What should you do? Here are a few pointers:
1. Know That You’re Not Alone
Approximately one in three Americans – about 34% – hold revolving credit card debt, according to The Simple Dollar.
When we refer to revolving credit card debt, we’re not talking about using your favorite plastic card to ring up a purchase and promptly going home to pay the bill in full.
We are referring to people who hold a balance month over month and arepaying interest on that balance.
According to a study by MagnifyMoney, 76% of the people who do hold credit card debt are paying interest rates of 15% or higher. If you are among these people holding a balance and paying too much, just remember that you’re not the only one.
2. Create a Plan
Don’t just make the minimum payments and hope that your debt will magically disappear.
Create some type of a plan that will allow you to repay your debts.
You can either tackle the credit card that has the smallest balance first, or you can repay the balance on the card with the highest interest rate.
Whichever one you prefer is up to you. Take whichever of those two processes are most motivating and start tightening your belt. That leads us to the next point.
3. Cut Back
Put yourself on a cash-only diet so that you don’t rack up any additional debt.
Cut back on any unnecessary items such as clothing, shoes, furniture, restaurant meals, alcohol, cigarettes, cookies, pop, potato chips, cable television – anything that isn’t strictly necessary.
4. Rethink Necessities
Now that you’ve slashed your discretionary items, think a little more deeply about whether or not your remaining expenses, the so called “necessary expenses,” are truly needed.
Do you have to spend that much money on gasoline, or could you walk, ride your bicycle, or take the bus more often?
Do you need to continue living in your nice home, or could you downsize to a smaller apartment and rent out your current dwelling?
5. Look for Ways to Earn Extra Money
Sell some of your older items on eBay or Craigslist. Find a freelance or consulting gig to generate side income.
If needed, pick up a few babysitting jobs, ideally one in which you can bring your children over to the house while you watch someone else’s kids. You’ll be making money for hours spent doing what you would’ve done anyway.
6. Monitor Your Credit
Review your credit report to make sure that there are no signs of fraud or unauthorized charges.
If you see any, contact your credit card issuer to cancel your card and dispute the charges. Sign up for free credit monitoring at a website such as Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.
7. Start Saving Money for Annual Expenses
You already know that you’ll need to spend once a year on birthdays, holidays, vacations, higher heating or cooling bills that take place seasonally, and so forth.
Begin saving money throughout the year so that you will be ready when these expenses unfold. How can you know how much to save? Figure out what you spend on every given annual event and divide by 12.
For example, if you spend roughly $800 every holiday season on airplane tickets to visit your family as well as a few gifts, divide that $800 by 12. It comes to a total of $66 per month, which is the amount that you will need to save in order to be ready for that annual expense.
Saving all year long will keep you from getting caught by surprise when you have to pay those one-time bills.
8. Track Your Income and Expenses
One of the best ways to get yourself back on the right path is by carefully monitoring every dime that comes in and goes out.
Once you have more breathing room within your budget and you are debt free, you may not need to do this. For the moment, you should be carefully monitoring all of your income and spending so that you know where your money is going. You can curb your impulses on your biggest financial leaks, too.