I find that people with significant credit card debt generally don’t like budgeting. Most I meet as a financial adviser tell me that they are hopeless budgeters. What they really mean is – it wouldn’t tell them anything they didn’t already know deep down, and because they don’t know how to change, there seems no point as they would not be able to live within its means anyway.
Regardless, I still insist on a budget because it shows the depth of the problem and it helps prioritise spending. After all, my job is to help, not judge!
The reality is people get into trouble with credit cards because they spend more than they earn and the credit card is being used to bridge the gap. It occurs a lot with lower income earners but I have seen many couples on a combined gross income of $200,000 – 300,000 a year complain to me that they can’t make ends meet. It is all relative!
When families can’t make ends meet, credit card debt increases and as each month passes, it becomes rising core debt. Core debt means that the debt is not paid down to zero each month. It therefore carries over to the next month where it is increased by new debt associated with current purchases.
Typically, this bad habit will continue for a couple of years until finally, at a crippling interest rate of between 15%-20% per annum, the debt eventually grows beyond the capability of the cardholder to manage it.
Growing credit card debt means only one thing – you are spending more than you earn. Your two choices are simple – either to earn more or spend less (or both).
To reduce existing credit card debt:
- Obviously, stop adding more debt to your credit card
- Pay as much as you can afford each month as an extra payment in addition to the required minimum repayment, otherwise the number of years required to repay your debt, plus the total amount you will ultimately repay, will quickly blow out beyond your control
- To get some breathing space, renegotiate the interest rate on your existing debt either with your own bank, or take advantage of a better offer to transfer the balance to a new bank
- If you are a homeowner, consider consolidating your personal debts into your home loan and then increase your home loan repayments. This would usually lower your total monthly repayments for all debt. This may or may not be feasible depending on your circumstances, so it is important that you seek professional advice before you take action!
- If you are not a home owner, consider approaching your bank and ask them to convert your credit card debt to a personal loan. Then work hard at paying off the personal loan. Personal loan interest rates are generally lower than credit card rates. This will generally lower the interest rate and therefore your decrease your monthly repayments. This may or may not be feasible depending on your circumstances, so it is important that you seek professional advice before you take action!
Let me be clear:
“Using a credit card is the worst personal finance strategy you can think of!”
If you have a credit card that is maxed out, or you have more than one credit card, you are either in financial trouble or trouble is looming and you should seek professional advice immediately.
Nobody needs a credit card. For payment convenience in this cashless society, switch to a debit card where you are spending your own money, and not borrowing and increasing your debt every time you make a purchase. At least then, when the account linked to your debit card runs out, it is an unmistakeable signal to stop spending.