Paying even a little bit extra toward your credit card balance can make a big difference in how quickly you can be debt-free.
If you're paying $200/month toward that average balance, which would be the minimum, plus a little extra, you'll eliminate the $9,333 average household credit card debt 80 months from now—and have paid more than $6,600 in interest. But putting just $25 a week more towards that debt can make a real impact.
If you can pay an extra $25 a week—so, $300 a month instead of $200—you'll be debt-free more than four years sooner and pay roughly $4,300 less in interest.
Even an extra $25 a month—so, $225 instead of $200—would help you shave 15 months off your repayment timeline and save you about $1,300.
"There's no easy solution. It does take a little bit of work to be on that pathway towards being debt-free and it's a long pathway for many people," says Bruce McClary, vice president of communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. But by choosing to pay a little more than the minimum each month, you could cut down your repayment timeline significantly.
Zena Wozniak, an editorial director at HUM Nutrition who lives in Los Angeles, vowed to pay off as much of her $32,552 in credit card debt as possible before her 30th birthday in May 2019. She planned to get there by putting $2,000 a month toward the balance.
Achieving that meant making lots of strategic decisions about her finances, like going on a "spending fast" that involved getting rid of her car and putting her tax refund toward her debt, she tells Grow.
She also credits lots of little decisions for helping her come up with extra cash: "I walk as often as possible and take ride-shares if I'm going somewhere far. I always opt for a shared Lyft or Uber. It takes longer, but shared rides save me anywhere from $5-15 per ride." She also cut down on her streaming memberships and plucked her eyebrows instead of paying to get them done.
For Wozniak, these smaller sacrifices added up, and they made a big difference over time: They allowed her to contribute more than the minimum payment each month and reach her goal of paying off her debt before her 30th birthday.
Paying only the minimum on your credit card debt costs you both time and money.
The road to a debt-free life begins by taking a look at the spending habits you've developed that may be contributing to your financial woes, McClary says. Get organized: Know what’s coming in, in terms of your income; what’s going out, in terms of your spending; and what you owe, as well as the interest rates on your debts.
Staying on top of that information can help you set money aside to help cut down, and finally eliminate, your debt.
"It doesn't have to be $200 extra, it can be $100 extra, or it can be $50 extra," says McClary. "The more you put towards your payment beyond the minimum will save you money over time."
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