Before I started taking control of my finances and working on my financial health, I managed to rack up a bit of credit card debt - around $4,000 actually. Now I definitely do not advise doing this ever because believe me it adds a fair amount of stress to your life, but I know I'm not the only one who's dealt with this. So, at the beginning of this year, I made it a goal of mine to pay this debt off by May 1 - and guess what? I did it!
I was talking to a friend about it and they were asking how the heck I was able to pay it off and how I managed to keep myself focused on it for the last few months. So of course, I knew I had to post about it because I'm sure there are people in the same boat as me.
As always these are the tools that worked for me and different things may work for you. Also, this timing was doable for me, but for some people it may take longer and that's okay! What's important is that you have some ideas for how to handle situations like this, and things you can try to get yourself through it!
It seems obvious but I seriously under estimated the role budgeting plays in helping you pay off debt. I made it a point to start budgeting to pay off a certain amount (usually around $200) each month. I also budgeted to place a certain amount (usually around $200 per paycheck) into my savings account as "extra debt payments" each month. This way I was consistently working on cutting the balance down on the card, while also being able to add extra payments where possible. Sometimes, I payed extra each month, and sometimes I saved it for a month or two and then payed off a larger amount - whatever I was feeling at that particular time. I was able to be a little more relaxed about these payments because I had a set amount paid each month.
Another helpful tool was the auto pay feature on my card. Because I was budgeting out $200 a month for my credit card bill, I set up auto-pay to take that money out without me even having to think about it. This way I couldn't skip a month just because I wanted to. I found that it worked well to have my auto pay set up for the due date, and then I wrote it in my planner so I wasn't surprised when I checked my bank account and a few hundred dollars wasn't there. I'm also a big fan of this feature because I could set it to the amount I wanted to pay, and the day I wanted to pay and it was done! All I did each month was check to make sure the payment went through - nothing else.
Focusing on the Parts You Can Control
Listen, things happen, life gets in the way and sometimes making an extra payment or even keeping the card debt free in the first place can be impossible. Instead of focusing on that, shift your focus to little things you can control. You can control adding additional expenses to your existing balance, you can make a budget that works for your lifestyle and you can control how much control you have of your situation by doing the work to improve every day. Focus on those little aspects, and you'll be amazed how quickly you start to feel better!
Cut Where You Can
I get it, it can be fun to spend money! But when you're working on paying off something like credit card debt you have to cut some things back. Here's the key though (at least for me) - cutting where you can. For me, it feels too restrictive to say "I'm cutting out eating out, coffee, drinks out and any other fun spending." and honestly, every time I tell myself this I end up going crazy and spending way too much money because I deprive myself of it. It's just not for me. Sure it works for some people, and if it works for you go for it, but I much prefer the approach of cutting where I can.
Instead of buying coffee out every single day, I only buy it out a few times a week. Instead of going out for drinks with friends every weekend, I have an at-home cocktail hour or something. You get the idea. I also went through and found all of the random subscriptions I no longer needed and cut those out. I deleted my credit card from my Starbucks and Dunkin' apps so reloading my card took more time and made me stop to think about it rather than automatically adding more money. All of these are things that worked for me but maybe you have other ideas. No matter what, cutting back where possible will always benefit you.
Take the Pressure Off Yourself
No one is expecting you to have your debt paid off immediately and most people understand the struggle of paying something like credit card debt off. It takes time, and most of the time, it's not easy given the circumstances. All that matters is that you're doing your best every single day. You'll have good weeks and bad weeks when it comes to finances. You'll pay extra one month and struggle to meet the minimum the next month. That's okay. Adding the pressure of negative self-talk and negative thoughts to your life won't help you along the journey.
Celebrate the little victories to ease the pressure. Every time I paid off another $1,000 toward my card I celebrated. I texted my parents to tell them I reached another goal. Whatever you have to do to ease the pressure and make paying off your debt more rewarding than punishing - do it. I'm not saying go crazy every time but celebrating these little wins and forcing yourself to relax and take the pressure off will help you so much more as you work toward paying it off.
Some people can pay their debt off in weeks or months, some people it takes much longer. It's not a competition and you shouldn't put so much pressure on yourself by setting unrealistic timelines. It's just not beneficial.
Move Auto Payments to a Different Card
Do you have your Spotify or Disney Plus payments hooked to your credit card? Personally, I wanted to earn the points by paying for things with my card, since I use points to travel. This is great typically, but when you're trying to pay off credit card debt while auto payments are still getting charged to your account it can start to feel like you aren't making any progress at all.
I moved all of my auto payments to my debit card while working to pay off my credit debt. Not only did this allow me to really see how much I was spending in subscriptions each month, but it also stopped adding charges to an already large amount of debt.
Once I was able to pay this debt off, I had gotten used to allocating a certain amount from my paycheck for these auto payments that it didn't make a difference when I moved them back to the credit card. Now, I'm able to earn my points and still keep the balance paid because I've learned how to manage these payments better.
Use a Side Hustle to Your Advantage
I am not advocating for people to have 2-3 jobs and no social life just because they want to pay something off quickly. But, sometimes you can use a side hustle or a 2nd job to your advantage to get something like credit card debt paid off.
While I was working to pay this off I was doing a ton of house sitting. I'm talking the entire month of March I was living anywhere but at home. Now, sure this definitely threw me off my routine, but it was a great way to earn some extra cash while working toward a large financial goal.
I really liked being able to allocate the money from my side hustle toward paying off my debt and then I felt like I had a little more freedom to add to my savings and have some spending money from my main paycheck.
These are all of the things that helped me pay off $4,000 in credit card debt. Like I said, everyone's situation is different so there's no one way or one set of tips and tricks that works for everyone. Regardless of where you are at though, you can get through this challenge! It might be tough, but believe me it's worth it in the end!