How To Pay Down Your Credit Card Debt & Actually Start Saving
January 31, 2023
If I could go back in time and do some things differently in my life, I would. Not so much most of the personal things that have occurred in my life, like relationships and more…. as they are moments in my life that have molded me into the person that I am today and I love this person. I am talking bout the life lessons that I have learned by doing things wrong financially ever since living out on my own since the age of 18. I did not make good financial decisions throughout my life and if I knew what I know now from the many mistakes I made throughout…. I would be in a totally different place. This is why I wanted to share what I have learned so that others can avoid the mistakes that I made when it comes to credit card usage and also tips for saving from someone that has been-there-done-that. When you are young, it is easy to be wasteful with your money which is why I am excited to share this post with everyone that I know as it feels amazing to pay off that credit card debt and to start saving. I utilized many online tools that were not available to me when I was younger and I so wish they were. There are finance and money calculators of all kinds online to help in the journey and I promise that once you get a taste of saving and the taste of the financial freedom that those savings provide you, you will be hooked for sure. Let’s take a look at some tips and tricks to paying down that credit card debt which will ultimately get you started on your savings journey.
Prioritize Paying Down Credit Card Debt
First let’s talk about priorities when it comes to deciding to pay off your credit card debt versus saving money. Basically this post is all about paying off credit card debt as that is the most important thing for anyone with credit card debt to do right now and you really cannot save if you are in debt. You have to understand that until you pay that credit card debt down, you will be paying tons of interest, like money literally flying put of the window which is hard for me to accept and it means that all of your saving is for nothing. The first tip of this post is to pay down your credit card debt and make it solely about that. Do not worry about saving until those cards are paid. Once you do that… everything that you were paying onto your cards can now be saved and probably even a bit more and you will be able to breathe knowing you are debt free.
Set A Budget
We now know that Credit Card Debt is our first priority in terms of paying it down but to get there and to get there fast… we need to budget or set a budget. Honestly…. any goal you have set for yourself in terms of money and finances cannot happen until you create a budget. When I say a budget… I say map out every single dollar that you spend each day, week and month. If you do not take the time to figure out where all of your funds are going, you will never know where your money went which means you won’t be able to make a plan to make changes. It is up to you, to tell your money what to do for you and where it is best spent.
The whole point of this budget plan is to get your credit card debt paid down fast and creating a budget is a must to do just that. Start by sitting down and listing all of your income… everything that you have coming in to your bank account(s). After you do that… write down all of your expenses. You can focus on what is referred to as the four walls or your necessities ~ food, utilities, transportation and shelter. Then list out all of your other expenses…. those credit cards we are talking about, any non essentials like subscriptions, eating out, gym memberships, and more.
Once you have all of your expenses listed…. subtract them from your total income. If you find that you have funds left over use those funds to pay towards your credit card debt. If you are negative and there are no funds left over when subtracting your income from your expenses…. that means it is time to tighten up your budget and find ways to squeeze and get rid of unneeded expenses until you are at least at a zero-based budget. Basically that means you are breaking even. Even if you are in the first case scenario and you have some funds left over after paying your expenses, I still recommend finding ways to cut back on those expenses by not eating out as much, not grabbing a Starbucks coffee and instead make your own, and stuff like that so that you can pay even more towards your credit card debt and get them paid down faster which means you will be able to start saving sooner.
Put The Credit Cards Away
You may not want to hear this one, but to get out of debt in terms of your credit cards, means that you have to stop using them. You are working to pay as much possible onto them to pay them down as quickly as possible and this means that you need to put those cards away and not even carry them with you anywhere. By putting mine away, I was not tempted to use them when I was out and about. Some people even cut them up literally and just get rid of them all for good.
One positive that I took away from this step of putting my credit cards away while paying down my credit card debt is that I got into the habit of paying for my purchases with cash instead of credit. This life lesson will really teach you how to separate your needs from wants all while remaining conscious about your spending, and make you think twice before spending money in the future. This will make your savings game easier too once you learn this valuable lesson PLUS once you are debt free, you can take your cards back out if you choose to, but only keep like two or three of them on you for emergencies.
Save An Emergency Fund
Speaking of emergencies above, if you want to eliminate credit cards for good, or if you want to save a savings fund for emergencies so that you do not have to use your cards for those what-ifs, especially after working hard to pay them down, it is a good idea to come up with an emergency fund. I have heard people say that you should have 6 months salary on hand for emergencies but a good rule of thumb is to get a $1000 emergency fund saved to start. This is also a realistic goal to hit while you are paying down your credit cards too and once you hit that goal and you get your credit cards paid down, you can add to it and make it more like a 3 or 6 month salary savings fund which is a great rule of thumb for emergency funds to have on hand in the event some one is laid off, hospitalized, your car breaks down, you get in an accident and need a car accident lawyer, and on and on I can go.
Prioritize When Paying Your Credit Card Debt
I have read up on something called the debt snowball method and this is the way to go when it comes to tackling your credit card debt. You can use this method to pay off those credit cards starting with the smallest balance first. This will get you motivated because you can see the progress faster by paying off the smaller cards first. In fact the debt snowball method is all about motivation and momentum as you attack your credit card debt one credit card at a time by going after the one that you can pay the fastest. That is why with this method you start with the smallest balance card first as that little victory will make you feel good and motivate you to take on the next smallest credit card balance and on and on we can go.
Make a complete list of all of the credit cards you have and then list them in order of smallest balance up to the largest and start tackling the lowest of them all and then after that one … the next lowest and so on and so forth. You will still keep making those minimums on all cards BUT paying big on the smaller ones first to pay them off. This really works and it worked beautifully for me so I highly recommend this step. Don’t worry about interest rates… none of them are really good about now… worry about eliminating the smallest balances as they are the easiest and you will get a real feeling of satisfaction from it that will inspire you to keep going.
Trim Your Expenses
Trimming your expenses is an important step that can help you to get out of debt faster by freeing up income. Here you can review your monthly expenses and look for ways to cut costs. I mentioned this above a bit too… but basically cut out unnecessary expenses…. streaming services, eating out, trips to the coffee shop, and eating out for lunch at work versus bringing your lunch. It all adds up and makes a bug difference in the long run.
To start trimming your expenses, keep track of your spending for the next two weeks to find out exactly where your money is going… you can even track for a whole month which can be even more accurate. You may be surprised at how much is wasted and you can find savings of $1,000 or more per year that you can use to pay down that debt faster.
Earn Extra Income
This is a great step in this day and age that is very doable! Here you are not redirecting current funds but rather… you can get a side hustle to add more funds to your budget! You can get a side hustle like Uber or Lift and deliver meals or give rides to people and make a decent buck. You can even deliver groceries to peoples doorstep with Instacart or Shipt and you can also resell your own goods on eBay or Poshmark! The possibilities are endless and you can even find a work-from-home job online via freelance gigs and more. Earning extra income is a great way to get that credit card debt paid down even faster so definitely look into this option as it I an investment that can pay off big down the road.
So what do you think of these steps for paying down your credit card debt and ultimately saving for your future? There is so much more to learn but these steps will get you going in the right direction. It is so important to get those credit cards paid down and I know due to recent inflation a lot of people have picked up more debt out of necessity but it is time to tackle that debt and not let it get out of control. Put those cards away, find areas of your expenses that can be cut back or eliminated and tackle those smaller cards first and work your way up. You got this! If I can do it anyone can!