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Managing Your Credit Card Debt: A Step-by-Step Guide

 
Credit Usage and How It Impacts Your Credit ScoreCredit AdvisorSpending HabitsSnowball MethodDon't Carry Your Card

Credit card debt amongst Americans has spiked significantly since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Many found themselves suddenly out of work and were forced to turn to their credit cards to pay their bills and put food on the table for their families. Unfortunately, as the pandemic waned, inflation began to become an additional factor in Americans needing the cushion of credit cards to purchase everyday essentials. On average, the American household now carries over $8,000 in credit card debt.

If you’re carrying a credit card balance, you may feel hopeless and discouraged when you see your statement every month. However, by taking the appropriate steps, you can maximize your ability to pay down your balances and be on your way to a debt-free life!

Step 1: Understand your Credit Usage and how it Impacts your Credit Score

Credit usage is simply the percentage of your total available credit that has been used. Ideally, this amount should be under 30%. As your usage percentage climbs, your credit score will typically drop.

If you’re carrying a balance each month, be mindful of your usage. Set a goal to avoid exceeding the 30% usage threshold while you work to pay down your debt, as this will minimize detriment to your credit score.

Step 2: Speak to a Credit Advisor or Counselor

Credit Advisors can be an excellent resource for those who are dealing with mounting credit card debt. Often, they will assist in formulating a plan to eliminate high-interest credit card debt and can recommend debt consolidation solutions that are tailored to your specific needs. Many of these services are available at no cost to you.

Step 3: Examine and Change Spending Habits

Look over your credit card statements and review all of your charges for the month. Do you notice any unnecessary trends, like spending $10 at the coffee shop every morning rather than making coffee at home?

Cutting small expenses and making overall changes to your spending habits can assist in saving you money each month, which can then be used to pay off more high-interest credit card debt.

Step 4: Pay off One Card at a Time - Try the Snowball Method

While you should always continue paying at least the minimum payment on all of your cards each month, the Snowball Method can be an excellent way to pay your debts off completely, one card at a time.

You will begin with your smallest balance, paying the largest chunk toward it each month. Once this is paid off, you will take the amount you were paying on this card and put it towards the next smallest remaining balance. Repeat this until you’ve paid off all of your balances!

Step 5: Don’t Carry your Cards with you

Once you’ve paid your balances off, put those cards away! Don’t cancel them, as this can be detrimental to your credit score. However, by not having immediate access to these cards, you won’t have the option to charge them without careful planning.

This will help eliminate unnecessary, frivolous charges. Instead, make a plan to use the card at least once per month for a small purchase like gas or groceries, and then pay the balance off before the due date. This will prevent the credit card company from closing the card for not being used and continue to help you build your credit score.

Becoming debt-free can feel daunting, but by taking conscious steps to change your habits, and taking advantage of the options available to you, it is possible to take control of your credit cards once and for all!

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