To many, a new year means a fresh start, and it signifies the beginning of diets, workouts, ditching of bad habits, and more. If you’ve resolved to become debt free in 2022, there are steps you can take to make your journey more successful.
1. Now is the time to budget. Get an overview of your monthly expenses—mortgage, rent, auto payments, insurance, utilities, phone, internet, cable, groceries, childcare, and transportation, as well as restaurant, travel, memberships, and any other miscellaneous expenses. Set aside any extra money to be paid toward your credit card debt.
2. Look for additional cash. When you’re budgeting, try and eliminate expenses that aren’t necessary, such as entertainment, recreation, and dining out. You can always find alternatives for having fun that aren’t as costly.
3. Choose a repayment strategy. There are two main methods that can help you pay back your debt: the debt snowball and the debt avalanche. With the debt snowball, you take any extra money left over after paying the minimum on your other debts and apply it to the smallest debt. The debt avalanche works by paying toward the loan with the highest interest rate first, then the next highest, and so on.
4. Know your credit card bad habits. It’s time to take a look at how you’re approaching your credit cards and ditch any behaviors that will keep you in debt or make it harder to repay.
•Pay on time. When you make late payments, not only will you end up paying more in interest rates, you may also have to deal with late fee penalties and take a hit to your credit score.
•Save. Set money aside in the event of an emergency, whether that’s a hospital visit, car issue, or home repair. An emergency fund can ensure your credit cards don’t take a hit.
•Don’t charge more than you can pay. If you follow this golden rule to owning a charge card, you’re less likely to end up in debt. Instead, use cash or a debit card when you can, and don’t charge items if you can’t pay it back promptly.
5. See a credit counselor. Credit counselors are certified professionals who will analyze your overall financial picture by looking at your household income, monthly expenses, how much in credit card loans you have, and whether you have a budget. When you enroll in a credit counseling program, a credit counselor will work with your lenders to consolidate your loans into one affordable monthly payment, as well as work to lower your interest rates. Debt management plans are designed so you can pay off your debt in three to five years, which makes repayment smooth and efficient.
While paying back your loans can seem daunting, by following these tips and consulting with a credit counselor, you’ll be well on your way to better managing your finances in the new year and beyond.