Written by Charlotte Wood (last updated February 21, 2009)
When you're eighteen and you receive all those credit card offers in the mail, it can easily seem like "free" money. Once on the road of reckless credit card spending, it's hard to hop off and you can get yourself into real trouble. Credit card debt isn't impossible to eliminate and in many ways is like any other kind of debt. In order to manage your credit card debt you need to have a financial plan and the self discipline to carry it out.
Debt is all the same when it comes down to it; whether it be mortgage debt, personal debt, automobile debt, or credit card debt, eliminating that debt all comes down to the same simple principles. You need a plan. Sit down with your spouse, by yourself, or with a financial counselor if that's necessary, and sketch out how you need to manage your finances so you can extricate yourself from your mounds of growing debt. When making your financial plan, collect all your bills and their information so you can view it all at once. When you can see all your financial obligations side by side it's easier to see where your money most needs to go. (A chart is an excellent and quick way to see everything all at once).
Make a priority list of your payments. Pay the most pressing needs first and then move on to your less urgent obligations. With whatever payment you're focusing on try and pay more than just the minimum amount. It will take much longer than you'd like to pay off your debt if you only pay the minimum. Budget your money so you can pay even just a little bit more than the minimum (you also don't want the interest to keep accruing—pay it off quick!)
Another thing to keep in mind is to pay the smallest balances off first. When you get those out of the way you have more time and resources to tackle your larger balance accounts. Get the "extra," smaller stuff out of the way and you can better hone in on your more significant debt.
If you can, stop using your credit cards all together (at least for a while). When you can get a handle on your debt and get that paid off, the next time you're thinking about a credit card you know better on how to handle it and what to look for. If you dispose of your credit cards for at least a few months then you can start with a clean slate and work on improving your probably damaged credit score. Eliminate the temptation and the problem will be easier to remedy.
Reducing (and eventually eliminating) your credit card debt takes thought out planning and discipline. You can do it and all you need is a plan. A plan is the best place to start and freedom is the reward at the end of the tunnel.
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