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You know your credit card debt is too high. You know that it’s causing your credit score to drop. And that is hurting your chances to qualify for everything from an auto loan to a mortgage loan to your dream job. (Remember, many employers today check your credit scores when you send in an application.)
Problem is, when you look at your credit card debt, you have no idea how to even begin paying it down. This debt may be the result of poor budgeting, an emergency, or may have even come from a spouse. It seems as if there are no extra dollars at the end of the month. In fact, when you reach the end of the month you’ve inevitably managed to spend more money than you earned.
It may seem hopeless, but you do have to address your debt issues. You can’t simply allow your credit card debt to grow every month. Not only will this further hurt your credit score, it’ll also keep you awake at nights. It’s not easy to enjoy life when you’re spending every free minute worrying about your ever-mounting credit card debt. And don’t forget, that minimum monthly payment will continue to rise along with your credit card debt.
Your best bet is to take a careful look at your finances and create a customized debt payoff plan.
There’s a reason for this: What works for one debt-ridden person might not work for you. Maybe your monthly income is rather meager. If this is the case, you’ll have to take small steps to pay down your debt. Maybe you can only shave $100 off your credit card debt at a time. Don’t be discouraged: Every little bit helps.
Maybe you make a decent income, but you can’t seem to control your discretionary spending. You’ll need to skip the morning coffees, extra shoe purchases and trips to the mall every weekend. By doing this, you can put aside a larger chunk of money to your monthly debt, paying it off at a quicker pace.
Perhaps when you review your finances, you’ll see that a huge percentage of your monthly income is spent on entertainment, everything from eating out to cable TV subscriptions to music and books. You might need to put a halt on your entertainment spending and instead tap free sources of entertainment such as your local public library. You can then use that extra money to whittle away at your debt.
As these examples show, no consumer will have the same debt payoff plan. It’s why a customizable debt payoff plan is always the better choice.
You won’t be able to create a customized debt payoff plan, though, if you don’t first take a completely honest look at your finances.
Write down everything on which you spend your money. Now is not the time to overlook these three fast-food hamburgers you scarfed down last week. Those cost money, too.
By studying your finances with a magnifying glass, you’ll almost certainly come across areas in which you’ll be able to cut your spending. Maybe you can find a hair stylist that charges $20 less for a haircut. Maybe you can squeeze another month or two out of your existing wardrobe of clothes. Maybe instead of going to four movies next month, you can rent two free movies from your public library.
Tip: Looking for an easy way to create and track a personal budget? There’s an app for that. Check our our list of the best iPhone apps for managing your budget.
Your debt problems won’t disappear on their own, and they won’t disappear without you taking some creative steps to free up money. You didn’t build your debt overnight, and you won’t erase it overnight, either. But by creating a customized debt payoff plan, you’ll be started on the path to a debt-free lifestyle.