Getting out of credit card debt when you’re barely making ends meet can seem impossible, but it isn’t. Rather than give up hope, look for ways to reduce your spending and generate extra income. With some sacrifice and dedication, you can be debt-free in no time.
Track your spending
When money is tight, it’s crucial that you know where every dollar is going. For the next month, track your expenses in a notebook or spreadsheet. Even if you only spend 35 cents on a pack of gum, it still needs to be written on your list. This will make it easier for you to identify and eliminate wasteful spending so you can free up some extra cash.
Create a budget
No matter how much you hate the idea of living on a budget, it’s still the best money management tool. The first step in creating one is determining your monthly income. To get your magic number, grab your pay stubs and calculate your earnings after taxes. Next, pull up the expenses you’ve been tracking for the last month. Subtract this combined figure from your monthly take-home pay. If your expenses exceed your income, look for ways to reduce your spending. This includes cancelling unused gym memberships, expensive cable packages and avoiding unnecessary bank fees.
Use the envelope system
Credit cards give you the freedom to buy now and pay later which is what gets a lot of people into trouble. Resist temptation by putting your card on ice and switching to a cash only diet. This will force you to think things through before making a purchase. We recommend using the envelope system to make the process easy. Start by dividing your expenses into categories and assigning each one an envelope with a dollar amount. Every time you get paid, stuff the envelopes with money and use it to cover expenses in the matching category. Once the money runs out, you can’t buy anything else until you get paid again. Try not to borrow money from the other envelopes either. If you have money leftover at the end of the month, use the funds to make an extra debt payment.
Transfer your balance to a lower interest card
The worst part about carrying a balance on your credit card is all the extra interest you accumulate. If you have good credit, consider transferring your balance to a lower interest card. Preferably, one with a 0% introductory rate. This will give you anywhere from six to 21 months to pay your balance interest-free. Plan your payments accordingly so you can be debt-free by the time the introductory period is over. Balance transfers can save you a lot of money but it comes with a fee. Typically, you’ll be charged 3% of the balance being transferred. It’s also worth noting that if you fail to make the minimum payment, the deal is off and you’ll be charged the purchase rate for the remaining balance.
Get a roommate
Ideally, you’re not supposed to spend more than 30% of your monthly income on housing. The problem is rising rent prices are making it difficult to stick to this rule of thumb. CNN reports that approximately 11 million Americans spend at least half their pay on rent. If you’re single, you may want to consider getting a roommate and splitting the bills 50/50. Just be sure to pick someone trustworthy and stick to a month to month lease. This will make it easier to part ways if things go south.
Cut down your food costs
Every month the USDA publishes the average food costs at four levels; thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost and liberal. Look at where your grocery spending falls on the list and aim to cut it down to the thrifty level. The difference can be hundreds of dollars in savings. Some quick money-saving tips include buying generic, clipping coupons, shopping with a list and planning your meals around sale items. You can also use a smartphone app like Ibotta to earn cash-back on your groceries.
Use the debt snowball method
Think hitting the lottery is your ticket out of debt? Well, the odds of picking all six Powerball numbers
are 1 in 292 million so you need to come up with a better plan. We recommend using the debt snowball method. With this approach, you’ll pay off your debt from the lowest to highest balance. Start by making minimum payments on all your cards. Any extra money you have will go towards the card with the lowest balance. Once that card is paid off, you’ll move on to the next smallest balance. Repeat the process until you’re completely debt-free.
Start an emergency fund
Life’s a lot less stressful when you know you have enough money in the bank to cover unforeseen events. Give yourself peace of mind by starting an emergency fund. The ultimate goal is to save 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses but don’t be afraid to start small. Even if you only set aside $20 a week, a year from now you’ll have over $1,000 in the bank.