Consumer debt can slowly take over your life. After evaluating how much you owe on credit cards, personal loans, auto loans and other bills, you might scratch your head and wonder how you’ll keep your finances on track. Getting into debt is certainly easier than paying off high balances. If your debt gets out of hand, you might fall behind and creditors may start calling your home or work. This can be embarrassing and frustrating, but you do have options.
Here’s a rundown of some of the best ways to get out of debt and rebuild your credit:
1. Stop Impulse Shopping
If you’re looking to get out of debt and rebuild your credit, the first thing you need to do is stop impulse shopping. This can be difficult especially if you’re used to buying whatever you want, whenever you want. However, the more you shop, the more likely you’ll rely on credit cards when you don’t have enough cash.
It helps to determine the underlying cause of impulse buying. Do your friends spend money frivolously? If so, do you feel pressured to keep up with them? Do you shop when you’re feeling sad or depressed?
Obviously, there will always be things you need to purchase. But when shopping, it’s important to purchase in moderation. Buy only what you need, and use cash for these purchases. Also, review your budget before spending money to make sure you can afford a particular purchase.
2. Stop Using Credit Cards for Rewards
Some people use their credit cards on a regular basis to accumulate reward points. This is an excellent way to save on hotels, travel and merchandise; and with a rewards credit card, you can redeem points for gift cards, cash back or statement credit. But if you’re going to use a credit card for rewards, you need to pay off your credit card balances in full each month, or else you’ll accumulate a ton of debt, which can take years to pay off.
3. Look for Ways to Earn More and Increase Minimum Payments
If you owe a mountain of credit card debt, unfortunately, paying just the minimum each month isn’t going to cut it. If you owe $1,000 on one card, it might take 10 years or more to pay off the debt if you only make minimum payments. With any debt elimination strategy, you need a plan. And for a plan to work, you need to sacrifice and make changes to the way you spend money. Some people have successfully paid off debt by getting a second job or working longer hours. The trick, however, is using all extra money to pay off debt.
4. Consider Bankruptcy
A bankruptcy damages your credit and can knock as much as 250 points off your credit rating, but if you don’t have other options, filing bankruptcy can provide a fresh start.
“Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy is usually the perfect action if you’re drowning in debt and at your wits’ end trying to come up with a solution,” according to the Doan Law Firm. “You can regain control of your finances and look forward to a brighter future.”
Rebuilding Your Credit
Once you have a strategy or a plan to pay off your debt, you need to figure out ways to improve your credit score. Since the amount you owe makes up approximately 30% of your credit score, getting out of debt gives your credit score a boost. But to further improve your credit rating, you need to practice other smart credit habits. For example,
- – always pay your credit card bills and loan payments on time — every month
- – don’t apply for too many new accounts in a short period of time
- – keep older credit card accounts open, even if you don’t use the card
- – check your credit report for errors at least once a year (AnnualCreditReport.com)
In all likelihood, you won’t be able to pay off your debt and rebuild your credit overnight. But if you stick with your plan and improve your credit habits, your credit score will gradually increase. And with a higher score, you’ll qualify for better financing opportunities in the future, such as lower interest rates on mortgages and auto loans.