How I Won My War Against Credit Card Debt
Consolidation can be your way out of debt for good... if you know how to behave and are able to maintain discipline after the consolidation.
Did you know that 39 percent of people in the U.S. have credit card debt? And did you know that the average amount owed is $15,310? When you’re in such a huge amount of high-interest debt, things can seem pretty hopeless.
One of the first options you’re likely to see if you look for ways to get out of debt is credit card consolidation loans. These are simply loans that you use to pay off all your credit cards today and get a lower interest rate that will save you money in the long run.
Lots of businesses and banks offer them, and they can seem like a wonderful way to get out of debt more quickly.
If you dig deeper, though, many experts caution against them. They say it only puts a Band-Aid on a leaky ship, and many people end up right back in debt once they realize they can charge full balances again on their credit cards.
Even worse, sometimes these loans can end up costing more in the long-term.
For me, though, I used a debt consolidation loan to pay off all my credit card debt over a year ago – and since then, I’ve successfully kicked the credit card habit.
How was I able to do it while making sure that I didn’t get taken advantage of by greedy lenders? Read on to find out.
A year ago, I had $8,000 in credit card debt. I knew that I needed to pay it off, but it seemed like an insurmountable task. I was only making $500 a week at my job, so how would I ever pay off the full balance?
The reason I stayed in debt was because it was just too tempting to put new charges on the credit card. I wouldn’t be able to pay it off in full at the end of the month anyway, so what was the harm in putting a few more dollars on it?
Break Out Of the Debt Cycle
I made my payments on my debt each month. I even tried to pay more than the minimum, but still, the balance kept growing. But I knew I needed a way out, and that was when I learned about credit card consolidation loans – and why they’re not advised for many people.
I decided to go ahead with it, anyway. Since paying off my credit cards with the consolidation loan, I haven’t carried a balance on my credit cards in over a year.
The reason I beat the credit card debt cycle was simple: I committed to changing my behavior.
Every single time I use my credit card, I pay it off within a day or two. Normally it’s easy for me to forget these things, but I put it on my daily to-do list, and I even incorporated it into my daily routine so that I never forget.
Each morning, after I brew a cup of tea, the first thing I do is pay off any charges from the day before. Extreme? Maybe. But it works.
The reason that most experts advise people against taking out credit card consolidation loans is because they fail to change their behavior. I didn’t want to be a statistic. So I made a commitment to myself that if I took out this consolidation loan, I would always pay off my credit card. Otherwise, it would have all been for nothing.
Successful Credit Card Consolidation
The first thing you’ll need if you want to try using credit card consolidation loans is to find out if it’d be cheaper for you to do this. You’ll need to write down three numbers: the interest rate (APR), the loan term, and the monthly payment.
Banks and online lenders usually only lend to people with moderate to excellent credit, so if you have bad credit, you can always talk to an NFCC-certified credit counselor to see your options.
Next, do the math on whether debt consolidation would actually save you money. It’s not hard: here’s a free, easy calculator that tells you if it’s cheaper to consolidate your debt.
Simply plug in the numbers from your existing credit card debt (APR and balance) and the numbers from the potential loan you want to compare it with (APR and loan term), and it’ll tell you how much money you will – or won’t – save.
If you will actually save money in the long run, ask yourself two things: first, can I afford the new monthly payment? And second, am I committed to not racking up a balance on my credit card? If you can answer yes to these questions, then loan consolidation might be a good option for you.