1 in 4 Americans Owe More Than $5,000 in Credit Card Debt. Here Are 3 Ways to Whittle Your Balance Down

Credit card debt is highly undesirable for a few reasons. First, it can cause damage to your credit score, making it harder to borrow money affordably when you need to. And also, it can cost you a lot in the form of accrued interest. And frankly, that’s money you deserve to be able to spend on yourself — not hand over to a credit card company.

But while credit card debt may not be ideal, a lot of people land in it due to unavoidable circumstances. In fact, nearly 25% of U.S. consumers owe more than $5,000 on their credit cards, according to a recent survey by First Tech Federal Credit Union.

If that’s the boat you’re in, you may be eager to pay down that debt. And here are three options to look at in that regard.

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1. Set a monthly goal

Paying off a credit card balance over $5,000 is not easy. And the idea of it can be overwhelming. So instead of focusing on going from above $5,000 to $0, focus on what you can reasonably do every month.

Maybe if you make some changes and cut spending, you can pay off $200 of your balance each month, or $250. Set realistic goals so you’re motivated to continue chipping away at your debt.

2. Look into debt consolidation

If you’re juggling multiple credit card balances, consolidating into a single loan or balance could help make your debt more manageable. Plus, you might also get a lower interest rate on your debt, resulting in some savings.

Now, there are different ways to consolidate debt, but a few popular ones are:

Each of these options has pros and cons to consider. A balance transfer might give you a 0% introductory interest rate on your debt — so that’s good. But that intro period might be limited to 18 months or less — so that’s not so good, because once that intro period runs out, you could face a really high interest rate on your debt.

Both a personal and home equity loan, meanwhile, will allow you to lock in a fixed interest rate on your debt. But you’ll need to make sure you can keep up with your monthly payments, since falling behind could have consequences. This especially applies to a home equity loan — fall too far behind, and you could risk losing your home.

It takes money to pay off debt — there’s no getting around that. So you’ll need to make some concessions if your goal is to be debt-free.

Look at your monthly spending and see if there are expenses you can reduce without causing your life too much upheaval. You don’t necessarily have to uproot yourself and downsize to a small home. But cutting back on leisure spending may be necessary and reasonable.

Another option is to take advantage of the gig economy. Working a second job could give you the cash you need to whittle down your debt without having to change your spending habits too drastically. Of course, this will mean making a different type of sacrifice — giving up free time. But it may be easier than cutting spending. That’s really up to you, though.

Just because you have a large credit card balance doesn’t mean you’re doomed to carry it forever. With these strategies, you may find that you’re able to eliminate your debt sooner than expected.

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