Get Out Of Credit Card Debt - 5 Helpful Hints

By: Casey Markee

Credit card debt can pile up quickly and be overwhelming to the average individual who has difficulty controlling daily spending habits. Unable to keep up with the required payments to one credit card company, these same individuals accept credit balances with several companies, opening up too many possibilities for spending and starting a downward debt spiral they are unable to recover from financially.

When such a situation occurs it is critical that steps be taken immediately to stop using credit cards for purchases and to start on a debt reduction plan. In any case, there are a number of alternatives for getting the debt under control. Most of these choices fall under the umbrella terms of debt management and/or credit counseling. The below are 5 helpful hints that any debt plagued consumer can immediately implement to correct their current financial situation for the better, either through their own actions or through the assistance of a professional debt management company or credit counselor:

1. A written plan. The best credit counseling or debt management firms will take as much time as necessary to review each individual consumer debt situation. The first product of this detailed review should be a written plan, tailored to one person's financial situation or one family's financial situation. At no time should the management or counseling professional make unrealistic promises about clearing up credit card debt problems. A good plan has dedicated benchmarks for repayment of your debt to creditors in manageable amounts you can afford without financial hardship.

2. Avoid paying only the minimum. This may seem to be exactly the opposite of good advice, until the idea is looked at a bit more closely. Most experienced debt management professionals and counselors will quickly explain that the minimum payment usually covers only the interest charges. This leaves the principal (the actual amount of purchases on the card). If the credit card balance is $5,000 and minimum payments are made over the course of a year or two, the cost of the $5,000 items has increased by a couple of thousand dollars. That is generally good for the credit card company and bad for the customer, for obvious reasons.

3. Consolidate your debt. This method of working through debt can come in at least a couple of different forms. Consolidation can be something as simple as keeping one credit card (the one with the best terms/rates) and destroying the rest. Using the remaining card only in emergencies is probably the best path from that point on. Debt consolidation can also involve getting a bank or credit union loan that has a low interest rate. The proceeds can then be used to pay off higher-interest credit card debt.

4. Use savings to reduce credit card debt. In a very basic sense, it does not make good financial sense to have money in a savings account earning 2 percent or 3 percent while carrying a credit card debt with 17 or 18 percent interest. Of course, it is good to have that "nest egg" for unforeseen situations or special occasions, but there may be a time when it is advisable to use this savings to reduce credit card debt. If you have to choose between saving for that future boat you have always wanted or getting yourself out of a current financial credit bind, you need to be choosing the later without hesitation.

5. Stay out of debt. The only way to ensure you stay debt-free in the first place is to change individual habits and your family's lifestyle. Many families have no budget at all, not even a few brief notes about what to spend on house payments or rent, utilities and groceries. Simply writing down, side by side, the family income and the family expenses is an excellent starting point. Making sure that everyone sticks to the budget is the next, and most critical step. Many individuals and families focus on getting more "pay" or having more "income" rather than reducing costs and cutting out unnecessary expenditures in the first place. In many cases, this additional money only leads to more debt.

A simple change in your everyday financial thinking can lead to a drastic change (for the better) in your overall financial situation. Follow the simple five helpful hints above and start walking the path to a debt-free life today. The situation is not hopeless. You can do it, just put off that boat purchase a couple more years, your credit score will thank you.

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