I'll begin by readily acknowledging that debt is not always the result of poor spending habits. Sometimes it comes from a life crisis or some other unavoidable circumstances.
Having said that I'll say that whenever possible, if you don't have the money, don't use the credit card. I have found one company that doesn't accept cash. I'm not a fan of that but I bet it won't be the last. However, all things considered, here's a plan.
Accountability: If using the credit card when you don't have the cash to pay the debt is a weakness of yours, find a trusted friend for an accountability partner. And cut your credit cards if you need to.
Look at the numbers: Calculate your bills and necessary cost of living. Look at your credit card statements and notice how much interest you pay per month. There should be a section on your statement calculating the amount of time it will take you to pay your total balance if you pay the minimum amount on your credit card. If you choose the minimum payment, the company is making money off of you with their interest charges. If you don't see the statement calculation, you can Google 'credit card interest rate calculator' and go to Bankrate.com, input your numbers and see the amounts and time frames to no debt.
Know your numbers: When you use your credit card, don't be fooled into thinking that a few dollars here and a few dollars there is no big deal if you don't have the cash to pay for it. Know how much money you have and how much is available for leisure spending. If you don't keep track of spending, you're as good as walking into trouble.
- Food: Determine how much you want to save on eating out and cut back accordingly.
- .99 hamburger once a week = $51.48 per year
- Coffee shop: one cup a week = $182.00 per year.
- Brown bag your lunch.
- Gym. $25 - $60.00 per month = $300.00 - $720.00 per year
- Exercise at the park, jog or ride a bike in the neighborhood, or in your home or use the school gym if you're student or teacher.
- Shop at the thrift store, or discount store instead of the department store
- Use coupons.
- Do you have clutter in your garage? Consider cleaning your garage and selling the things you don't use anyway.
- Have you won something that you can live without until you stop paying interest?
- Most of us have clothes or accessories we haven't worn in two years.
- Transportation: Ride a bike when possible. it saves gas and provides exercise.
- movies: currently iTunes charges $3.99 (new releases) 1 x per week = $207.48 per year
- Direct TV basic plan is $52.00 per month = $624.00 per year
- concerts: $12.00 - $92.00 per ticket
- sports events (major league baseball) $15.99 - $336.00 per seat
- Staycation: Instead of going out of town, find fun things to do in town.
Here's a great look at the number crunching beginning with a $1.00 choice.
Excellent video looking at easy-to-do sacrifices.
- As the Lincoln suggests in the video, work hard and smart enough to get a raise. If they aren't giving raises, consider taking on a part-time job.
- If you know how to teach and have solid content, there will always be someone out there who will pay you for the information. You don't have to charge a lot, but it could enrich their life and yours and provide funds.
Once you're debt free, maintain a '0' (Zero) balance on your credit card. What?! If for whatever reason you have to use one (maybe to build your credit), pay it off either as soon as you use it or when the bill comes. I'm not a fan of paying interest to someone. Why would you pay $2000.00 for something that cost $1000.00?
If you tighten the reigns a bit now and pay more for the actual purchase and less for the interest, you'll be able to enjoy debt-free living sooner.