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I want to help you get out of credit card debt.
Credit cards are everywhere, and it’s so easy to fall into massive amounts of credit card debt.
The bad news is, it’s a lot harder to get out of credit card debt, and it usually takes years of hard work and dedication.
I want to help you avoid making mistakes when paying off your credit card debt. Avoiding credit card debt mistakes means less stress and more joy.
And I don’t know about you, but I always like to experience more joy.
Let’s get into a few strategies and amazing tools to help you become debt free faster.
8 Mistakes to Avoid When Paying Off Credit Card Debt
1. Stop Blaming others for Your Credit Card Debt
It’s best if you take full responsibility for your financial situation.
But holy cow, that can be hard.
Blaming others for your debts will only weaken your desire to pay them off. And it’s a lot harder to get out of debt fast if you’re unmotivated.
Under certain circumstances, such as losing a job or any serious medical problems, you may have been compelled to use your credit cards. And honestly, bad stuff happens and debt racks up. Sometimes debt is truly out of your control.
But in most cases, you need to accept that you are responsible for the situation you’re in, AND you’re responsible for paying off your debt in full.
If you look at the people around you – your friends, neighbors, family, coworkers – chances are most have credit card debt too. It’s become normal to carry credit card debt, but it doesn’t have to be.
There’s a better way. And I’ll show you how to get out of debt quickly in the rest of this article.
Once you accept that you are in debt because of a few wrong decisions, you are more likely to stay motivated when it comes to paying off debts.
Debt is temporary, and you can make choices to live a debt free life.
2. No Real Plan to Pay Off Credit Cards
If you make a decision to pay off debts but don’t take any action, you won’t get out of debt.
That seems obvious.
Don’t just make plans. Try to execute them. Save every extra penny you have towards debt repayment so you can become debt free faster.
In fact, I want to make it practical, super simple (okay, simple-ish) plan to get out of credit card debt as fast as possible.
3 Practical Steps to Create a Plan to Get Out of Credit Card Debt Quickly
Set goals you care about
Goals are the first place to start when you’re serious about getting out of credit card debt. If you don’t know WHY you want to be debt free, then it’ll take longer and be harder to actually pay off your credit card debt in full.
So take a minute.
Take 5 minutes.
WHY do you want to get out of credit card debt?
Here are a few goals that motivated us to pay off $100,000 in 5 years.
- Start a family – we couldn’t afford daycare and debt
- Buy a house
- Get dogs
There are so many motivating goals to keep you focused and determined to get out of credit card debt. Think about what motivates you, dream about it, and put in the work to be debt free. More on what that “work” looks like in a minute. Just keep reading.
Another big factor for our debt free journey was WHEN we wanted to be debt free.
Try this for a minute.
Forget about numbers, obstacles, income, or any of the things keeping you from paying off your debt. Set a date of when you want to be debt free.
2 years? 5 years? 8 years?
Choose a month and a year when you want to be debt free, and don’t doubt yourself.
We made a goal to pay off $100,000 in 5 years on teacher salaries. It was crazy, ridiculous, and absolutely unrealistic.
But we ignored everything that said we couldn’t do it, and we just did it. One day and one payment at a time using our debt snowball spreadsheet.
Create a Debt Snowball or Debt Avalanche Spreadsheet
Sweet, hopefully you have an unreasonable and crazy debt free date you created for yourself and you know WHY you want to be debt free.
Now let’s use a magical spreadsheet to track your progress as you work to pay off your credit card debt in full.
A debt snowball spreadsheet (in Excel or Google Sheets) is amazing for 3 reasons:
- It organizes all of your debt – total owed, interest rates, and monthly payments all in one place
- It accelerates your credit card debt repayment – you focus on ONE credit card debt at a time, and once you pay it off, you roll the minimum payment into the next credit card debt. It cuts YEARS off your debt free journey
- It’s like a debt repayment calculator – a debt snowball sheet allows you to change payment amounts and accelerate your debt free date. You can actually see when you’ll be debt free and add extra payments to get out of credit card debt faster.
Go check out the debt snowball spreadsheet. It’s the best way to pay off multiple credit cards.
Set up a budget
I LOVE budgets and truly believe a budget focused on YOUR goals can change your life. That includes helping you pay off credit card debt.
- Keep it realistic (you can’t cut all of your expenses down to zero)
- Goal oriented – dedicate extra money to pay off your credit card debt faster
- Miscellaneous categories for wiggle room. Helps avoid using your credit card in a tight situation.
3. Paying the minimum on all credit cards
If you only pay the minimum on your credit cards, you’re wasting money on interest.
You must pay at least the minimum on all of your credit card debts to avoid collections. But you need to pay more than the minimum to at least ONE debt.
This is where a debt snowball or debt avalanche will be your best friend. You can target the highest interest credit card first and pay extra on only that credit card. Any extra money you have will help you pay off your credit card faster. The more extra money you can pay on this credit card every month, the faster you will have all of your credit card debt paid in full!
You can use the Debt Free Playbook to get a more guided approach to setting up your debt snowball. If you’re a DIY person, use the debt snowball spreadsheet article to set up your own spreadsheet in a few simple steps. No spreadsheet skills necessary.
This is a picture for one of the videos in the Debt Free Playbook. It’s only available inside the Debt Free Playbook.
A debt snowball in Excel or Google Sheets will help you see the power of paying more than the minimum on one credit card debt, and help you pay off your credit card debt more quickly and save a significant amount of money on interest.
4. Making use of home equity line of credit
If you want to use a home equity loan to pay off your unsecured debts, you should know that you are putting your home at risk.
This means if you can’t make the payments towards the home equity loan, then your house may get foreclosed. So, you should avoid using home equity loans to pay off your debts at all costs.
Also, remember that if you default on credit card payments, the credit card company can drag you to court. However, if you cannot pay towards a home equity loan, you may lose your home.
5. Using your credit cards to buy items you can’t afford
A credit card allows you to spend money you don’t have. You can purchase things you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to.
It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that you’ll be the one responsible for paying this debt in the end. You may feel temporary satisfaction from owning things that are far beyond your financial means.
But this won’t last long when it leads to significant credit card debts.
A great way to avoid using your credit card while paying off debt is to STOP USING YOUR CREDIT CARD. You can cut them up Dave Ramsey style, or stash them in a drawer some place.
Just please don’t close the accounts after you pay them off. Closing long standing credit card accounts can hurt your credit score. The goal instead is to create the discipline and self control to not use a credit card or pay it off every month.
6. Transferring balances at a high price
Transferring credit card balances happens all the time, but can be a mistake. Some consumers may apply for a low-interest balance transfer credit card to consolidate debt. It might work; however, make sure the transfer is being made to the right credit card.
Some of these balance transfer cards charge extremely high fees for transferring your balances, and the low-interest rate might only be applicable for a few months.
So, you’ll need to pay off the outstanding balance on the balance transfer card within the introductory rate period.
7. Purchasing items of daily need with your credit cards
Don’t use credit cards to purchase everyday items such as clothes, food, and gas unless you have the self control and income to pay it off every month. Making these everyday purchases with your credit card is a terrible habit and can lead to excessive debt.
8. Not changing your lifestyle
Getting out of credit card debt takes work.
And hopefully the process of creating a debt snowball spreadsheet and living on a budget will help you build self control and discipline that can truly change your life.
But if you don’t commit to changing your lifestyle, you could find yourself in the same spending habits and mistakes that landed you in credit card debt in the first place.
Even if you enroll in a debt consolidation program, you can’t lay back and relax since a debt relief company doesn’t end your financial problems in the blink of an eye. You have to commit to change the habits that got you in the financial mess in the first place.
Lastly, you should always keep your eyes and ears open. Be on your guard against these mistakes regarding managing debt to prevent yourself from ending up in an unfortunate position. If you avoid these problems, then you can lead a stress-free and successful financial life.
Next Steps to Get Out of Credit Card Debt Fast
I’ve harped on it a lot in this article, so it’s probably no surprise to hear me say…
Set up a debt snowball spreadsheet ASAP and start using an annual budget spreadsheet to be more intentional about your money and create a real plan to pay off your credit card debt in full (and as fast as humanly possible).
Author Bio: Lyle David Solomon has considerable litigation experience as well as substantial hands-on knowledge and expertise in legal analysis and writing. Since 2003, he has been a member of the State Bar of California. In 1998, he graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California, and now serves as a principal attorney for the Oak View Law Group in Rocklin, California.