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My Experience Eliminating Credit Card Debt

Updated on August 10, 2011
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Paying Off $30,000 of Credit Card Debt in 6 Months

Signing up for a credit card during college may have been one of the poorest choices I have ever made. I highly doubt most 18 year olds are mature enough to handle using a credit card responsibly, but the allure was too hard to pass up. It sounds great to get what you want now and pay for it later, but after racking up $30,000 in debt, I quickly realized I was in trouble. I was making the minumum payment for years and every time my limit was raised, I spent it on something I thought I needed. My monthly payments were killing my cash flow and I was soon unable to save. I started graduate school in 2007 with close to $30,000 in credit card debt and had to start making payments to my credit card with my student loans. Upon graduating in 2010, I realized credit card debt was ruining my financial life. I had just gotten a new job, was engaged, and had student loans that I new were going to go into repayment within the year. Here are some of the steps I took to become debt free within 6 months.


Stop Using Your Credit Card

It is much easier said than done, but the first necessary step to eliminating credit card debt is to stop using your credit card. I was able to stop using my credit card during graduate school by simplifying my life. I realzied I didn't need frivolous material things and didn't have to go out buying drinks 4 nights per week. It helped that I was studying almost 7 days per week. I ended up shredding one of my credit cards and then keeping the other locked in my filing cabinet at home for true emergencies (there were none).

Develop a Plan

One of the best things I did to help me really take control of my debt was make a plan and stick to it. I determined exactly how much I would pay off every month and then set a goal of 6 months to eliminate my credit card debt. I took into account my income and expenses, learned where I could modify my spending, and was consistent and disciplined. Creating a budget was eye opening as it put into perspective my spending and it objectified ways to make changes. I signed up for an account with Mint and tracked my finances daily. By creating strict budgets and sticking to them I was able to pay down my debt much faster.

Borrow Money

One luxury I read about and heard people discuss was borrowing money from a relative or close friend. An example may be borrowing from your spouse and paying the money back to a joint acount. Or perhaps borrow money from parents if that is an option. If you have significant credit card debt and are having a hard time paying it off, ask for help. Even if you arrange to pay it back with 10% interest, it will save you money in the long run compared to credit card APR upwards of 15%. The key here is to be responsible and pay back the debt soon and not just transfer the debt from the credit card company to your friend or family member. This option is tough, but if you act responsibly and write down a repayment plan, it may be one thing that helps get you out of debt faster.

Pay More Than The Minimum

To pay off your debt in a reasonable amount of time, you must pay more than the minimum payment. If you are unable to do this every month that is fine, but when you can, pay more than you need to. If you have $30,000 of credit card debt with an interest rate of 15%, it will take you 112 months to pay off your debt paying $500 per month. That's almost 10 years. If you pay just $100 per month more, it will take you 79 months, or about 6 1/2 years. That's saving you almost $10,000 that you could invest and put towards something you really need.

Change Your Spending Habits

An important part of me paying off my credit card debt was changing the way I spend. I started taking public transportation to work or rode my bike when possible. I stopped eating out and the new trendy restaurants because I realized there will always be a new trendy restaurant and I can wait. I bought cheaper groceries by going to the farmers market instead of specialty stores. I also reduced my monthly bills by getting rid of TV. You can always downgrade your cell phone plan and eliminate the internet and use it at the library instead. The point is to find ways to cuts costs and save. Then you can start putting much more money towards your debt.



Source

Increase Your Income

It's tough, but try to find ways to increase your income. I started writing for a blog site about health and fitness. This was fairly easy to setup as it related to my career already. I can't say I made a lot of money, but every little bit was helpful.

Seek Help

I encourage you to ask everyone you know for assistance. It can be financial assistance or just advice on ways to save. I asked a few wealthy friends how they invested their money. I ran my expenses by my fiancee and my parents for advice on cost cutting. The important thing is that I took initiative and looked everywhere I could to start cutting costs and paying off my debt. Don't be discouraged if you can only pay a few extra dollars. It is important to realize that every little bit counts and the best time to start is now.

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    • profile image

      Hareiana 

      6 years ago

      I stumbled upon your blog and was captivated from the first line read for 2 reasons, the substance of what you are talking about that I immediately identify with thanks to my own experience, and the manner of your straight, open telling which I identify with as well being in a similar place in life. I had a $9,000 credit card debt but the depressing feeling of being in this debt prison felt as if I owed millions and forever enslaved to the big banks. It took me about 2 years to pay it off since I embraced budgeting.

      I am not a financial professional but I think that I am so much more financially aware and responsible after my ordeal and mostly I learned the value of budgeting because a friend told one day about Out Of The Dark online Budgeting free website, a system that has what they call the Credit Card Debt Terminator built into the budget. It worked wonders for me and I continue to use it for my ongoing budgeting. You can check it out at: www.myootd.org

      Power to you...

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 

      7 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      We finally got rid of our credit card debt through bankruptcy. That was not caused by credit cards, but cutting them up was a condition of going bankrupt.

      We have now had a couple of cards for years, but have not carried a balance ever. Credit cards have driven many people to financial ruin; carrying no balance for more than a month is the only way to use them. Banks may not like it (and certainly don't!) but it will keep you stable while maintaining an emergency "bail out" ability.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Excellent hub re: financial advice. I've written several financially focused hubs myself about credit cards, budgets, bankruptcy, financial goals, etc. and have had some real life experiences as well.

      Live and learn and I agree-it is far too easy to get in debt, no matter what your age. But, it is especially tempting for inexperienced college students if they follow that temptation.

      Credit card co's know this and play into it. Back when I was first graduated one couldn't just apply and get a card. You had to 'prove' you were credit card worthy.

      But, with the high interest rates, that is exactly why cc co's target EVERYONE. They don't care if you can't pay it off-they just keep chalking up the interest!

    • Shawn Scarborough profile image

      Shawn Scarborough 

      7 years ago from The Lone Star State

      Great hub. You definitely need a plan to get out of debt and your spending habits must change. Making a budget and sticking to it has helped me a lot. I didn't realize how much money I was wasting every month until I could see it on paper.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 

      7 years ago

      Very important hub and great tips that work.It is so easy to ring them up and sometimes it takes years to pay them back.Thanks for sharing.

    • qlcoach profile image

      Gary Eby 

      7 years ago from Cave Junction, Oregon

      Yes to finding freedom from credit card debt. Very helpful Hub. Thanks for the fan mail too. For some people spending and shopping can become an addiction. I try to write about helping people choose the positive over the negative. Peace and Light....Gary.

    • Matt Stark profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt Stark 

      7 years ago from Albany, CA

      @kerlynb I know it's tough. Keep at it though and you ca get them paid down. Check out http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/ for some great ideas.

    • kerlynb profile image

      kerlynb 

      7 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      Stop using credit cards? Wow, I totally agree! Right now though, it's something I just cannot do :( But I'll get there. Hmmm, another point you mentioned that I think totally makes sense is that we should augment our income, like take on two to three income streams, while changing our spending habits. It's all about living within then below our means. They say billionaire Warren Buffet definitely lives below his means :)

    • Matt Stark profile imageAUTHOR

      Matt Stark 

      7 years ago from Albany, CA

      @jwhitman

      Thanks! And congratulations on paying off your debt.

      @JanHeath

      Totally agree. Hard to think there is a problem when so many others including governments do such a poor job.

    • JanHeath profile image

      JanHeath 

      7 years ago from Australia

      Nice hub. Managing debt is something even governments don't appear to be great at handling at the moment so good on you, very well done.

    • jwhitman profile image

      jwhitman 

      7 years ago from Albany, New York

      I couldn't agree more with your opening statements- its absolutely ludicrous to think that an 18 year old college student can handle the responsibility and reprecussion of a credit card. I wracked up 12,000 in credit card debt. Its paid off...finally. I now only have one emergency card with a $2000 limit on it that I have yet to use. I only make purchases that I can pay cash for and I am so much happier not having a huge minimum payment looming over my head each moth. Nice job- I'm voting up, useful and interesting.

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