If you are overwhelmed by debt, especially credit card debts, you are most certainly not alone in the struggle these days, but you need to make some drastic and perhaps urgent moves to have any hope of getting free.
According to a 2016 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counselling, NFCC, one out of every three households carry credit card balances from month to month.
Here are some step-by-step guide on how to get out of debt and be free.
• Step 1: use credit responsibly- Try as much as you can to live within your means. The best way to achieve this is by making sure that you pay cash or paying off right away after charging it on a credit card. This will keep you in check and avoid the temptation of stacking up on your already bloated credit card balance. This is a habit that needs to be cultivated if you are dead serious about getting out of credit card debt. Basically, it means only spend what you have; once your cash is out you are done. Set a disciplined limit and follow it through religiously, in other words, become a cash only consumer or Only use what you can pay off at the end of the billing cycle.
• Step 2: The next step is to clean your budget thoroughly. By this I mean, come up with a list of what you actually need vs what you think you want in order to survive, say on a monthly basis. You will be surprised to notice that a lot of stuff you buy on impulse are stuffs you don’t really need and you buy them simply because you can put them on your credit and postpone payment. You will be surprised when confronted with your true budget because you have relied for too long on credit cards to stretch your spending limit.
In figuring out your monthly budget, it is advisable to follow the 50-20-30 rule of budgeting: Allocate up to 50% of your budget to fixed expenses like mortgage, rent and car payments; 20% to savings; and 30% to variable expenses, especially discretionary spending for things like hobbies, recreation and dining out. That 30% zone is the first area to target for cutting back.
• Step 3: Now that you have trimmed your budge, it will be time to apply the savings stream from cutting your budget to paying debts such as credit card debt. You can do this by either of two ways; you could decide to start chipping off the cards with higher interest rates or starting to pay off those with lower balances. The method which you choose to adopt really depends on your preference. Starting to pay off those with smaller balances may sound more appealing to some folks who wants to see the actual number of card debts disappearing one after the other, once one is paid down, it’s one down and on to the next, there is a sense of accomplishment attached to conquering those cards one after the other. Some may prefer to start chipping off those with the higher rates, this is called the ladder method which is often touted as the one that saves you the most money over the long term because you're getting those high interest rates out of the way first.
But whatever method you choose to adopt, the key here is consistency and discipline to follow through. As long as you keep at it and adhere strictly to your budget, you will be able to knock out debt and be free someday eventually.
Step 4: Another strategy you may adopt is to ask for help from your creditors, your credit card holders. But the key here is to make hay while the sun shines, do not wait until things get really out of hand before seeking for help. The moment you notice that you are struggling too hard to make minimum payments is the time to seek for help, do not wait until things spiral out of control. Ask the credit card holder that you will like to pay the debt down and you will like to know what options are available.
Step 5: Seek professional credit counselling help if all your efforts to get help either by yourself or turning to your creditors fail to yield any definite result. A professional credit counselor can help you review your debt situation and identify repayment options and money management techniques that you may not have thought of on your own.
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC, a nonprofit financial counseling organization, has a credit counselor locator to help you find assistance in your area.