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  • Writer's pictureRachael Hands, LCSW, Certified EMDR Therapist

Don’t Freak About Your Credit Card Debt

Most of us get a credit card with good intentions. Maybe you got a credit card thinking that you wouldn’t really use it. Maybe you thought that you’d take advantage of the rewards and immediately pay back your card. Then life happens. You foot the bill for you and a few friends at dinner and decide to cash in on the points. Your friends pay you back but you don’t pay off the card. You add some reoccurring subscriptions or get yourself something nice. It adds up quickly.

 

Next thing you know you’ve forgotten to or found yourself unable to pay off that balance. You’re afraid to check your account. When you finally do check your account you become overwhelmed with that number, the credit score has taken a dive and you’re paying a significant amount of interest.

 

Here are some quick simple steps to help you feel in control of your financial health.

 

What’s the damage?

 

We’re going to have to get organized and honest with ourselves about our financial habits. To do so think about the best ways to keep you accountable. Perhaps it will help to keep your finances on your fridge if you like something tangible to look at. For example, think of a picture of a thermometer going down with incremental goals. Maybe you’re an excel spreadsheet person? It’s important to have some way to face the numbers and keep track of your progress. Another tip is to confide with a trusted friend or family member. That way, you have additional accountability to keep you on track. Credit card debt is something almost everyone has experienced at one point or another.

 

How much is your debt?

What is your average net pay weekly, biweekly…?

Do you take a big hit once a month by paying your rent with one paycheck?

How do you break down your paycheck for groceries, utilities, transportation, retirement and savings and fun?

 

By taking a closer look at the how you allocate each paycheck you will gain a deeper understanding of whether you are actually living within your means. As a result, you will become more intentional with your spending.

 

We Are Here For The Long Run Not The Short Game.

 

As usual we are going to talk about avoiding the all or nothing approach. Meaning it’s not worth it to stress yourself out to pay off your debt in an unrealistic amount of time. Ideally we want to work on establishing sustainable habits and breaking the vicious cycle of overspending.

 

Consider splitting your rent/mortgage and/or other large payments amongst your paychecks. By splitting large expenses like rent we are creating a consistent budget. Next calculate how much is needed for utilities, groceries, and miscellaneous funds. Determine a reasonable portion to set aside for your debt. Remember to keep it at a number that is realistic and that can be consistent. If your debt is $2000 perhaps you set aside $50 per week which totals $200 per month. If you are consistent your debt can be paid off in 10 months at most. Keep in mind you can always contribute more to paying down your debt but we do want to be consistent. It’s better to pay down your bill in smaller increments rather than not having a routine. Consider keeping a portion of spending money on your debit card and/or cash on hand. The goal is to live within our means. To do so we want to try to not use money we don’t immediately have on hand going forward.

 

We have to remember to keep living our lives during this time. You are valid for wanting to get your debt down as soon as possible. This may sound counterintuitive; however, it is of the utmost importance to engage in activities that make us feel like the hard work we do is worth it be it spending time with friends, pampering ourselves and or buying something that makes you feel good about yourself (even during this time when you’re in debt). Becoming financially healthy is about becoming more intentional. Too often individuals feel as if they have to punish themselves until their debt is paid off and stay at home. This approach can lead to depression and again doesn’t meet our goal of leading a more balanced lifestyle. I encourage you to be creative and ask yourself what will really make you feel fulfilled when making a financial decision. If it will make you feel more fulfilled to attend an in person class or to bring food for a game night at a friends house so be it. This is why we created the expense breakdown.

 

Not only does our debt affect us financially it also can affect your credit score. It’s important to remember that the hit to your credit score is not permanent and it can be repairable. Some banks even have ways to set goals to improve your credit score and or ways to pay for a purchase over time with no plan fees or interest. Be sure to ask. Have you reviewed your credit card points? If so, perhaps you can convert your points to cash to reduce your debt.

  

Be Consistent

 

Debt is scary. It can feel overwhelming. It’s important to have credit to create better opportunities for yourself however there is no course to help individuals become financially savvy. It can be complicated figuring out the right financial breakdown that best fit your needs dependent on your financial situation. It’s important to figure out ways to create consistency and routine in order to have a healthy relationship with your finances. Once you finally achieve your goal of being debt free you can create a new goal around saving. Down the line you can replace the "debt" row with "savings". Intentionality and sustainability are the key to everything.

What is my net pay biweekly? Weekly? Monthly?

 


How much do I owe?

 


 

 


Rent

 


Electric

 


Water

 


Air/Heating

 


Phone

 


 

 


Groceries

 


Transportation

 


Retirement

 


 

 


Fun/Miscellaneous

 


 

 


Total I owe monthly (add rows 4 to 12)

 


 

 


How much I have leftover (subtract row 1 and 17).    If you don’t have anything leftover you need to go back and reevaluate your spending. (For ex. Are you spending too much on takeout or taking cabs?)

 


 

 


Now decide how much you can allocate towards your debt and fun/miscellaneous funds.

 



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