If it’s time to get serious about those debts dragging on your finances, consider the following suggestions on how to save money and pay off debt. Once you’ve applied added income to paying down those credit card balances, you can begin serious saving and be on your way to financial success.
1. Boost your income
There must be 101 ways to cut back on expenses and overspending. But, let’s face it, there’s only so much economizing you can do before you need to make more money. You’ve got to increase your income in order to really get some momentum going in paying down your credit card debt.
If you’re not sure where to start, try opening a weekend business or turning your hobby into a second job. Look around the house and see what you might sell in a garage or yard sale, and take the valuable items to a consignment shop. Also, for both your second job and your primary employment, check your tax withholding and see if you can adjust it so you have less money taken out of your paycheck.
2. Negotiate a lower rate or a balance transfer
With your better cash flow you can start to address your credit card debt by directing that income towards the principal balance and not interest payments. Two preliminaries come first.
First, call your credit card provider and ask for a lower rate on your account. This could potentially save you hundreds of dollars on interest payments and knock months off your debt-free date. The worst they can say is “no.”
Failing this, consider using a promotional balance transfer to pay down your credit cards faster. You’ll be able to save a lot on interest, while giving yourself more time to make the monthly payments. You’ll also avoid any potential late payments and other fees that credit card companies can charge consumers with high balances.
3. Stop using your cards
A good way to make your credit card balances drop quickly is to simply stop using them. Once you stop using the cards, you’ll be able to easily see how much spending you can afford every month. And since your balance will stop increasing you’ll be saving money on interest payments too. Promise yourself to stop using your credit cards for one month, and instead use cash or debit cards. It’s tough at first, but then it will become a lot easier to stick to a budget and live within your means. Store your credit cards where you won’t have easy access to them — but don’t cancel them. And use cash whenever possible.
Once you stop using your credit cards, you should have more money in your budget to increase your monthly payment. It’s nearly impossible to pay down a mountain of credit card debt if you don’t pay more than the minimum amount due. In fact, due to the high interest rate and outrageous late fees, the credit card game is all about keeping you in debt for a long time. Start paying more than the minimum payment on your accounts and watch your balances decrease rapidly.
4. Pay higher-interest cards first
Start your plan by choosing one of the two most common credit card payoff strategies. The first is to put all your extra cash into the highest-interest card while paying the minimums on the others — which is the fastest way, overall, to lower your debt. Once the first card is paid off, you have even more extra cash, and should apply it to the card with the next-highest rate.
A second strategy is to pay off your card with the lowest balance first while continuing to pay the minimums on the others. It’s the fastest way to eliminate debt on a single card, and it can be a psychological boost to eliminate a bill for good. Choose your strategy, then rank your cards in the order you’ll pay them off.
5. Motivate yourself and track your progress
Set yourself some concrete goals to help stay focused. Establish your motivation for achieving these goals. Maybe getting rid of debt will allow you to save for a down payment on a house, go on a dream vacation, or stop worrying about every bill that hits your mailbox. Keep an eye on your spending and track your progress. Put reminders in your calendar to check up on your finances. Keep a copy of your plan in your wallet or purse. If you get tempted to overspend, take a look at it to remind yourself of the bigger picture.
6. Get some support
Some people are motivated by trying to outpace everyone else. Other people are motivated by encouragement and collaboration. No matter which one you are, your friends can help you stay motivated to get out of debt.
If you like to measure your progress against others, it will be easier to talk about money with your friends and family if you make a competition out of it.
On the other hand, if you are more motivated by encouragement, then share your goal with your friends and family and ask them to keep checking in and offering their advice and words of wisdom. You can use their support to keep you on track.
Plan to save after getting your debt in control
Once your debt in under control, the first thing you should do is start saving. First, create an emergency fund to cover several months’ worth of living expenses. It will help you manage the unexpected crises and misfortunes we all face.
Then, turn to retirement, even though it may be years away. Probably the best investment vehicle available to you is your employer’s 401(k) savings plan. Contribute as much as the non-taxable limits allow, if possible, but certainly enough to qualify for the company’s matching funds. If you can contribute more to savings, fund a Roth IRA. Roth IRA withdrawals are tax-free after the age of 59 1/2 on accounts more than five years old. Also be sure to fund to the max the health savings account provided at work.
By putting these suggestions into practice you can learn how to save money and pay off debt so as to guarantee your financial future.