When I was in college I opened my first credit card. I was given a small credit card limit, but it was more money than I had ever been given before. Fortunately, I was responsible and didn’t go on a crazy shopping spree. I used my credit card to pay for small purchases like my cell phone bill or textbooks. Then I would use my student income to pay off my balance due.
However, if you are a student that has found yourself with credit cards and credit card debt, here are a few tips to help you get debt free. Once you pay off your balances, make sure to only charge purchases you can afford to pay for in full when the bill is due.
If you are overspending on credit cards, take the credit cards out of your wallet! Then, immediately stop using that card for purchases. Make a promise to yourself and find a friend to hold you accountable. No more purchases on that card–period!
Then, hide the credit card in a safe place where you won’t be tempted to use it. Consider storing it in your freezer, a safe, or hand them off to a trustworthy friend or relative. Promise not to use the credit card unless a major life or death crisis comes up and you have no other options.
Add Up Your Debt
Step two is to calculate how much you owe. For each credit card with a balance, write down the total card balance and interest rate. If you are not sure where to find this information, start by reviewing your credit card statement.
In the event you cannot figure out your interest rate, contact your credit card company and ask. You have the right to know this information and they are required to tell you. When you are talking to the credit card company ask if you qualify for a lower interest rate. If they say “yes” take it because lowering your interest rate will decrease what you owe right away.
Once you add up your credit card debt, write down what habits or purchases that got you into debt in the first place. This is a reflection exercise that will help you identify what things to avoid so you can stay out of debt. Then, commit to changing those habits.
For example, if you see that most of your credit card purchases were from eating out with friends, consider cutting back the number of times you go out to eat. If you choose to keep eating out, pay for your meals with cash instead of with a credit card.
The credit card company wins every time you charge a hamburger or drinks and then don’t pay your credit card bill in full. When you don’t pay our credit card bill in full, your meal ends up costing you more thanks to interest.
Budget to Pay Off Debt
To ensure you get out of credit card debt you must include your monthly credit card payments in your budget. Look at your monthly cash flow (your income or money coming in versus money going out). Figure out where you can cut expenses, and put the money you have left at the end of the month towards your credit card balance.
Always pay more than your minimum payment on your credit cards. After you review your budget and figure out how much you can pay towards credit cards each month, then prioritize your payments based on the cards’ interest rates. The card with the higher interest rate, you should attack more aggressively.
Set up automatic payments so you won’t have to remember to pay your bill. Each month money is deducted from your bank account and pays down your balance like clockwork. Once you set automatic payments sit back and watch your balance go down. If you get any monetary gifts or surprise money you can put it towards your debt and pay down your balance even faster.
Once you pay off the credit card with the higher interest rate take the money you were putting to that card and add it to your payments for your remaining credit cards.
When your credit cards are paid off, use them wisely and always pay off the balance due so you can remain debt free.