If you have run up your credit card bills and wonder how you are going to catch up and pay them off, you are not alone. Millions of Americans are in way over their head when it comes to credit card debt. The good news is, it’s not impossible to pay off credit card debt, even though it may seem like it right now. With discipline, you can become debt free and use the experience to improve your long term financial situation. Paying off debt does take sacrifice, determination and hard work – there are no easy fixes. Here are some of the most highly effective ways you can eliminate your credit card debt quickly and get yourself back on track financially:
You Really Can Give Up Cable TV
Sacrificing cable TV is not something people really want to do – but if you have a pile of credit card bills that you want to pay off quickly, this is a great way to get started. Cable bills can run into the hundreds of dollars per month, so if you temporarily give up cable television or at least reduce your subscription cost you can put that extra $100 or so toward your credit card debt. If you’re worried about missing some of your favorite shows, check out the network websites – many of the shows you watch are probably available online. If you’re just a little bit technical, you can even connect your computer and tv and even watch your shows on your television instead of your computer monitor.
Giving up cable television is a bit of a lifestyle change for many families, but think about how that extra $100 or so per month will speed up your debt repayments.
Consolidate Your Phone Lines
Most families have multiple cellular phones and a phone line or two installed in their homes. Do you really need all of them? Cell phones have become part of our world and most of us can’t imagine life without them but believe it or not – people survived without them just fine a few years ago! If you really can’t give up the convenience of your cell phone, consider downgrading your plan, texting less, skipping the data plan and using the phone for communication only to reduce your monthly cell phone bill. You can also consider whether you really need the home telephone line if you have your cell phone available all the time – it may be less expensive to upgrade the cell phone plan to an unlimited plan and cancel your home phone. Look at the different scenarios for your phone bills and find the option that will save you the most money and still meet your needs for communication. Apply the savings to your debt repayments.
Think About Trading In Your Car
For people who are in over their heads in debt or are just serious about changing their ways, trading in your car may be an option. The American way is to have a new shiny car every few years, but the result is generally a car payment that never ends. When we finish paying off one car loan or lease, we turn the car in for a new one and start our payments all over again. You may consider turning your car in for a less expensive, reliable used car that has a lower monthly payment or better yet – one you can pay for in full. If you do this, make sure you apply the full amount that you used to send to your car payment to your debt.
Cook Your Meals From Scratch
You might be in sheer panic with this one, but home cooking does not have to take hours of your time and it can save you a small fortune over eating out or buying prepared meals each month. Also, eliminating unnecessary items like junk food and soda or other beverages can really help reduce your grocery expenses each month. The money you save on food can be applied to your debt to pay it off faster, and once paid off you can decide to return to your favorite foods – but you may find the side effect of this sacrifice is living a healthier lifestyle!
Except for necessities like groceries and items your kids absolutely need, take a break from shopping. This means no unnecessary spending for several months at a time. Most of what we buy we don’t need anyway, and if you want to tackle debt, not spending is a great way to have the money to do so. You would be surprised at how much money is wasted each month on items we forget we buy. If you don’t believe me, keep a 90 day record of every penny coming in and every penny you spend, and then look at where the money is going. At the end of 90 days, add up everything on the list that isn’t essential, even the pack of gum or cups of coffee, and see just how much you spend without realizing it! Most people find this to be a very eye opening experience.
Radically changing your spending habits is not easy to do, but your debt can take years longer to pay off without making these lifestyle changes. You don’t have to give up these little luxuries forever – just make temporary sacrifices to free up money so you can pay off debt and stop paying interest and fees. Once you’re out of debt, you can better decide how to spend your money. Chances are good if you commit to these changes until your debt is paid off, you’ll learn strong money management skills that will ensure you don’t make the same mistakes again. Jump in with both feet and give it a month or two. You may find out that you actually enjoy the lifestyle changes and you certainly will feel less stressed as your debt begins to disappear.
Jennifer Davis blogs about reducing credit card debt with balance transfer credit cards at SmartBalanceTransfers.com, a consumer education website designed to help people find 0% APR balance transfer deals.
Photo: Some rights reserved by Tony Webster