NEW YORK, NY - U.S. consumers racked up $21.9 billion in credit card debt during Q3 2016, which is the seventh-largest third-quarter accumulation in the last 30 years, according to the personal-finance website WalletHub’s 2016 Credit Card Debt Study, released today. We are now on track to finish 2016 with an $80 billion net increase in credit card debt.
With that in mind, here are some tips that consumers should follow to reach debt freedom as quickly and inexpensively as possible:
- Make a Budget & Stick to It – Rank-order your expenses – including debt payments, emergency fund contributions and other savings – and trim the fat until the amount you earn exceeds the amount you spend. It doesn’t take long for luxuries to begin to feel like necessities, so cut liberally.
- Build an Emergency Fund – Your goal should be to gradually save about a year’s worth of after-tax income through monthly contributions to an emergency account. And you should actually start the process before getting serious about paying off debt. Otherwise, you’d simply be too vulnerable.
- Improve Your Credit & Do a Balance Transfer – A higher credit score will help you save on everything from loans and lines of credit to insurance policies. You also need at least good credit to score a decent 0% balance transfer credit card.
- Try the Island Approach for Better Card Terms – Using the same card to make everyday purchases and carry a balance from month to month is a mistake. It increases the amount that accrues interest and forces you to settle in terms of either rewards or low rates. The Island Approach – designating multiple cards for specific types of transactions – solves both problems.
- Pay Off Debt with the Snowball Method – Devote the majority of your monthly debt payment to the balance with the highest interest rate, while making minimum payments on any other balances you may owe. Then repeat the process when your most expensive debt is gone.
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