Balances at a Historic Low: Time to Get Credit Card Debt Under Control

Credit cards are incredibly convenient – which is certainly one reason credit card debt has been a problem for so many, for so long. After all, as long as you have your card, you have the money you need to run errands, entertain the kids, or grab a quick bite to eat. But the coronavirus pandemic has changed everything, keeping us at home more, and significantly decreasing how much we’re spending on our credit cards.

In fact, a recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed an $82 billion decline in credit card spending so far this year. If you’re one of the millions of Americans who have spent less over the last few months, this could be the perfect opportunity to get a handle on your credit card debt once and for all.

5 tips to get rid of credit card debt, starting now

1. Know your “why”

Before you start your credit card debt payoff journey, think about your life goals — the “why” behind getting out of credit card debt. Maybe you plan to pay for some or all of your child’s college education. Or perhaps you’d like to purchase a home closer to your extended family, or retire early.

Jot down your goals and hang them up on your fridge, bathroom mirror, or anywhere else where you’ll see them every day. Use these goals as motivation to pay down your debt. After all, the faster your credit card balances hit zero, the faster you’ll be able to meet your goals.

2. Make sacrifices

Nobody gets out of credit card debt without making sacrifices. But since you may have lower balances than you had a year or two ago, saying goodbye to a few conveniences and pleasures you’re used to could have a bigger impact than ever before. Here are a few examples of ways to cut back and reach your goals.

  • Skip the takeout: If you order takeout on the weekends, forgo this habit and cook at home on Saturdays and Sundays. Use this as a way to spend time doing something relaxing with the people closest to you. Then, put all the money you’d normally use on takeout toward your balances.
  • Put off big purchases: Maybe you’d like a new fridge, car, or another big-ticket item in the near future. Instead of buying it this fall, consider waiting until you’re out of credit card debt. Plus, if your credit score goes up after you pay down credit card debt, that big purchase may cost you less over time.
  • Get a side gig: It can be tough to pick up a side gig, especially if you have a demanding full-time job, children, and other responsibilities. However, delivering meals, mowing lawns, performing data entry, graphic design, editing, or many other kinds of work may help you get out of debt faster.

The good news is that sacrifices can be temporary. Once you’re free of debt, you’ll decide which treats and extras you could bring back without getting back into debt. And if you no longer have to pay off balances, fees, or interest, you’ll probably have some extra money to spend anyway.

3. Ask for lower interest rates

If you’re overwhelmed with your credit card debt, lowering the interest rates on your cards may make it easier for you to make some headway. You may be surprised to learn that it’s actually quite common to call a creditor and ask for an interest rate reduction.

If you have a track record of paying your bills on time, there’s a good chance they’ll agree. The worst thing that can happen is that they’ll say no. Ideally, however, you’ll score a lower interest rate and save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest payments over time.

4. Consider a balance transfer

balance transfer can allow you to move a credit card balance from your current credit card to a new one. Since most balance transfer cards offer low or 0% interest for a promotional time period, they can give you some time to repay your debt without incurring more interest, allowing you to use your hard-earned money to pay down your balance rather than make your interest payments. One significant challenge of balance transfer cards, however, is that most of them require you to have good credit.

5. Don’t use your credit cards

The key to getting rid of credit card debt quickly is to stop adding to it. If you’ve relied on credit cards to make purchases in the past, it’s time to change that. Since this is easier said than done, try these useful tips.

  • Unlink your cards: If your credit card details are already plugged into your Amazon account or favorite shopping sites, unlink them. This way you’ll be less tempted to make impulse purchases with your credit card online.
  • Try the envelope budgeting system: With the envelope budgeting system, you place cash in separate envelopes. Each envelope is for a different category such as groceries, gas or extras. Once you spend the cash in an envelope, you don’t have any more money to allocate toward that category until the next month rolls around.

Anna Baluch

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