- Personal Finance
How to Be a Cheapskate and Pay Off Your Credit Card Debt
My credit card debt has been holding me hostage for years. With rising interest rates and a tight economy, I have found a way to get rid of my credit card debt. I realized that, between my urge-to-splurge, high interest rates, and crazy late fees, my credit card debt was overwhelming. But I learned how to cut my spending, control costs, earn money, and pay off the debt. And each month, my credit card debt is slowly and steadily decreasing. These frugal tips are easy, manageable, and free. There is no magic pill, and no get-out-of-jail-free card. This is simply a list of tightwad tips that I have used to save money and put it towards the credit card debt. By being cheap and learning inexpensive ways to save a few dollars, I have paid more money towards my minimum payment each month, and made a lot of progress towards decreasing my overall balance.
How to Pay Off Your Credit Card Debt
If you're reading this article, you are sick of living paycheck to paycheck and tired of the debt. These tips will teach you how to be a cheapskate and pay more on your credit cards.
Cash and Checks Only
- Put away your credit cards! They are now off limits. Trust me. This is the only way to pay off your bills.
- Open two checking accounts. Use one account to pay all of your regular bills, like your car payment, your mortgage, and your utilities. We will call this your "Checking Account for Bills." Use the other checking account for everything else. We will call this your "Checking Account for Spending."
- With the first checking account, set up automatic payments to pay all of your monthly bills including your credit card minimum payments. This will stop you from incurring late charges. Make sure you have enough money in the bank before setting up the automatic payments or you will incur bounced check fees.
- Put your paycheck on direct deposit into your first checking account, Checking Account for Bills.
- Figure out a realistic monthly budget. Take your income and subtract all of your monthly bills for the mortgage, utilities, etc. Keep this money in your Checking Account for Bills. With the second checking account, Checking Account for Spending, put enough money for your monthly spending. Be realistic. You will use this account instead of your credit cards. Get a debit card on this account so you can use it instead of your credit cards. When this money is gone, it's gone. So don't spend all your money at one time.
If you owe a lot of money to credit cards, stop investing in your retirement account. I know that this goes against everyone else's advice, but trust me. You need this money now, not later.
Make Interest Work for You
- Make a list of all of your credit cards. Include the balance and interest rates.
- Pick the card with the highest interest rate. This is the card that you will pay off first. Every time you save money, you will send that money to this credit card first. Why? Because they are charging you crazy amounts of interest every single day! Why put $100 in the bank and earn nothing when you can pay your credit card and save a lot of money every day?
- If you have any money in your savings account, pull it out and pay off your credit card debt. Pay off the highest interest rate card first.
- If Mom will lend you money, then take the loan. Get a consolidation loan if you can. Refinance the car. Get a second mortgage on the house. Do what you have to do!
- If you have any cards with no balance, call them up and ask about their rates for a balance transfer. They may give you a low interest rate if you transfer a balance from another credit card to that account. Also, ask about their transaction fee. That is where they make money! Go online and do a search for a "credit card balance transfer fee calculator." You can find out if it will save you money.
- Stop using your credit cards! It's the only way to get out of debt.
- Frugal people know to eat dinner at home. Fast food is expensive and unhealthy. Do you know why expensive restaurants are so delicious? They use lots of butter and fat. If you want to enjoy an expensive tasting dinner, cook with fatty foods at home.
- Bring your lunch and snacks to work. Buy bulk snacks at a local warehouse store and keep them in your desk. Bring a small cooler to work and keep your canned soda under your desk. It will be cold and save a lot of money. All of this money adds up, the soda tastes the same, and you can send this extra money to your credit card.
- Whenever you cook at home, make twice as much and freeze the leftovers. My favorite freezer dish is homemade spaghetti sauce. It takes a long time to make, so I multiply the recipe by four. When the sauce is done, I freeze three batches and I serve dinner with the rest of the sauce. This strategy works well with meatloaf, roasted chicken, chicken parmesan, lasagna, or almost any other meal.
- Buy frozen vegetables instead of fresh vegetables. They taste just as good, and the nutritional value is just the same. However, the prices are generally better, and you don't have to worry about the food going bad in the refrigerator.
- Buy in bulk. Warehouse stores are still a great option for shopping. You can save a great deal of money by buying in bulk at your local Costco, Sam's Club, or BJ's.
- Pay with cash or debit card, and send the savings directly to your credit card company.
- Every frugal person knows that you should clip coupons and use them. If you are having a hard time figuring them out, check out some of my other hubs on how to organize and use coupons. You can save a significant portion of your grocery bill by using coupons, and that money can be used to pay off your credit card bills.
- Use promotional codes and discount codes when shopping online.
- Always sign up for a paid-to-shop sites like QuickRewards. When you need to shop online, go to QuickRewards first, then search for your store. You'll get cash back on all of your purchases, and you can still use the coupon codes.
Get A Second Job
- I know, it stinks. But the best way to get out of debt is to get a second job. Work harder, and stop dreaming about making a lot of money online. Yes, it's possible to get a little bit of money online, but your best bet is to go out and get an honest-to-goodness part time job. It will make all the difference in the world. And you will pay off your credit card bills a whole lot faster.
- Your mom was right: When you leave the room, turn out the light. If you're not watching the television, turn it off. The same rules apply to the computer and the printer. If you aren't using them, why should you pay for the electricity?
- Change the temperature of your thermostat. In the winter, keep your house colder. In the summer, keep it higher. You should save 10% of your electric bill for each 1 degree that you adjust your thermostat. This month alone, our family experimented with the electric bill by turning down the heat and we saved $200!
- Caulk around doors and windows. Add weather stripping, and insulate wall sockets. You can even purchase special plastic wrap to seal off windows. It makes a huge difference on your energy bill, and will really save you money.
Air Conditioning and Heating
- Replace the air filters in all of your intake vents throughout the house. A dirty air filter makes your air conditioner work harder, so you will have to pay more for electricity. It will also cause more wear-and-tear on your air conditioner.
- Save more money by buying reusable filters from Walmart; they are located in the home improvement section. Buy enough material so you can cut two filters for each intake vent. When one is dirty, you can replace it with the extra. Then take the first one outside and rinse it with the hose. Let it dry well. Don't try to save money by only using one filter. You don't want your vents to get moldy.
Cheap Money Tactics
- Literally save your pennies. Deposit them into the bank and ship the money right to the credit card. Hey, two dollars is two dollars. Compound interest is a scary thing. You might as well use it to your benefit, instead of letting the credit card company make money off of you.
- Divide your monthly car payment into a daily amount. Let's say that you pay $300 a month for your car payment. That means your daily rate is $300 divided by 30 days. (I know some months have 31 days, but let's ignore that so you will actualy pay a little extra toward the principal). Your daily amount is now $10. Use your bank's automatic payment center to pay $10 each day. Yes, that's 30 payments of $10 each. But your bank is charging you daily interest, so you might as well take advantage of it and make your money work for you.
Use the Six Month Rule
- Whenever you want to make a big purchase, use the six-month rule. Whatever it is, no matter how great of a deal it is, wait six months to buy it. If you still need it in six months, then buy it then. You'll be surprised how much money will will save by NOT buying the big items. Even if you do buy them, you've just saved yourself six months worth of cash!
Cut Luxury Expenses
- Stop going to the mall, the movies, or out to dinner. You can have a great time hosting a cook-out in your own backyard (everyone can bring a dish). Go for a picnic in the park. Have a game night playing Scrabble or cards. There are so many things that you can do without spending money.
Be a Cheapskate and Cut Your Credit Card Debt
Being a cheapskate can help you pay off your credit cards. If you learn to save your money and use cash to pay for everything, then it will make a big difference when it comes to paying off your credit cards. In the end, you can reduce your debt by becoming a tightwad. For more information, read my other hub on reducing your credit card debt.