Step 1: Figure out what you owe. Gather your credit card statements and make a list of all the balances and interest rates for each.
Step 2: Free up some cash. If you’ve made a budget, take a look at it to determine where you could cut back in order to put more cash towards debt repayment. Your goal should be to pay significantly more than the minimum. Here’s why: Say you have a $10,000 balance at 18% APR and simply paid the minimum each month. In the end, it would cost you a whopping $14,000 in interest and take you 22 years to get debt free.
Step 3: Stop the bleeding—meaning, stop using your plastic until your bill is paid off. Hide the cards in a drawer and stick to cash-only. Also, try to move some of your high-interest credit-card balances to a card with a lower interest rate, which will allow more of your payment to go toward principal and thus get the bill paid off faster. But do read the fine print on any invitation to transfer balances—sometimes such low-interest-rate offers are only in effect for short periods of time, after which the rate skyrockets.
Step 4: Choose your method. From a purely financial perspective, it makes sense to put any extra cash towards repaying the highest-rate debt first since that card will cost you more in interest over the long term. But if you’d rather start by getting rid of a smaller debt first, that’s okay. “A small victory that gives you the momentum to stick with it is worth it,” says Anisha Sekor, VP of credit and debit products at Nerdwallet.
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Step 5: Get help if you need it. There are reputable debt counseling agencies that may be able to work with your creditors, consolidate your debt and assist you in better managing your finances. To find one, go to nfcc.org.
Step 6: Commend yourself. Bringing your debt under control is not easy, but the payoff is sweet. You can finally start taking putting the money you were shoveling to interest payments toward something you really care about—like your future.