Credit card debts seem to permeate our lives and with more and more people struggling to pay them off, it’s high time to talk about strategies. In America, as many as 40% of households rely on their credit cards for basic living costs such as paying off their insurance, groceries, and utilities. This can be especially daunting when trying to tackle debt and while it takes effort and perseverance, it’s not impossible.
Let’s Talk Strategy!
Figuring out where to start can halt your plans from the very top, so it’s important to plan your approach beforehand. Financial experts routinely remind us of gratification and how paying off one card can boost us to keep the trend up. At the end of the day, which card you aim for from the get-go can impact your performance either positively or negatively, so don’t just pick one at random.
Paying the one with the lowest balance first can give you a sense of accomplishment, giving you a feeling of ‘I can totally do this!’. It means sticking to minimum payments on any other cards for a while but at least you’ll have one out of the way sooner rather than later. This is known as the snowball method.
Then there’s the issue of boosting your credit score, and if this is a real concern to you then you might want to go about it the other way around. It’ll take longer, no doubt about it, but it could give you enormous peace of mind once you’re done. This avalanche approach makes sure that near the end, you’ll only have your lowest balance to worry about and with all the other payments out of the way, it’ll be a breeze to see it through.
Both of these approaches are hands-on, but that doesn’t mean you can’t automate payments. In fact, some people find that they’re less likely to get distracted from their plans if they do. If you have the time and energy to think about each payment long term, we encourage you to go the automation route.
Transferring your balance sounds good on paper but it should only be in the cards if you’re confident you can pay it off before the introductory low-interest period runs out. Depending on the card, this could last between 12 to 18 months and you’ll likely have to pay a fee. Depending on the sum, it could end up being a hefty amount.
If it could save you in the long run and you’ve got a good plan on how you’re going to deal with this, there’s no harm done.
When talking about seeking help most people think of getting a loan from people they’re close to, but that might not even be an option for you. Still, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
There are, however, several other places you can get help from. First off, you should consider talking to your creditors. Long term customers that also have good credit scores might be offered a smaller minimum payment or lower APR. It also doesn’t hurt to do a little bit of shopping and if you find a better offer, let your current creditors know. In the interest of keeping you as a customer, they could offer some benefits.
You could even ask for a debt settlement, meaning you’ll be paying less than you owe but it could be a costly and lengthy endeavor. The worst part about it is that it will ruin your credit score and after all the fuss you might still have to pay taxes on the forgiven debt.
Those who also chose to employ the help of a company with the process will also have to pay fees. Be mindful of the risks involved and only use this as a last resort.
Before it even gets to that point, consider reaching out to a nonprofit credit counseling agency. If you don’t know how to approach your creditors, they’ll help negotiate on your behalf in exchange for a monthly fixed rate.
Lastly, if you still need help with your payments, if you can’t negotiate good terms and if your family or friends are unable or unwilling to help, you can turn to peer-to-peer lenders. Most offer rates that are significantly lower than the majority of credit cards so you’ll end up saving a lot of money if you’re clever about your payments. In some cases, these rates could even be reduced between 20% to 30%.
Finally, if none of the options above are plausible, you should consider filing for bankruptcy. There are two ways to do this but they are not without consequences.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy forgives most unsecured debts and in some cases, though not all, you’re going to have to give up some assets. Medical bills and personal loans also fall under this, but not student loans. You’ll have your means investigated, including your spending habits and your income and your credit score will suffer for years to come. If even with extreme measures it would take you more than 5 years to pay your debts, Chapter 7 is right for you.
Chapter 13 bankruptcy is a little different in that you must have a stable income in order to apply, but it does cover collateralized student debts. Also, you cannot apply for your unsecured debt is bigger than $394,725. As for your secured debt, it cannot exceed $1,184,200.
At the end of the day, if you’re making a real effort to pay off your debt you should look at all your options. A number of Americans even insist on making two payments per month because issuers may charge interest on a daily basis. For you, this could mean you’ll have to rely on a tighter budget but you’ll have a bigger chance of paying everything off faster. And we don’t mean faster as in ‘a few months’, we mean you could get out of debt years sooner than you normally would!
We hope this helped shed some light on what you could do in order to tackle your debts. It’s not easy, thousands of households struggle every year but with the right tools, timing and incentives, we’re sure you can make it happen.
Let us know what your plans are and inspire others to do the same in the comments below!