Two out of every five households carry credit card debt from month to month, according to the 2017 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, or NFCC.
Some of those consumers are managing a modest amount of debt fairly well — always paying above the minimum on every account and holding back on new credit spending until the balances are paid down.
For others, debt is an oppressive burden that has them ducking creditors’ phone calls and struggling to keep up with even the minimum payments each month.
If you’re overwhelmed by debt, you need to make some quick and perhaps drastic moves to have any hope of getting free. Follow this step-by-step guide on how to finally get out of debt.
Stop The Bleeding
If you have so much cash flowing out to creditors that you can’t meet your basic needs with what’s left, step one toward recovery is to stop adding to that debt.
For some people, the quickest way to curb spending is to become a cash-only consumer, says Scott Stratton, president of Good Life Wealth Management in Dallas.
“If you give yourself $200 a week to spend on all your groceries and gas, then if you use that up in four days, you’ll just have to cope for a couple of days,” Stratton says.
If your credit score is in good shape, a balance transfer to a lower interest rate credit card might be worth considering, Stratton says. But if your credit history has you on shaky ground, you might want to look into a debt consolidation loan or negotiating a payoff plan with your credit card issuers.
Imagine Your Debt-Free Life
If you’re in serious debt, it may be hard to see a solution and even harder to move past your anxiety to implement it.
Bruce McClary, NFCC’s vice president of public relations and external affairs, suggests trying a little visualization therapy. Picture yourself debt-free:
- How would you feel?
- How would you live?
- What longtime goals would you be able to accomplish?
You may be wondering whether you should spend time daydreaming when you might be getting a collection agency letter any day now, but McClary insists this exercise isn’t trivial.
“A lot of people brush that off and say, ‘That’s fluff,’ but that’s what’s going to keep you motivated through what may be a long and difficult process,” McClary says.
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