Do you want to see your credit card balances vanish? The only way to do it is simple in process, but not in practice: Stop using them and begin paying them down.
However you choose to do it, using the snowball process which starts with the lowest balance and works up, so you can celebrate small victories along the way, or by paying down higher interest cards first, the end result is the same.
But what if you feel as if you can’t pay down your debt because an unexpected and emergency expense always comes up? First, make sure you’re defining an emergency the right way.
Girls’ night out? Not an emergency. (And if it is, get your girlfriends to treat… you can get them back after payday!)
Necessary car repairs so you can drive to work? Probably an emergency, unless you can take the bus, train or get a ride until next payday, and avoid putting the repairs on your credit card.
No food in your refrigerator? Maybe an emergency, but probably not. Looking through your cabinets or freezer, you might be surprised at what you can whip up to make it through to payday — and it’s probably pretty healthy, too. Of course, if you have a baby, infant formula is a necessity… but if you’ve done your budget right, you’ve allocated enough money for this.
You see what I’m getting at, right? Even situations that we think are emergencies might be able to be avoided by better budgeting and creative thinking. And every penny you don’t put charge brings you one step closer to paying down your debt. It’s all about changing your mindset. Here are three more thoughts you can change today in order to get on the right track to paying off debt.
Credit Cards Are My Emergency Fund
When you think of your credit cards as your emergency fund, some emergency will always come up that you believe you “have to” charge. Instead, work on building up an emergency fund by putting aside 10% of your income into a savings account. You can draw on this to for “emergencies that really aren’t,” from buying milk to car repairs. If you keep putting 10% of your paycheck into savings, you should always have at least a small nest egg for emergencies.
My Debt Is Never Going Away
This thought, and others like it, including, “Everybody has debt,” and “Debt is the American way of life,” are downright dangerous if you want to stop throwing away money on interest charges every month.
Instead, set the priority that you will get out of debt. Set a reasonable deadline for yourself, after working out your budget and determining how much you can pay toward your credit cards each month. Replace thoughts about debt being “normal,” with thoughts of how good it will feel to be debt free, and how much more disposable income you’ll have without all those monthly credit card payments. Finally, imagine yourself with no credit card payments, no financial stress, and plenty of money. Now you’re starting to capture the wealth mindset, that mindset of being debt-free.
“I Work Hard and Deserve Nice Things”
You probably do work hard for your money, and everyone deserves to have nice things, plenty of leisure time, and hobbies they enjoy. But that entitlement attitude, the thought that you deserve all the same things your friends and neighbors have, even if you don’t have the cash for them at this moment, is probably part of what got you into debt in the first place. If this sounds harsh… I’m only saying it because I’m describing exactly how I felt at one time, and I know it doesn’t work as a way to get out of debt.
Find ways to reward yourself that don’t cost any money. Celebrate every financial victory, whether it’s a whole month not using any credit cards, seeing one small credit card with no balance, or watching a balance drop substantially. Let success be its own reward. Print out charts or graphs or track your debt reduction on your computer or smartphone with an app like Mint.com.
And when it comes to celebrating your victories and rewarding yourself: cook a special dinner for your family, sit down for family movie night, or treat yourself to an early evening walk or something else you enjoy but rarely make time for.
Finally, to make your new, debt-free lifestyle feel more real, make a list of all the things you’ll be able to enjoy when you have absolutely no credit card debt:
- More disposable income (calculate the exact cost of your monthly minimum payments and write it down so you can visualize it more clearly
- A debt-free retirement
- Better credit to get all the best rewards credit cards, which, of course, you’ll pay off at the end of every month
- Less financial stress in your life
Do any or all of these things seem like they are worth working for? Then you can successfully change your mindset to get out of debt.