If you came close to maxing out several credit cards this past holiday season, you’re probably wondering whether you’ll ever be able to pay off all your debt. Paying your credit card bills may take time. But if you pace yourself, you may be able to do it a lot sooner than you think. Here are several steps you’ll need to take if you’re trying to knock out credit card debt after the holidays.
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1. Make Room in Your Budget for Debt Payments
Before you can start paying off your credit card bills, you’ll need to figure out where you’ll get the extra money for your debt payments. Assessing your budget (if you have one) is a good first step. Giving up some of your nonessential expenses for a while – whether that involves avoiding trips to the nail salon or skipping out on your breakfast bagel – may be one of the easiest ways to come up with the cash you need for your credit card payments.
If cutting back on certain purchases doesn’t provide you with enough money to cover all your credit card bills, you may need to get creative. If you’re expecting a tax refund, you may need to file your taxes early in order to tackle your credit card debt. You may even need to pick up a side gig or a part-time job, if you don’t want your unpaid bills to damage your credit score.
2. Find a Debt Repayment Strategy That Works
There’s more than one way to get rid of credit card debt and every strategy doesn’t work for everyone. If you’re serious about eliminating your holiday debt, you’ll need to find the right repayment strategy for you.
Using the snowball method (or paying off the cards with the smallest balances first) may be necessary if it’ll inspire you to kick your large debts to the curb. But if you’re more concerned about saving money, it might be best to pay off the cards with the highest interest rates first, including your store credit cards. If your credit score is fairly high, you may be able to ask your card issuer to lower your interest rate.
3. Consider Consolidating Some of Your Debt
Another debt repayment method is debt consolidation. If you have several credit cards to pay off, combining some of those debts may be worth considering. Debt consolidation can make managing debt payments a lot easier. It may also lower the amount of interest you pay and reduce the size of your monthly payments.
There are a few different ways to consolidate holiday debt. You could transfer some of your credit card balances to cards with low APRs or take on a personal loan. A third option involves enrolling in a debt management program and getting a credit counselor to help you formulate a plan that’ll allow you to get your debt under control.
4. Pay More Than the Minimum
Every credit card statement you receive includes a warning of what will happen if you only pay the minimum amount each month. Paying off your debt will take much longer and since you’ll be carrying a balance, you’ll be wasting a lot of money on interest.
If you want to ditch your holiday debt as quickly as possible, it’s best to pay more than the minimum. If you can make more than one credit card payment in a month, you’ll lower your credit utilization ratio and potentially boost your credit score.
5. Leave Your Credit Cards at Home
This may go without saying, but while you’re trying to pay your credit card bills, you may need to stop using your credit card for a while. That way, you won’t rack up additional debt that you may not be able to pay off.
Using a different payment method for several weeks – such as a debit card or cash – might make you more conscious of what you’re spending. And switching things up might help you avoid taking on too much debt in the future.
Bouncing back from a holiday-shopping bonanza won’t happen overnight. But by prioritizing your credit card bills and coming up with a solid repayment strategy, you may be able to wipe out your credit card debt before the next holiday season rolls around.
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