind yourself regularly why you’re doing this – for peace of mind, financial stability, a brighter future. The finish line is worth it!
Getting out of credit card debt takes strategy, discipline and patience, but it is absolutely achievable with commitment. Following these steps will set you up for success. Don’t get discouraged – take it one day at a time. You’ve got this! Here are some additional resources for guidance and support: