Things are starting to get out of hand. You’ve been making only the minimum monthly payments on your credit cards for a while now, and you’ve continued to use your cards to make more purchases anyway. You need some kind of credit card debt relief because even if you were to stop using your cards now, the total balance on them is more than you even want to know. You realize it’s time to get serious before things get worse. So what can you do to take charge of this debt predicament and bring all this craziness to an end?
If this situation describes where you are right now, then following this easy 5-step guide should allow you to take the upper hand. I’ve used it myself, so I can tell you with confidence that it works if you’re serious about your debt and are willing to do what it takes to be successful in eliminating it.
Step 1 – Stop making any new charges on your cards now
The only way you’re going to stand a good chance of getting out of the hole you’re in is to put the cards away and stop using them. The debt you’ve amassed is already enough to make you cringe, so don’t sabotage your efforts to become debt-free by repeating the patterns that got you in trouble in the first place. Learn to live on the cash you have and if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.
Step 2 – Collect your credit card information and then contact your creditors
Get all your most recent statements together and start compiling important information about each account on a separate sheet. For each card note the name, account number, balance, interest rate, minimum monthly payment and due date. Then use the customer service number to contact each of your creditors. Tell the representative that you’re struggling just to make your minimum payment, and that you’re trying to do the right thing and pay off your debt. Politely ask if they would be willing to consider reducing your interest rate so that you’ll be able to repay them. If some of your creditors say no, try contacting them in a couple of months and asking for help again.
Step 3 – Organize your accounts and pay off the highest interest rate balances first
Now that you know what interest rates you’ll be working with, organize your accounts so that you’ll be paying off the balances on your highest interest rate credit cards first, and pay as much as you can reasonably afford to without getting yourself in trouble. Of course, be sure you continue to make the minimum monthly payments on your other accounts until they’re the one that you’re paying off. Keep your list of accounts up-to-date, reorganizing them according to any subsequent rate reductions you’re able to arrange so that you’re always paying off the highest rate card each month.
Step 4 – Reduce your expenses and try to increase your income
Make a list of all your expenses and see which ones you can reasonably reduce or eliminate. For the next month, carry around a pocket-sized notepad and keep a running list of all your expenditures. Review the results and make sure you have a firm grasp on where your money is going. Reassess your expenses with this new information and see if you can make any additional cuts. At the same time, see if you can find some new and creative ways you can increase your income. Use the additional funds you’ve saved up to make a higher payment on your highest interest rate card. Reassess your expenses periodically to be sure you’re eliminating your debt as quickly as possible.
Step 5 – Stay disciplined and apply any additional funds to your debt
Do your best to stick to your plan, and consider any additional funds you acquire along the way as opportunities to accelerate your debt-free timetable. As time passes and you begin reducing or eliminating your account balances one by one, sometimes you may have moments of weakness in which you become frustrated and think about quitting your plan. Before you go and do something foolish, review your progress and see just how far you’ve already come since you began your plan, and remind yourself how helpless you felt at the beginning. Resolve never to return to that situation again. Stay the course and achieve total freedom from your debt. You’ll feel great when you’ve done it!
Some further thoughts about your debt
If you find yourself unable to be disciplined enough to follow the steps in this guide, or if you’re simply too far over your head in debt, then speaking with an experienced debt counselor to discuss your other debt relief solutions can be helpful. Among these other options may be credit debt counseling, credit card debt settlement, or possibly even bankruptcy if all else fails. In any case, educating yourself about these other options before speaking with a debt counselor will allow you to make an informed decision about what you ultimately choose to do.
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