Let me get right to the point.
If you have credit card debt, you need to pay that stuff off. Fast.
In Western culture, our economic system is setup to encourage the accruing of insane levels of debt. That’s how the big, bad, evil banks make their money.
Combine this with our money-obsessed culture, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Every year, we continue to set new records in consumer household debt. In Canada, as of 2016, the average income to debt ratio was 165%. This essentially means that for every dollar Canadians earn, they spend $1.65.
We are conditioned to spend more than we have in our constant pursuit of happiness. For some reason, we still believe that having things will fill that empty void in our soul.
This isn’t to say that every person who finds themselves digging out of a massive hole of debt is financially irresponsible.
Life throws us curve balls. Unforeseen circumstances like unemployment, expensive health care, and simple accidents can leave us in a sudden financial pitfall.
How I got into credit card debt in the first place
There are lots of things I’m terrible at, but I’ve always been good with my money. I manage my budget closely, and make sure to have financial goals to strive for.
So when I found myself with a large amount of credit card debt, I was beyond frustrated.
My dad and I ran a family business for nearly 10 years. Unfortunately, it came time to shut the business down, and my dad and I both found ourselves suddenly unemployed.
And because we had spent the final months of our little business trying so hard to save it, we also had no money.
All I had was my credit card.
Over many years of handling my finances well, I had built up a good credit rating, and therefore had earned a large credit card limit.
With no job and no money, I had to do something to cover my ongoing monthly expenses. My credit card was all I had.
So, while I hunted for new employment, I lived off my credit card. I’m sure you can see now how that debt added up quickly.
It took me nearly 6 months to find a new job, believe it or not. When I finally I did, I had a nice big credit card balance greeting my on monthly statement.
At an interest rate of 19%, my monthly interest payments alone were around $300.
How was I going to get out of this?
When it comes to credit card debt, it’s “adapt or die”
I had to adapt.
If you want to get rid of credit card debt fast, you have to attack it aggressively head on. You need to dig deep, make sacrifices, and get creative.
The switch from part-time work to full (and extra)-time
I loved working part-time, and I did it for many years. But in order to pay off a large chunk of debt fast, you need to work your butt off.
Working part-time doing my own web design and marketing work wasn’t going to be enough. So I went out and got a full-time job in marketing on top of that.
There were many weeks where I was working 60+ hours.
As much as I hated working that much, I forced myself to see it as a temporary situation. One that would be well worth it when I finally broke free of the chains of my debt.
Some useful places to find part-time, full-time, and freelance work:
- Official government job banks, like this one for Canada.
Hard, and not-so-hard sacrifices
I put together an entirely new budget. I went through my monthly expenses, and decided on which items would now have to be considered luxuries I can’t afford.
Some were very difficult. I live in the large city of Toronto, where the variety of delicious restaurants and trendy bars will make your weekend plans difficult to decide on. I liked going out and trying new ones regularly. I drastically cut back on these big city delights.
Others were surprisingly easy. If you don’t keep track of your monthly budget, you’ll have no idea how much money you’re spending on the daily little things. In my case, I was spending a lot on coffee. I’d usually buy 2 cups a day. Depending on where you get your coffee, that’s about $5/day. That means I was spending around $90/month on coffee!
That’s the type of luxury that’s no longer practical when you’re in debt. Instead of buying my coffees by the cup, I made it at home.
Great tool to manage your budget with:
Consolidating your debt
What makes credit card debt particularly difficult to pay off is the insanely high interest rate. Average credit card interest rates are around 20%. If you have great credit, you can likely get closer to 10%.
If you have a large chunk of debt, like I did, the majority of your monthly payment will simply go towards paying your interest. This is the bread and butter of banks.
This is why consolidating your debt is so crucial. Debt consolidation means transferring high interest debt to lower interest debt, therefore making it more manageable.
For myself, I opened a new line of credit with my bank that had an interest rate of just 4%. I then transferred over most of my credit card debt to it, allowing me to now pay 4% interest on that debt, instead of 19%.
My monthly interest payments were now drastically reduced, which allowed me to pay off more of my actual balance each month.
This made a huge difference, and should be one of the first things you look into when dealing with debt. If you find it a tad confusing, get some help from a friend who’s done it. I guarantee you have at least a few.
Maintaining your mentality
One of the most important things you need to do is maintain a positive attitude.
I know, people who know me will laugh at that. I’m not exactly the “glass half full” type. Which is exactly why I need to continue to work on it.
And nothing brought my mood down more than feeling weighed down by debt. It permeates every aspect of your life. It really is like a prison in your mind.
But when you make these changes, and start to see real progress, it becomes a lot easier. You finally see that there is a way out, and it won’t even take as long as you thought it would.
What to do once you’re debt-free
Whatever you freaking want. That’s the beauty of it.
For me, I’ll be heading straight back into part-time work again. Also, traveling more. SO much more.
Have you ever climbed your way out of debt? What helped you to finally break the chains?