How To Pay Off Credit Card Debt: A Success Story

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2009-04-2678

I love success stories, and so when I heard that another personal finance blogger has finally squelched her debt load, I had to share her story here. She has announced that she’s eradicated her credit card debt and finally has a $0.00 balance on her card accounts. That’s awesome, especially if you realize what a feat it is, because she had a balance of close to $40,000 to start with.

It took her around 3 years to make the debt disappear by implementing many strategies. This shows that if you’re really serious about getting rid of your debt, making the pledge to deal with it aggressively does work and can be the fastest way out of your financial situation. Some days ago, we published the story of how another individual was able to avoid bankruptcy; the cornerstone for this success is determination and commitment, in my opinion. Here are some debt elimination tips that I’ve found to be very effective throughout the years:

Pay Off Credit Card Debt: 8 Tips To Plan Your Debt Elimination Program

1. Know that you can do it yourself.

It’s important to know that even if you have accumulated a lot of debt, it’s still possible to succeed with eventually eliminating it once you take steps to actively manage it. The stories of many debt bloggers are a testament to how it can be done. It may help to use a free budgeting tool like Mint.com or Wesabe. There are tons of free web budgeting tools available these days that you can use.

If you’re more comfortable with desktop budgeting software, then there’s YNAB (You Need A Budget), which aims to get your debt and expenses under control. It’s actually much better rated than most other popular software applications in the market (check Amazon reviews); you can read more details about this product in my YNAB personal budget software review.

Tip: YNAB is a highly rated money management tool that has proven to be pretty effective for debt management because it’s built on a budgeting paradigm that encourages better saving habits. If software is not your thing, then try out a different, more manual approach such as the envelope budgeting system.

Now if you find that despite your efforts, your financial situation continues to weigh heavily on you and you find yourself overwhelmed, it would be a good idea to seek help and support elsewhere. There are a lot of resources out there that can help, such as Debtors Anonymous.

2. Set goals.

Making a promise to ourselves to deal with our debt is one thing, but we need to do something that will make the commitment concrete. Setting a date for when we expect to reach our goals will give us a roadmap against which to measure our progress. Goal setting is a great tool to ensure that we keep ourselves focused and headed in the right direction as we tackle our debt reduction program.

Tip: There’s an online tool called SavvyMoney Pro that can help you create a debt reduction plan. While it has a low monthly fee, the benefits you gain for creating a tailored DIY debt reduction program should outweigh the costs.

3. Create a debt elimination plan.

The quickest way out of debt is to stop incurring more of it while simultaneously paying off the loans you already have as aggressively as possible. While this may seem tough to do, you can use some strategies to help you out. Debt consolidation or refinancing may be solutions in some cases (but beware how this may affect your credit score), while a few people I know (including myself) have addressed their debt successfully by using balance transfer credit cards.

Transferring your debt from a high interest rate card to lower interest cards will speed up the debt reduction process, but it’s imperative that you weigh the costs of doing this. You’ll be paying less interest with a balance transfer, but applying for a new card has a short term effect on your credit score and can come with a balance transfer fee. You’ll also need to pay special attention to the rate changes after the promotional rates expire. In the past, I’ve been successful with eliminating debt by using such cards, but I had to make the commitment of paying off my debt during the 0% introductory rate period.

Tip: Balance transfer offers are few and far between these days, but some still exist. Shopping for the right type of credit card may help you cut your interest payments. Low interest credit cards may be more suitable if you carry a balance.

4. Prioritize paying off your debt as your primary financial goal.

A lot of people who’ve been able to banish their debt have made sure that they stick to their priorities. These people have managed to avoid temptations that entice them to part with their money. In my case, after I finally retired my debt, I vowed never to carry a credit card balance going forward. Now I pay off my balance in full each month.

Before I buy anything, I ensure that it’s something that I’ll be able to pay for by the end of the month, and if not, I simply avoid making the purchase. As for unexpected expenses, I keep an emergency fund in a high yield savings vehicle to avoid having to use my credit card for such emergencies.

Tip: I keep my emergency money in an online savings account that offers a relatively higher return.

5. Keep your eye on your track record.

When you embark on a debt elimination program, it’s a good idea to keep track of how your credit is doing. In fact, it’s wise to get a snapshot of your credit standing before, during and after you’ve worked on reducing your debt, in order to chart your financial progress. Tracking your credit score is one way to measure the success of your debt and credit management efforts.

Tip: Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to receive your free credit reports or take a look at products from Equifax, which give you access to your FICO score. You can also find out if you can get by with a non-standard non-FICO free credit score.

6. Celebrate your victories.

Just like with trying to lose weight (which I’m still trying to do…), being way too restrictive about dealing with debt can end up backfiring when we end up “rebelling” over our self-imposed restrictions. How many of us have experienced falling off the bandwagon on occasion because of tough — sometimes unrealistic — rules that we impose on ourselves? Give yourself a break once in a while by treating yourself to simpler rewards when you reach certain milestones in your plan or debt reduction schedule.

7. Increase your income.

I think that it’s not enough to cut back. It’s best to apply a two-pronged strategy for living below your means: spend less but also try to earn more. If you can find ways to increase income, you’ll have more ammunition to throw at your debt balance; there are many ways to earn extra income (start a side business, get a second job, learn how to invest well), which combined with a strong savings strategy, can accelerate your debt repayment.

8. Have accountability.

One of the most effective strategies that some people have employed is to make themselves accountable while trying to work on their debt. By sharing their stories with others through blogs or in forums, they are able to receive lots of encouragement and support, thereby giving themselves the psychological boost to handle their financial issues. There’s strength in numbers, and I believe that a blog or a similar platform helps build a supportive community that can cheer you on and provide you with advice, ideas and even guidance to keep you focused.

For those who aren’t interested in being accountable in this manner, you can still help yourself by simply keeping a journal or diary that will track your progress over time. By keeping tabs on your progress and jotting down notes and ideas about your financial activities, it’ll be easier for you to measure and assess your status. All this can only help you stay on track.

9. Pay more than the minimum.

The lesson here is this: put as much money as you can afford towards expensive debt or anything that charges a high interest rate. The cost of debt can be humongous. By keeping a tight rein on the use of your card, you won’t allow your debt to run away from you. It’s particularly important to avoid feeding your debt balance because as it grows, the harder it is to control and manage. So before you use your card, already set some parameters. If you can’t afford to pay the whole balance off, try your best to pay more than the minimum in order to bring down your principal as quickly as you can.

One Amazing Success Story

As for that personal finance blogger who wiped out her debt in 3 years? It’s one of many success stories I’ve found inspiring. Congratulations to Tricia! She’s blogged away a total debt of $37,614 all in all in a little over 3 years (38 months to be exact). Eliminating a huge debt load may seem overwhelming at first, but you can do it!

Copyright © 2009 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 78 comments… read them below or add one }

FrugalMe April 27, 2009 at 3:09 am

While I agree with your helpful tips in some cases it may not be possible to increase one’s income. My advice in those cases would be to track your spending and look at where you are wasting your money. For example do you really need to buy coffee one hour after leaving home where had a cup? I am sure that you can get one at the office.
Another way to reduce waste is to read the newspaper online or in the library rather than buy one. Too often people buy newspapers, read only a part of it and discard the rest. Why not go to the library, borrow a colleague’s or even better form a partnership with a colleague to buy the newspaper on alternative days of the week (not weekends).
Finding these areas where you can re-purpose this money toward debt reduction can go a long way to boosting your confidence if you know that the possibility of earning extra cash is beyond your immediate grasp.

Writer's Coin April 27, 2009 at 3:40 am

Congratulations to Tricia on a great accomplishment!

One thing that looks weird here is having #7 as a tip to pay off credit-card debt. “Paying more than the minimum” doesn’t seem like a tip, it seems like an absolute must. Is it even possible to pay off a credit card without paying more than the minimum?

I mean I thought this was the very nature of credit card debt, this is why it exists in the first place. Just seems weird having it as a tip.

Matt @ My Financial Recovery April 27, 2009 at 12:12 pm

I find Tricia’s story really inspirational. Most of my debt is all student loans but I really hope to pay it all off similar to what she has done!

I have been making pretty good progress lately and hope that I can get it done as well as she did.

Thanks for the news, I haven’t checked her site in a while.

Mikael @ RetireRichRoadmap April 27, 2009 at 1:42 pm

First of all I am glad that you included point number 5. Most people think that they can save their way out of debt (and trouble) and even though it is possible the faster way is to increase the amount of money you make. Making more money is not hard at all but it will require a shift in your mental attitude (and that can be the tricky part).

Secondly every plan will need to include ACTION. You can spend all your life making plans and setting up goals but if you’re not taking action towards those goals you have just wasted your time.

/Mikael

Silicon Valley Blogger April 28, 2009 at 12:03 am

Yes, the combination of “earning more and spending less” is pretty powerful. Imagine doubling the chances of reducing your debt by applying both financial strategies? I agree that earning more can be tough to do for many people, most especially in a difficult economic environment as we have now. It’s tough enough to have and keep one job, much more two! A lot of us with families also find that our time is extremely limited, and unfortunately, chasing down income sources is just not feasible because of these reasons.

In such a situation, then cutting back may be the only way to reduce debt. Making those sacrifices will be key to eradicate the debt slowly but surely. Tricia was able to work out both the “earn more and spend less” concept to her advantage, so she was able to accelerate her debt reduction schedule to get to a zero balance in 3 years’ time. Either way you look at it, it’s an awesome feat.

Imee April 28, 2009 at 2:27 am

The most common mistake people do is pay just the minimum. Someone I know learned the hard way — she kept paying the minimum for her card and she eventually became so in debt the best thing she could probably do is declare bankruptcy.

CCD April 28, 2009 at 9:07 am

I agree with the steps you mentioned, I am currently following them. I really like the blog idea. It’s like a diet, when you write down everything you eat you think twice before you eat it AND you know what and how much you ate working toward your goal. I would also add that the person save ALL receipts, categorize them and calculate them weekly. This will tell you exactly where your money goes and will make you think before you spend.

Tracie April 29, 2009 at 12:28 am

Rewarding yourself after a milestone is a wonderful feeling. It allows you to be proud of your accomplishments and gives you the encouragement to go even further. Thank goodness for goals and rewards.

rob May 4, 2009 at 8:59 am

One thing that a lot of the “eliminating credit card debts tips” lists tend to omit is that you should call your credit card company. Especially when your rates are high or have recently jumped up. Fees are also easy to get them credited if there is an explanation or reasoning. Credit card companies while they want to make as much money as possible would rather have a better chance of getting the current balance than lots of future money.

Dropping the interest rates lower, offering special promotional rates, balance transfers, or other term modifications can cause the most drastic difference in the repayment process.

I have personally had 4-6 fees removed/reduced. I have been able to have my APR reduced EVERY SINGLE TIME that I have ever called in and requested it. It may not always be a big change 24% back to 11.99 or 18% to 5.99%, but even just dropping the apr 1 or 2% can have a decent impact.

Just be careful about the transaction fee for balance transfers. Based on the 3% fee and the term of the transfer it may or may not have a positive impact.

Freedom May 14, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Working with a debt settlement company is the only way I can see getting out of debt.

Silicon Valley Blogger May 14, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Freedom,
I disagree completely. You can get out of debt when you put your mind to it, and you don’t necessarily need anyone to tell you how to do so.

Jake Harvey June 8, 2009 at 5:42 pm

I wish I had your advice a long time ago. I am so far in debt now that it’s stupid …. and I’m still a student :(

Cheap Living June 14, 2009 at 10:52 pm

I agree with Silicon. It is definitely possible to reduce debt on your own. It just takes discipline in most cases. However, in some cases what Freedom says is true. Some people need help, because of various reasons. I have a friend who once told me he bought a life insurance policy so he could save money. I informed him that Life Insurance is not really savings and he said that if he didn’t have the policy there is no way he could put money away for the future. He is just a person who likes to spend, but at least he recognizes that and is dealing with it in his own way.

Mary June 26, 2009 at 8:44 am

I have to agree with all of your advice. It’s truly important that individuals start to take ownership in the amount of debt they have accumulated. These individuals need to make paying off their debt number one priority, whether that be on their own or with the help of a debt settlement company.

Keep the success stories coming!

– Mary

Ann July 1, 2009 at 6:54 am

The quickest way to pay down credit card debt is going to take persistence and commitment. Perhaps the best way to talk about paying down the credit card balance is to take a look at how you ended up with the debt you have.

Benjamin July 4, 2009 at 11:41 pm

Very insightful.
I like 1,2 and 6 best.
Sure, first thing is accepting to pay. :-)

Annie July 6, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Start budgeting so that you can stop using credit cards, the next is to figure out how much you allocate to paying them off each month.

Johnny July 17, 2009 at 6:52 am

I am in 10k credit card debt at 23. I do have the money to pay the debt right off, but I will be drained. However the interest rate on the credit card is way higher than the interest I am earning on my money. Anyways since me and my girlfriend moved in with each other, we had to buy everything new and she wants to travel more now. This is all good but, now that I am realizing that this debt is holding me back from buying a real house or even opening my own resturant, I am making cut backs.

So, I wrote down on a piece of paper my monthly bills, my SUV 500/month, gas 250/month, insurance, cell phone (w. data packagee), time warner cable/internet (With all channels and highest speed internet), netflix, gas and electric, water and my impulses on lunches at work when I already bring a lunch, and last but not least my impulse purchases. Granted I like to live in a nice house, but I’m begging to ask myself, will I really care about this item next week. The majority of the stuff is instant gratification. I need to over come that. I say on average, 400/month on impulse spending. Lunches, $10/3 days a week, NO more data package for Blackberry, I dont need that anymore seeing how I switched jobs, cut the cable bill and internet, not punching the gas pedal anymore, be conservative with running errands, be conservative with the electric and gas and water.

My rent there is nothing I can do, but 1100/month for rent when homes are less than that is pretty dumb. I have the credit to get a house, so right now I am not building any equity. If I do these cutbacks I know that I can pay 10k off by the end of the year without touching my house money. All in all, I believe I can save 500/month cutting luxuries and wasteful spending. No more data package, -30/month, cable and internet – 60/month, netflix -10/month, gas electric save 20/month, gas fill up aim for once a week save 50, allow only 100 impulse -300, no lunches during work week -100/month. That there equals $570/month I can be putting towards my CC debt.

Once that is finished, I will work on down grading my car and put the difference into some sort of investment. Also not to mention, I wash my own car, cut my own hair, reduce the amount of laundry, free car maintenance, refill my water bottle. These little acts help. I figure in 12 months, the only payment I want is my house (so I can afford a better one) and the utilities. Can we all make these cutbacks or am I going too far with saving? Should we be treating ourselves more often or should we suck it up for a year or so?

Silicon Valley Blogger July 17, 2009 at 7:06 am

@Johnny,
I think you can never save too much — if it is comfortable enough for you to cut back as much as you have, then do it. If it’s become too difficult to keep with a savings plan as “extreme” as you describe it to be, then treating yourself on occasion is alright as well. I’ve gone without on some of my favorite things to do for long periods of time when I decided to prioritize on certain expenses. There was a time I only had enough of a budget to cover the necessary expenses, so I ended up not going on vacation for years. I haven’t gone to the movies in years as well. I don’t miss these activities at all, actually, and I’ve been able to meet my savings goals in the meantime.

Soon, I’ll be able to treat myself to a vacation, and it will be very fulfilling when that happens!

Johnny July 17, 2009 at 7:33 am

You are right. These leisure activities are needed because you and the spouse get bored. The best tool for saving money is convince your spouse is to sacrifice with you, then your debt goals will succeed. This is my problem, many times my girlfriend gets bored and always wants to do something, go to target, kohls, go out to eat, movies and so on.

Or every night when I get home from work, she asks what do you want to do tonight. I look at the clock and it’s 7:30PM. She is willing to suck as much money as possible with those few hours left in the day. She comes from a family who has lived paycheck to paycheck, so she thinks it is fine to live this way and her debt doesn’t bother her. Her goals are different.

I guess my point is if you can convince your spouse of what your goals are and they are understanding, then that is extra money saved as well. Although at the same time, try not to make it too boring for them.

Josh July 20, 2009 at 2:14 pm

I have a question about “Prioritize paying off your debt as your primary financial goal”.

What method was used? Did you pay the highest balance first or did you pay the highest APR first?

mcreviews August 15, 2009 at 8:38 pm

those with credit card debt might be better off getting a secured card.

Janie Out of Debt August 31, 2009 at 5:17 pm

I think you can never save too much as well. Life happens and having money in savings is always good.

Janie Out of Debt

Mr. Credit Cards September 4, 2009 at 5:51 am

Obviously a lot more Americans should read this post considering that an average household owes about $9000 and the current credit card debt is $960 billions only in the States!

Lee September 9, 2009 at 6:38 am

It’s always possible to up your income, even if it seems to be by pointless amounts.
Take this month as an example from me.

5 Minutes completing a survey: £5 Amazon gift voucher.
30 Minutes adding AdSense to my blog: £13 (so far).
Opening an ING Savings Account: £25 bonus.
Avoiding Supermarket tricks: £50 (not spent).
Cutting back cell phone package to just what I use: £25 (not spent)
Overtime at work: £450.

If you add up the ‘extra’ (not including overtime), that’s £43 this month I wouldn’t otherwise have had. Keep that up over a year, that’s over £500! If you take all of the above, that’s £568 this month alone. Assume I can do this for say 6 months out of every 12, that’s an additional £3,408 in my bank!

Small changes make a BIG difference.

Tom September 14, 2009 at 8:44 am

I am really impressed that that lady paid off around 40000. This is quite good. And this article is really marvelous. The tips are really beneficial to many people. I totally agree that by planning, with some extra income and by paying little more amount than minimum, any one can get rid of their debt problem. And the point of money transfer is also good to pay higher debt rate. Very insightful.

Karli October 1, 2009 at 6:28 am

This is a great article. The problem is getting the population to follow. I think some people don’t want to know how much or how little money they have so they just spend without paying attention.

SmartMoneySave October 6, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Just started a blog on this more to come soon

Anita @ Help Me Get Rich October 19, 2009 at 1:17 pm

Thank you for some valuable tips. Once you are deep in debt it does seem like you don’t know where to turn to for a solution. But as much as you feel down about your debt, you have to get control of it and take steps to help eliminate it. I myself started a blog in order to motivate myself, keep track of my progress and tackle my debt head on. I hope, I too, can succeed through blogging.

Molly October 20, 2009 at 7:41 am

Thanks for the helpful tips. I will try and use them in reducing my credit card debt. Great advice. I’ll let ya know how I do!

Jessica October 24, 2009 at 10:11 am

Hi There everyone. I know credit card debt can be worrisome — I was there, but I did something about it. Even an extra $500 a month was a god send. I started a business which helped me earn some extra money.

Joel November 12, 2009 at 11:57 pm

I think the first step to remove all debt is to decide you want to be debt free. Focus on the goal and commit.

SplinterFL November 30, 2009 at 12:59 pm

I had $14k in Credit Card Debt at 29%. When I got married 6 months ago we discussed ways of eliminating it. This is how our plan worked.

We used her 10k limit credit card with only 16%, we were able to live on that day to day, for a year. This freed all our income in to cash which could be used to snowball the payments. Now that the payments are nearly done, we started snowballing her card. It took over a year, but this was one way of doing a balance transfer without fees and actually helped both our credit scores.. My went over 750 for all the large payments and hers when up as she was actually using her credit.

The key is to reduce your expenses, in our case, using a much lower interest rate to free up cash to pay off much higher cards. Once the high interest cards are paid, all the Minimum payment money is now available for other debts or savings.

Stephen December 7, 2009 at 11:55 am

Good for her, never got into debt, currently pulled out 20K in Dead Presidents from bank because I’m incredibly liquid & do not trust banks right now. Will have another 20K pulled out by the end of the year with a full 80K out by the end of February. Shelve the CC’s once & for all & only buy with cash. The Less you Spend The More You Save.

Kevin February 10, 2010 at 12:12 pm

I paid off $25K in credit card debt in 2 years by paying more than the minimum payment and putting any extra money I had towards the debt. I am so free now and will never have credit card debt again.

Jen February 17, 2010 at 9:26 pm

In June of 2009, I had more than 25k in credit card debt. After starting quicken and seeing exactly where my money went to, I made a budget for the 1st time in my entire 33 years of life. 9 months later, I am down to $10,700!!!!! During that time, I also was laid off from my job and took another job making $10k less a year. It’s amazing how re-prioritizing your spending can add up so quickly! Yay for me!!! I’m so excited!

Joseph's Debt/Credit Tips February 18, 2010 at 9:48 am

In “Step 6″ you mentioned that you should “celebrate your victories. When it comes to paying off credit cards, each payment you make is in itself a small victory. So don’t start celebrating every time you make a payment. On the other hand a little celebration is OK once that credit card is completely paid off. Then, once paid off STOP USING IT or that celebration will have been for nothing.

On the other hand, you might need to keep that credit card intact in the interim if you have debt where you are paying even higher interest rates than other cards. This could allow you to juggle your money around so that you can pay off your other higher interest rate cards first.

You might be in a situation where your credit cards don’t have the highest interest rates of all your debts so rather than paying them off target the other debt before your credit cards…which brings me to the point that paying off the highest interest rate credit cards first will make your celebration that much more satisfying.

Credit card debts can be staggeringly high, so many people can only dream of being able to celebrate paying their card off. I wrote an article on the average amount of debt that we (yes, that includes me…) have here.

I hope you find it interesting.

With the high amount of credit card debt, we do have, consolidation may also help you to pay off those credit cards sooner rather than later – making that celebration that much sweeter.

PS – this is a good blog. I also invite you to comment on my site as well.

Joe

Joan February 26, 2010 at 9:14 am

Debt snowballs are a great way to show you how you can pay down your individual debts quickly. You can customize yours for your own debt and determine the time period. Check out this free debt snowball.

karen March 2, 2010 at 8:35 am

Debt does snow ball we had bought a home and then later a second home. Not only did we have 2 mortgages, but we needed to do repairs on both homes and furnish them. I am paid with commissions so some months my pay would be wonderful and others would be just barely scraping by. In order to pay for many repairs and furnishings, credit cards were used. Eventually topping $102,000 in unsecured debt. I have been focusing on paying theses down and over the past year have brought it down to $63,000. Still a whopping amount!, but I feel pleased to have been able to dedicate myself to reducing my debt. In the meantime I have many other bills and have tried to decrease those by being careful with electricity, and stopping any major purchases, unless absolutely necessary. I still have so much to pay off, but God willing I should be able to be debt free on my credit cards within 3 years if I stay focused. The big problem and fear for me is job security. If I lose my job, which is always a possibility how can I continue to re-pay. The job market is so competitive and I so much want to accomplish this goal without interruption. The way I have been reducing my debt , by the way is with the free Debt Snowball . So that instead of snowballing upward, I am snowballing downward. It truly does work! Please wish me well in achieving my goal. I hope all of you can eliminate your debts as well. Thanks for letting me share my story and hope to be able to post when my debt is completely gone!.

Monety March 9, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I think the first step to remove all debt is to decide that you want to be debt free. Focus on the goal and commit.

Mike March 30, 2010 at 11:33 am

I used government debt relief info to settle all my debts. The banks started screwing me by raising my rates to over 20% and dropping my credit limits to what i owed making me look like a risk. I’ve never been late in over 15 years on any of my debt and i owed less that 40% of what my limits were. They set me up to fail so doing the debt settlement got rid of them and i’ll never do business with them again.

David Kamau April 4, 2010 at 2:04 pm

I thought I should mention this. Avoid debt settlement programs as much as possible. This is when you settle your debt for less than its actual value. If this gets reported to the bureaus (and it does in most cases) it could cause your score to drop. Also, no lender will want to touch you once they see that you have debt settlement on your credit file. If you have collections and you want to settle by paying less – which is advisable as many collectors buy debts for pennies on the dollar anyway – make sure you have an agreement in writing that the account will be deleted from your credit file(s) before paying a dime.

Terra April 9, 2010 at 4:54 pm

I am paying off my debt and have started in earnest to research strategies..

I have two books that have been valuable to me:

Payback by Margaret Atwood (not tips to get out of debt, but looking at the nature of debt)

and

How to Get out of Debt, Stay out of Debt and Live Prosperously – Jerrold Mundis
strategies from Debtor’s Anonymous

I found one of the best pieces of advice was to face your debt, by writing down your creditors and adding it up. I had been avoiding that for a very long time.

There is also included making a spending plan (as opposed to a budget) and examining patterns of thought that are keeping you in debt (he lists quite a number).

Oh and two of the best words from him:
1) Your debt doesn’t own you, a bank cannot own you. No one can own you (your essential human right)
2) The numbers don’t matter.

I am no longer afraid of my debt or of talking to the credit card companies. I am much more assertive, and realize that they don’t have anything on me. I owe them money simply and if I make it my effort to be responsible and pay them back then there is no reason for harassment.

Being responsible and facing up makes the world seem a lot friendlier. I’ve started doing things like applying for bursaries (why didn’t I do that before? first time I applied this year and received $400) and take advantage of the many services that are out there (I probably didn’t feel like I deserved them before). I noticed alarming bank fees that I would not have noticed before, called and asked about them. The awareness bit is HUGE and the facing up… Just getting courage and not being afraid, makes life so much better…

Rob From Debt Relief USA April 11, 2010 at 6:00 am

One way that is very good to get out of debt is to implement the snowball method. Basically you make a list of all the debtors that you owe and then focus your attention on paying off the smallest debt in the list first. Once the smallest debt is paid, move on to the next smallest and so on until all your debts have been settled, hence why it’s called the snowball…

Michelle April 17, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Anyone know where to get a bank loan?

Jenny April 21, 2010 at 9:34 am

I found myself in a lot of trouble….I can’t find an answer to this problem. I blame myself…but I’m on SSI, and basically had two major bank cards, and all of a sudden in Feb, without a formal notice, the 3,500 card from Citi-Bank presented a statement reflecting an increase of 29% interest, up from 6.9%. I immediately went to the Bank itself, I can’t hear, so I made many visits to ask them why and what happened. The minimum used to be $60.00 then unexpectedly went to $160.00 in Feb. I was told via the clerk at the bank making the call for me, that the rep said I had to “hear on the phone”. I am deaf.

I have a trail of emails prior to this and after. I went to the library, obviously their computer was updated more so than mine, because they added “Chat to a Live Rep”. One told me “most people throw out mail, thinking it was junk mail, that I was sent a letter notifying me of the rate increase, and had 3 months to opt out”. I told her “Not true, when it comes to correspondence from Citi-bank, I don’t throw it away without reading it.” Our conversation got disconnected. I called back on the computer for another live person…”You got it with your Oct. Statement”. Liar – I had my files in front of me in the original envelopes…so I set up a three year payment of 80.00 a month.

My son was furious that I made so many personal visits to the bank, only they would not allow the bank clerk to translate for me. They even hung up on them.

My son called them personally and told them, “She can’t pay that – at that percentage rate…she is on disability, you can’t take disability money away from her”. You don’t want to try and negotiate, then you won’t see any money.

A week later I got another letter from a Home Depot store, where I just purchased 300 with no interest for a year (last year), and it grew to 900.00. The letter stated, according to Fed regulations, all deals off…we need 90.00 a month right now.

I know you will think I’m a fool and I feel like a fool, but when Obama signed that stupid law in 2009 not effective until 2010, the credit card industry had a field day raising the interest rate to 29.99% and they got away with it by lying, saying they sent letters and in the one case, it was no prior warning on the home Depot card…it arrived with the last bill. The excess purchases were made by my son…so that is my fault, which brought the balance to 900.00. But, I had 12 months to pay…without interest. They quickly changed that rule….

I had been bringing the balance down at the old percentage rate, and now they jacked it up to something I simply can’t afford on disability, which is 675.00 a month. I was always careful with my credit for emergencies, but the percentage rate went over the one card, making it “over the balance and late” $400.00 in all – which I wasn’t late, they moved the due date from the 24th to the 3rd without my knowledge….

My question is, if you are receiving disability, and that is your only income, and because they spiraled out of reach within the credit card industry to allow me to pay it off within budget, (with the help from son who made the home depot purchases), can they actually take away disability money? I refuse to pay, I have rent, etc.

I called SSA and they said to see a legal aid lawyer. I’m so broke right now, I can’t afford the gas…

My question is…Can you file bankruptcy to just wipe the slate clean…and can they touch your money at the bank if it is disability money? Please answer as soon as possible. The debts will near 10.,000 soon enough with the fees they placed on the one major card. I was told the credit cards can change the rules anytime they want.

What is gov’t debt relief about? Any advice out there. I feel stupid that I owe, want to pay, but can’t on their terms. I don’t want to rob them…I just need advice.

Dane April 23, 2010 at 11:55 am

These are good motivational points, but I think some more specific actions could be highlighted as well.

Daniel Ambrose May 8, 2010 at 11:27 pm

WoW! I loved the article and I found many of the follow up comments to be informative as well. I too have known people that have been taken advantage of by their creditors. In one case they received a bill saying they had no minimum payment due, so they decided to be thrifty and go out instead of making a payment and when the next bill came they had been assessed a penalty for not making a payment.

Thanks again for your informative article. I look forward to reading your future articles.

A Fellow Friend To Those In Need.

anz June 17, 2010 at 11:39 am

I have more than 3 card now but I have never been in debt. Before I purchase with my cards, I must sure that I can pay them all in 1-3 months!

susana June 18, 2010 at 6:05 am

I have around $39,000.00 in credit card debt and I had been receiving letters from different firms or groups that are under a slogan of ” NATIONAL DEBT RELIEF STIMULUS PLAN”; i qualified for a PROGRAM to reduce my unsecured debt and lower my payments. I think that this is a SCAM. I need advice, please. The company is for example 1101 pennsylvania ave nw 6th floor washington dx 20004 phone 18778059635; other company phone #1888-208-2626.

Natalia @ National Debt Relief Program July 1, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Even Suze Orman has changed her take on which credit cards to pay off first. But a person must revolve either to stop spending on plastic altogether or simply live within their means.

Pay My Debt July 6, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Credit cards are just a trap because they offer you the “opportunity” to live beyond your means so when you get deep over your head, very hard to get out of. Sure circumstances do arise that you have no choice, but overall is best to plan and prepare ahead just in case things do take a turn for the worst and you have something to fall back on so don’t have to get deep into debt.

Rowena July 13, 2010 at 12:27 am

These tips are really helpful especially for those who are so into debt. But the better thing to do is never get into debt in the first place by using your credit card with all your expenses even if you have cash to spare. Don’t be fooled by the low minimum payments posted by your credit provider. Always be vigilant when it comes to budgeting and avoid using your credit card or don’t get a credit card at all if you want to be debt free.

Rich August 7, 2010 at 4:36 am

We should be talking about how to stay out of debt, after we have managed to pay off those debt. Most families are deep in debt not because of low income, but because of the way they spend, we need reeducation.

Brandy August 7, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Left with $20k total credit card debt from a shopaholic ex spouse with whom I had some joint credit card accounts — so partially I am responsible for signing the dotted line. His $10k half in the divorce became mine since he defaulted on some joint accounts and then became unemployed for 6 mos. Due to a short sale on a home at divorce time, credit score went to 620. I’m in the same boat with folks where Citibank raised interest rates to 29% and companies lowered my credit lines (I took out a 401k loan to pay those 2 cards and pay myself back instead!).

But, after 3 years of using bonuses + 2 yearly extra paychecks, I have managed to pay them down…and ironically, Citibank sent me a 0% bal xfer for a year so that will allow me to pay off my last card! I am not a big spender but am also able to do two yearly trips and small weekend vacations to stay sane, even on one income and being a single mom. I just got .09 financing on a new car after selling my 8 yr old car which cash went to savings for emergency funds. Also, I raised my credit score by 62 points! This was education for me on trusting noone but yourself, and to protect yourself from other’s choices! I was still able to pay it off while buying stocks and saving for retirement.

Heidi Nash @ debtfreecharts August 17, 2010 at 3:34 pm

We are nearly at the end of our three year debt payoff journey. I made some visual charts to fill in monthly as I paid my debts down, and would like to share them with everyone here. They are free to download from my site – I hope they help motivate you in the same way they worked for me.

ptjenny August 26, 2010 at 8:45 am

Just some advice if you’re looking for a reputable debt settlement company. Any company that you speak to needs to be accredited through U.S.O.B.A which stands for the United States organization for bankruptcy alternatives. (www.usoba.org) They offer clients the highest level of protection in the debt settlement industry. If they are not an accredited member of USOBA then they are not legit as many debt settlement companies are. Furthermore, make sure they have a good standing on the BBB. My company has a B+ rating and only 5 complaints which have all been resolved.

Editor: The link did not work and I don’t post contact information here. Thanks!

James @ Credit Card Processing September 22, 2010 at 9:24 am

Unfortunately credit card debt has been rising in this country, and it’s due to many young college students who may think that getting a low interest credit card will solve many problems for themselves. As someone who is recovering from over $20,000 in debt, the best strategy that has worked for me was to create a budget. You have to have a budget and keep that budget in check. You should also segment your paycheck as they come in, 10% going into your savings, 20% in checking, etc.

The strategies listed above are excellent, and I can attest the first strategy keeping goals and a budget.

Hector Avellaneda October 11, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Great tips and congratulations to Tricia! I think our great grandparents would be appalled by the way our generation finances everything! From cars, to homes, to education, to the simplest things like a television. The bottom line is that if you have to put it on credit you cant afford it! In my opinion, the reason why our country is in a debt crisis is due to a lack of financial intelligence. People don’t know how to handle money, how to grow it, and how to protect it. All they know how to do is how to spend, spend, spend! I am glad I found an elite wealth community that understands the biggest problem facing our country and we are taking the necessary steps in our own lives to build wealth!

Bruins October 24, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I’ll gear this review to 2 types of people: ones in debt from overextension and the ones in debt from medical hardship. Either one can sign up to a debt relief company because those are legitimate hardships.

Kevin Hellriegel November 23, 2010 at 2:30 am

I just finished up the movie “Maxed Out”. Great tips on getting out of debt and I’m glad I stumbled upon your site. Keep up the good work! Free free to visit my website if you have time. I’m at khellriegel.wordpress.com.

Sincerely,

Kevin

Kent *making extra money to get out of debt* November 29, 2010 at 5:05 am

Credit card debt is a pain in the butt…I really enjoyed reading this topic, and will definitely use these pointers.

I agree with setting your mindset to knowing that you can pay it off. It really motivates one’s mentality and set themselves forward to getting out of debt.

I personally set some goals of my own and also have used these steps as well. One of the steps I really went forward with is starting a side business to get through with college tuition piling up on my credit card.

I hope this helps anybody in need.

Good luck to you all,
Kent

Kent November 29, 2010 at 5:24 am

This was a very informative article! I really am in debt from my college tuition that will pile up every semester on my credit card. I do follow most of these steps and keeping your head up is probably the best advice. Knowing that I can get out of debt is what keeps me going.

I read this article step number 7 made a lot of sense to me. I decided to make extra money with any time I had to spare.

I’m glad that I started a side business to be able to keep my tuition paid.

Best of luck to everyone,
Kent

Free From creditors November 30, 2010 at 3:29 pm

The one thing that good credit can certainly assist you in doing, as it does for many students, is to get you into unbearable and perpetual debt.

For most students, the only way to pay down these accounts is if they had a windfall income, like winning the lottery. This may be funny for many college students to hear, but once reality hits you, you’ll realize it’s a scary thought. Good credit does nothing for you but enable creditors to steal your net worth and cripple your ability to invest in your future. Unfortunately, your credit gets you to bet against yourself and transfer your wealth and potential wealth to creditors.

Edward December 20, 2010 at 7:40 am

Thanks for sharing this post. It’s always good to hear when someone can overcome their debt. I agree with the debt plan and paying more than the min. I also appreciate everyone else’s comments, Very insightful.

Thanks

Monkey January 1, 2011 at 1:24 pm

The best way to be debt free is to do away with credit cards. This will stop you from overspending. If the banks keep giving you credit, you keep building up the debt. This is human nature.

I was in debt for $38K — I had 8 credit cards and one loan, and I just kept spending because i was easily getting these credit cards. At one point I was struggling to pay the minimum payments. Now, I’ve decided not to get credit cards or loans. I have set up a budget and my current debt is down to $32K (in 6 months, I paid off $6K).

John February 7, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Am currently in the process of working myself out of a significant debt. Incurred over a four year time span, I hope to have climbed out fully in less than 2. A large part of my success thus far has been in my first identifying the problem and setting strict limits on what I’ve been actually spending my money on. Using a tool like mint.com has been instrumental in my success. I had a number of expenses that I failed to account for in my earlier attempts at creating budgets, the tool forced me to come to terms with my actual spending habits.

Miguel March 28, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Excellent article! In my opinion the use of credit cards should be avoided to the maximum. I just have a credit card because my bank gives me some benefits.

TK @ Credit Score Range April 25, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Congrats on your success on overcoming your debt. I totally agree with your two-pronged approach of increasing your income. That way, you can pay off your debt a lot faster too. The bottom line really comes down to, if people are willing to do what it takes to make a lifestyle change.

mikey June 13, 2011 at 2:40 pm

I just wanted to quickly share my story. The last time i was completely debt free was about 16 years ago. I have gone through many incarnations with my debt including having two nearly full time jobs for a stretch. I have been in as much as 70K worth of credit card debt alone and while I did pay that down over a period of time with smart balance transfers to save on interest and just dumping as much cash as I could toward it, it wasn’t until I finally realized that by NOT paying the rest of what I owe…off…I was in effect being lazy. By this I mean that by February of 2010 my CC debt had sort of settled in at about 40K. I hadn’t actually added it up in years. That was my starting point.

I made ledger cards for all of my credit cards and started to keep track by hand of my payments and the interest. These are cards that I’d locked in on the “low interest rate for the life of the loan” back some years when you could still get those. So, I can’t use those cards…and I’ve been able to pretty much stop myself from using OTHER cards.

I have had a couple of decent sized windfalls where I could just turn around and plunk that money down on credit. But, I’ve also consciously stopped myself from buying every item that i see and “want” as has been my M.O. in the past.

Then came my car. I’d been driving a Mercedes E class for the past few years and I was looking at having to plunk down close to 7K on repair and maintenance. That doesn’t mean that I was going to pay cash for that. It means that after working hard on this debt, I was going to have to sink myself 7K further back and set myself nearly a year backwards in my debt plan.

So, being that I had some positive equity in my car, I sold it to Car Max and got a nice return over what I owed. I bought a brand new Honda Accord and didn’t put anything down since it was 0.9% interest vs. the 5% interest I was paying on the Mercedes. And i turned the additional money I got from Car Max right over to the credit card company!

So, from paying close attention, keeping close records of my payments, working as much OT as I can, making decisions that might smart for a little bit (yes, the Mercedes ride was quite different than the Honda ride!!) and maybe not going to see Stevie Nicks or Fleetwood Mac EVERY time they play!…(but that’s my ONE big vice still)…and on and on…the little decision too…make a big difference in the long run…I’ve reduced my debt significantly.

Starting when I first bothered to even FIND OUT what I owed back 16 months ago…I have gone from 40K to now 18K. I haven’t been under 20K in many many years and I think it’s FINALLY FINALLY sinking in that I don’t have to be in debt. That’s why I say that If i give this up…which I won’t…and not pay off the final 18K…it will be because of sheer laziness on my part.

Just like all of you…I WILL do it! Best of luck to you all! mc

Sheila July 4, 2011 at 10:54 am

I have a total of $20,000 in debt on my credit cards, I recently got laid off and have no way of paying off for my debt which is really stressing me out and really depressing. I been applying for jobs but it seems like no one is hiring. What can I do?

Sweet Savings Mom August 8, 2011 at 4:20 pm

I have a family of 4 and it’s tough to get by. For pretty much everything we do discount coupons. I agree with Johnny up above. I use online coupons to get it even cheaper. Sites like cheapsally.com always help me save a bunch of money on necessities. Have you heard of these?

– Danielle

debt free lady October 12, 2011 at 1:21 am

Truly, paying on time is such a big relief when you know that bill is finally behind you.

Remo March 11, 2012 at 11:16 am

The first thing to do is take the time to study your credit report. When you get a copy of your report and score, the report will tell you the main reasons your score’s not higher. You can get a free copy at Annualcreditreport.com. If the biggest factor is high credit card balances, start paying those down. Similarly, if you tend to make late payments, your score will gradually rise as the late payment ages, provided you don’t continue to make more late payments and you keep low balances.

Steven Lupton March 14, 2012 at 1:25 am

I used the snowball method when I had difficulty paying my three credit cards. Then, I canceled the two and kept one. Now, it is easier to maintain one card and paying for cash often.

Katie March 29, 2012 at 8:40 am

On a debt management plan, professionals will renegotiate your monthly unsecured debt payments down to a level you can afford.

Nicolette August 22, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Pretty useful tips! These points are very helpful to anyone who wants to quickly pay off their credit card debt. I agree that by having a debt plan and paying more than the minimum, you won’t stay in debt long.

Chris November 3, 2012 at 10:21 am

My life was a living nightmare when I was over 30k in Credit Card debt! I remember the harassing phone calls, threats, letters etc. It was the worst 3 years of my life constantly living in fear and paranoia. I don’t I ever got a good night’s sleep during those 3 horrific years. Not only did I lose a a lot of weight, but lost all my hair on my head due to the extreme stress!

Until one day I found the right company and the right people to help me get back on track and my life back together. It took some time and patience to get out of debt. The patience was well worth it. Anytime you see those scams get out of debt in just a few days, or get out of debt fast, ignore those like the plague. Getting out of deep unsecured debt takes time.

I “luckily” found Curadebt who helped me get out of debt and I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it wasn’t for them. They offer a FREE no obligation, confidential debt consultation to assist you in the right direction.

To qualify you must have over $7,500 in unsecured debt. The best number to call is Toll Free 877-219-9345. Their office hours are Mon-Fri 7am-6pm PST. Give them a shot. I had nothing but outstanding experience using their services.

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