Credit card debt isn’t an easy thing to overcome, there’s no doubt about it. But as if that wasn’t enough, there are quite a few common financial mistakes out there that can make your debt situation even worse! So, to help keep you from exacerbating your credit card woes, take heed of these four things that can worsen your debt scenario.
1. Only Making Minimum Payments
While making minimum payments on time will help you avoid getting hit with late fees, it won’t do much to help you out of debt. In fact, sticking exclusively to minimum payments might only make your debt situation worse. If your credit card has a high interest rate, minimum payments will only drag out your debt repayment process, resulting in more interest payments and, in the end, costing you more money. (You can calculate the lifetime cost of your debt here.)
Try to contribute as much as you possibly can to help pay down your debt. If you can’t come up with the cash, consider reassessing your budget or picking up a side job to help free up cash flow. The sooner you pay off your credit card debt, the less interest you have to pay and the more you’ll save!
2. Using Your Cards While Paying Down Debt
After paying off a good chunk of your balance, you might feel tempted to utilize a little of the space you’ve freed up on your credit card. Unfortunately, this tends to be a slippery slope for folks working to pay off debt. Even if you intended to make only a small purchase with the card here and there, this type of spending behavior could wind up erasing all your hard work.
If you’re paying off debt on a credit card, you may want to consider opting for a cash-only budget instead. Limiting yourself to a set amount of cash each week can help you stay on budget and keep you from tapping into your credit. Leaving credit cards at home, or with a trusted family member or friend, can also help you fight off the urge to spend.
3. Ignoring Your Statements
When it comes to credit card debt, burying your head in the sand is one of the worst things you can do. While they may be a bummer to look at, ignoring credit card statements keeps you from seeing valuable information regarding your credit card account. Your payment due date, total balance, interest, and penalty fees are all included on your monthly statement. Not only that, but checking your statement is the best way to make sure your charges are correct and that you haven’t fallen victim to identity theft.
If you want to keep your credit card debt from evolving into an even bigger mess, you may want to attempt to get into the habit of checking your statements regularly. Most credit companies offer paperless statement options, so if you find it easier to pay attention to your email as opposed to snail mail, that may be the right option for you. Plus, seeing your balance decrease statement after statement can really be a big boost to your morale!
4. Not Changing Your Financial Habits
More often than not, debt is the result of poor fiscal practices. Whether it was your spending habits, failure to build a proper emergency fund, or a lack of financial knowledge, debt is too often the byproduct of bad behavior. And regardless of how much debt you’re able to overcome, if you aren’t able to adopt good financial habits, you’ll quickly find yourself falling back into debt or, alternatively, making your current debt situation even worse!
Old habits may die hard, but they aren’t entirely impossible to overcome. One helpful tool is to refer to your financial restraint in a positive light.
When you can’t go on a shopping spree, it’s not because you “can’t afford it” it’s because you’re putting that money to better use. You’re not “losing money” to your savings account, you’re building yourself a helpful nest egg. Regardless of how you decide to go about it, adopting positive financial habits can really help when trying to keep your debt problem from worsening.
Remember, your debt level can directly affect your credit score. As you work to pay down your credit card debt, you can check your progress and see two of your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.
When it comes to getting out of credit card debt, dedication is key. Once you’ve devised your get-out-of-debt battle plan, it’s important to stick to the rulebook no matter how tough times may get.
While it’s going to be a struggle at times, you’ll find yourself feeling significantly more confident and positive about your financial future once you’ve pulled yourself out of debt.
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