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5 Tips for Getting Out of Debt (and Why)

5 Tips for Getting Out of Debt (and Why)

When young people are first starting out in life, either as college students or young workers, debt looks like an easy solution to the shortage of money that seems to go with this period of life. It’s only a temporary fix, however, and will set a person back in the long run. Suze Orman, in The Courage to Be Rich, points out the outrageous amount of money that is paid on interest over the years with credit cards and other debts. She and other financial experts offer some tips for getting out from under.


1. Know about your credit cards. When you get the bill, look it over until you find the APR (annual percentage rate), which is the interest rate. Credit cards sometimes list other percentages and fees, but the APR is what will get you in the end. List your cards from highest to lowest APR. For instance, put that 27% interest card first, and the 0% cards last.

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2. Work from the top down. Pay as much extra as possible on that top card each month. Make minimum payments on the others. When that highest card is paid off, start the process with the next card on the list. Carry out this procedure until all the cards are paid off.

3. Round up. For speeding up the time it takes to pay off your mortgage, simply add a few dollars each month. Those dollars are applying to the principal, and even a few dollars a month can trim years off your debt. One idea is to round the amount up to the nearest ten.

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4. Emergencies? Experts disagree about the wisdom of keeping one low interest card on hand for emergencies. Frankly I think it makes some sense, but Dave Ramsey, author of The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness, says No. He says you should perform “plastic surgery” on those cards and cut them up. The bottom line is how you define an “emergency.” If it’s seeing a great deal on something you’ve been wanting, like a new guitar, maybe, but you don’t have enough money to cover it right now . . . well, that’s not really an emergency!

5. Keep it empty. If you do keep one card on hand for convenience or whatever, the best policy is to always pay it completely every month. Otherwise you are actually living beyond your means. Orman describes that lifestyle as living a lie. It’s been said that many people “spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.” Think about that statement and see if it applies in your own situation.

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An old classic success book is Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude by Napoleon Hill and W. Clement Stone. These authors listed seventeen principles of success, of which one was what they called “O.P.M.” This acronym refers to “other people’s money.” They advised borrowing money to invest in one’s own business efforts, and then thinking positively so that money would grow. It’s an interesting idea. What do you think?

References:

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Ramsey, Dave. The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

Orman, Suze. The Courage to Be Rich: Creating a Life of Material and Spiritual Abundance.

Hill, Napoleon and Stone, W. Clement. Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude

Barbara Wood is a writer and educator living with her family in the Missouri Ozarks.

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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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