You already know you need to stop using your plastic, and you’ve probably read the usual advice on how to get out of debt—everything from literally freezing your cards to calling the credit card company to ask for a lower interest rate. If none of it has worked in the past, these ideas can help.
1. Figure out a way to send huge chunks of cash. Yes, we know you don’t have huge chunks of cash, hence the credit card debt in the first place. But hear us out: sending $100 at a time versus the minimum $15 payment will not only mean your debt will dwindle faster, but you’ll also feel a sense of accomplishment—like you’re actually making progress—and that’ll get you motivated, says Harrine Freeman, author of How to Get Out of Debt: Get an "A" Credit Rating for Free. “Finding extra cash is easier than you might think,” says Freeman, who suggests picking up an extra job and sending all of that extra income to pay down your debt. Babysitting, dog-walking, or offering to do odd jobs around your friends’ and families’ homes are all ways to make extra cash without working around the clock.
2. Make a list of all of the “extras” you pay for, and figure out a way to barter for those services. Does your yoga studio membership cost $80 a month? See if you can write the studio’s newsletter or tutor the owner’s kids in exchange for a free membership. Has your hairdresser mentioned she wants to start a blog? Make a deal that in exchange for a few haircuts, you’ll create a website for her. Then, put the money you would’ve otherwise spent on these services toward your card balances.
3. Use pre-paid debit cards instead of credit cards. The advice to stop using your credit cards is all well and good, but let’s get real: it’s really tough to deal exclusively in cash. That’s where prepaid debit cards come in. They give you the convenience of plastic without the spending power you’d have if you’re using one with a $20,000 spending limit.
4. Go on a spending freeze. “Fill up your gas tank, stock your fridge, and then see how long you can go without spending money on anything,” says David Bakke, a credit expert at Money Crashers. “This will not only help you identify purchases that are unnecessary, it will also free up more cash to pay your credit card debt.” After a month of frugal-living, calculate how much money you’ve saved—then calculate how long it will take you to pay off your debt if you throw that much money at your balance each month. “When you see an end in sight, it can keep you motivated to be thrifty,” says Bakke.
5. Use “reward points” to pay down your balance. Sure, when you applied for your credit card, you envisioned spending “reward points” on a tropical vacation or new flat screen TV. But if some unexpected expenses or unruly spending got the better of you, call your credit company to see if those points can be used toward your balance, suggests financial attorney and debt specialist Leslie Tayne.
6. Talk about your debt with your family and friends. Even though that $5,000 (or $15,000 or $25,000) sum feels like a dirty little secret that you’d prefer to keep to yourself, being open about exactly how much you owe to the people who love you the most can help in the long run. For starters, your family or friends might be able to help you come up with a spending plan that feels doable to you, and help hold you accountable. “If your debt situation is out in the open, you might even be able to ask your parents to make a credit card payment for you in lieu of a birthday or holiday gift,” says Tayne.
7. See a pro. Yes, going to a law firm or debt relief company will cost you some money up front. But their expertise might also save you hundreds in finance charges over the long haul. “Seeking a professional’s help is often the best way to set a plan in motion that will work to get you debt-free fast,” says Tayne. “Just make sure that before you commit to any company, you thoroughly research the company’s track record, legitimacy, and reputation.” When it comes to credit cards, there are a lot of people out there who are all about the scam, so it’s especially important to do your research before handing over your personal info.