Christmas and holiday spending can be brutal on any household budget, considering most families significantly overspend during the holiday season. It is estimated that the average American household has more than $8000 in credit card debt. After all the fun and festivities are over, you should take control of your household budget and expenses. Unfortunately, one of the biggest yet most controllable expenses for most individuals or households is their revolving debt. The payments may not only handcuff your spending ability, but they can limit your financial options to purchase a car or house. In order to escape from the trap of credit card debt, you will need to determine the best way to pay down and eliminate your debt. The following is a list of suggestions on how to pay down your debt and improve your financial situation.
• Collect Your Information – Gather your last pay stub and all your latest credit card statements. Write down the name of the creditor, balance, interest rate, due date, and the minimum payment for each card. Then add up all the minimum payments for each account. Based on your disposable income after you pay your mortgage, utilities, and other necessities; do you have enough money left over each month to make the minimum credit card payments? Also, write down how much interest you are paying monthly and annually. This is the amount of money that is being wasted.
• Make a Plan – Once you have a basic budget that includes your income and debts, you can then decide if you want to consolidate your debt, start to reduce your debt by paying off the cards with the highest interest rates first, or start by paying off the cards with the lowest balances first. Choose a plan you can stick to, no one knows your financial situation better than you do.
• Consolidate Your Debt – Turn your revolving debt into a term loan. If you close your credit cards after consolidating them, you will no longer have the ability to add to your debt. Also, part of your payments will be reducing the principal balance of your debt, unlike minimum credit card payments that are usually just paying the interest on the outstanding balance. Therefore, you will be paying down your debt and the consolidation loan should be paid off within a certain number of years. If you are financially capable, it would benefit you to make more than the minimum payment, thereby reducing the principal balance on the debt faster. If you decide to consolidate your credit card debt, take the time to thoroughly compare your options and shop for an interest rate that is lower than your credit card interest rates. Also, set up an automatic payment arrangement for your consolidation loan. This will prevent you from falling behind in the payment and potentially facing penalties and/or a higher interest rate.
• Debt Settlement – This is the program that is an alternative to bankruptcy. When you go through your finances, if you find out that your monthly payments exceed your financial ability, you will need to seek alternative options, such as: working with a financial institution to consolidation your credit, discuss your options with a bankruptcy attorney, or talk to the credit card companies directly to reduce the principal balances owed on your debt.
• Stop Charging – Once you make your plan to pay off your debt, you will need to be committed to stop charging on your credit cards and creating new debt until your finances are under control. Your plan will not work unless you reduce your spending.
Taking control of your finances may create short-term hardships and limit your ability to purchase items over the next few years, such as: a new car, new house, or a vacation. Nevertheless, it is imperative that you control your spending, so you can improve your finances and get out of debt. Once your debt is paid off, you will have a significant increase in disposable income. In addition, you should have higher credit scores and a lower debt to income ratio; therefore in the future, you should qualify for preferential rates on auto and home loans.