Too many Americans are finding themselves up to their necks in debt. With financial problems that plagued the entire nation finally seeming to settle down, people are finally getting serious about setting their finances in order and eliminating debt. While it is rare for the average American household to be 100 percent debt free, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try with all your might to get as close to debt free living as you can.
Like any other endeavor, though, you need a plan to attack your out of control debt the smart way. It is not enough to simply vow to pay off your credit cards. You need to have a system in place that will allow you to chip away at your debt and get to a place where you have a bit of financial breathing room. Who knows – before too long you might be putting all that money you spend on credit card payments into a growing emergency savings fund.
Here are some essential tips to help you get your finances on the straight and narrow, and to eliminate a huge chunk of your consumer debt:
It All Starts with a Budget
This is Money Management 101 here, but it needs to be said. You must come up with a budget in order to start eliminating debt. There are websites, like Mint.com or simple spreadsheet programs that you can use to track money coming in versus the money going out. Once you have everything listed out, you can find places to make cuts and eliminate unnecessary expenses. Here’s the thing, though – you must follow your budget to be successful. It may take you a bit of time to get used to living according to a smart budget, but once you do it quickly becomes a habit that you can stick with for the long haul.
Choose a Debt to Target
While you are looking at your new budget, figure out which of your credit cards has the highest balance or the highest interest rates. Some financial experts say that you should tackle the higher debt cards first, while others tell people to get rid of higher interest rate loans first. Both have their pros and cons. The point is to take action. Choose one of your debts to be your ‘targeted’ debt and pay as much toward that line of credit as you can every month. Make sure that you pay at least the minimum payments on your other cards, while you crack away at the debt you chose.
Consider Balance Transfers
If your credit isn’t in really bad shape, you might get some offers to transfer your balances to 0% interest rate credit cards. If you have smaller balances on some of your cards that you can pay off within a few months, transfer those debts to a lower interest rate line of credit. Be sure that you pay off the balance before the grace period ends, though, as you want to get rid of as much debt at the lowest interest rate as you can.
Finally, curb your credit card spending as much as you can. There is no sense in trying to eliminate your consumer debt if you are only going to add to your balances. Your goal for now is to take an aggressive approach to consumer debt elimination. Stay on course, get your budget drafted and then use the simple steps that you just finished reading about. Before you know it, you will notice those balances getting lower and lower. Eventually, you will not be drowning in debt any long. Then, you can start saving money for emergencies and adding to your nest egg.
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