Over the last fifteen months, many have suffered from loss of income, an uncertain future, or mounting debts. However, it is also true that consumer debt has shrunk since March 2020. Credit reference agency Experian saw a 9% decrease in credit card debts in the third quarter of 2020.
Clearly, some have benefited from a year without many financial temptations, including shopping trips, holidays, and restaurant visits. Those fortunate few have managed to make in-roads into their debts. Perhaps we can all learn lessons from enforced thrift and use what we’ve learned to improve over the years to come.
Below we’ve provided 12 simple tips to help you pay off your debts, budget more effectively, and help reduce the stress that indebtedness can produce.
1: Get serious about budgeting.
Whether you use a spreadsheet or a budgeting app (like Mint), having a handy calculator that tots up all your income sources and expenditure each month, and tracks this across time, can be a great way to spot a range of issues that contribute to debt:
- You’ll see expenditures you can cut altogether.
- You’ll also notice regular outgoings you might reduce – i.e., subscription charges.
- You will see this free up additional resources to put towards debt repayment.
2: Only use the lowest interest credit card.
When you have several cards, you may be able to pay off those with the highest interest and only use the one that offers the lowest rate. This will reduce your overall expenditure and accrue lower interest on future purchases.
If this is not possible, the next option may be.
3: Consolidate your cards
If you have a reasonably good credit rating, you may be able to arrange a balance transfer onto the card with the lowest rate of interest (or onto a new card entirely). This will reduce the overall total sum of your repayment while also cutting out several of those little rectangular squares of temptation.
Make sure you cut up the old cards after the transfer, then close the accounts.
4: Exceed minimum balance repayments
If you only ever pay off the minimum balance payments, your debt will never go down. In fact, due to compounding interest, it will gradually increase. If you can’t pay off your whole balance each month, consider making a payment equal to your current balance, the interest that will accrue for the following month, plus an additional fee.
That way, you will see a gradual reduction in your debts.
5: Sell big-ticket items
Sites and apps like eBay, Craigslist, Freecycle, and others are great places to offload gadgets and other items that carry value but do not need (or obtain free items, saving you cash). You can also sell gold and jewelry on various sites, but do be cautious about cashback sites, as most do not usually offer premium rates.
Smartphones can be a good source of ready cash. You should put any money you earn from such sales towards repaying a chunk of debt, starting with the most overdue or highest interest debt.
6: Don’t use credit for online shopping
It’s too tempting to just “throw it on the card” if you can’t afford something here and now. Get used to using a debit card instead, so the cash directly leaves your account. Then remove your credit card details from eCommerce sites.
7: Increase your income
There may be a small money-spinning side hustle you’ve been considering but have never had time to develop. It may be worth exploring this option now. Make sure it’s not something too novel or experimental since such ideas carry too much risk. It need not be a full second job either – you don’t want to exhaust yourself with overwork.
Ideally, you are looking for something that leverages the skills and connections you already possess.
8: Develop a money-saving mindset
Changing your social and spending habits can have a big impact on expenditure. Picnics can be cheaper than meals out when the weather’s good (plus more enjoyable). A domestic trip will almost always cost less than an overseas holiday. Can upcycling furniture prevent you from needing to replace an expensive item?
We’ve all made these sacrifices when necessity required us to, and often it can result in enjoyable new experiences and skillsets.
9: Consider an investment app
This one may not be for the risk-averse. There is a growing legion of investment and pension pot creating apps that you authorize to take small sums from your income and invest them in cross-collateralized funds. Here are some of the most popular:
How can these reduce your debt? Firstly, by offering a much better ROI than bank interest (at time of writing, that is 0.25% or less), which means your saving pot increases month-on-month! Secondly, many of these apps allow you to create “rainy day” pots, from which you can readily draw to fund urgent debt repayments.
As with all speculations, your rate of return can fluctuate, and you may not get back what you initially paid in, so do look carefully at historic ROIs for the funds you select.
10: Consolidate your debts
Non-profits and private loan providers may consider repaying your credit card debts and folding all your outgoing debt payments into one affordable monthly sum. Note that you will end up paying more money in total this way (the loan provider needs to make money, after all), but your monthly outgoings will be reduced.
11: Follow money-saving websites and advice columns.
There are some great online sources of tips for reducing debt, earning extra income, and balancing your budget. Bookmark them and regularly check for ideas you may benefit from.
Here is our brief pick:
Download money-saving apps.
There are many apps that save you money on utilities, compare products to find the right price, source discount coupon codes, and more. All of these can free up cash you can then put towards debt repayment.
Here are some of our favorites:
We hope this quick rundown has shown you that there are many ways you can cut your costs, put money aside, and pay those credit card debts down.
The key takeaway is that debt hygiene is that it requires a commitment to a new kind of mindset, one that values an improved credit rating and money in the bank. But we promise – once you’re there, you won’t look back.