It’s been reported that the median amount of credit card debt owed by American households is around $1,900, which is not bad at all. But there are 11% of American households that carry at least $8,000 in debt, a pretty heavy load to bear. Check out these statistics on those who struggle with credit card debt:
- More than a third — 36% — of those who owe more than $10,000 on their cards have household incomes under $50,000.
- 13% who owe that much have household incomes under $30,000.
- The percentage of disposable income used to pay debts is still near record highs.
- The median value of total outstanding debt owed by households rose 9.6% between 1998 and 2001.
- Bankruptcies set another record in 2003, with 1.6 million personal filings, the American Bankruptcy Institute reports.
For many, it’s a big challenge to avoid accumulating debt. I had a friend who once confided that she had $20,000 in debt while she made $18,000 a year, but didn’t seem too fazed about it. Part of the problem here seems to be that some of us do live with limited income, and find it difficult to pay for day-to-day living expenses. But we can also attribute our personal debt problems to not taking the debt issue that seriously, or to simply spending more than necessary.
Putting the cap on a spiraling debt problem does take some amount of discipline, self-control, patience and work, and by doing so, such problems can be reversed. In my mind, the best way out of trouble is to take the bull by the horns and tackle the problem head on. So why not try to oust your debt as aggressively as possible?
Here are a few tips on how to fight off debt aggressively (and perhaps quickly as well)!
#1 Cut your interest rate: talk to your credit card company.
How about giving your credit card company a call and seeing if you can be granted a lower rate on your card? It may be worth a shot. The credit card companies I’ve had have always been very cooperative, waiving fees and penalties I’ve incurred on occasion. This is how being a loyal customer can be a plus.
#2 Cut your interest rate: transfer your balance to a low-rate card.
Take advantage of special offers by credit cards that give you low to 0% rates. However, read the fine print and check on the transfer fees to make sure that doing a transfer makes sense. Avoid predatory offers that can get you into unexpected trouble. And most importantly, make sure you keep track of when the teaser rate offer expires as rates may jack up once the intro period is over. You’re in great shape if you can manage to pay down your debt before the low rate period expires. [Editor's Note: Applying for a debt consolidation loan from Prosper may also reduce your interest rate.]
#3 Apply more of your money against your debt.
Before you make any more purchases or think about building an emergency fund or investing in the stock market, pay down your debt first. Pay more than the minimum to chip at the principal. When you send off your payment, make sure to indicate that the extra payment should be applied to the principal, which will enable you to bring down your balance faster.
#4 Work on a debt repayment and consolidation plan.
If you can do this yourself, you can save yourself some money. All it takes is some determination and dedication to your goal of wiping away your debt. Start by paying down the smallest bills first in order to get the psychological boost of retiring your debts early. But for the most efficient way to challenge your debt, pay down the debt with the highest rates first, even if it may take longer.
#5 Hire a loan consolidator or debt negotiator.
When debt becomes overwhelming, it’s easy to feel paralyzed and unable to take action. In this case, hiring a debt counselor may help. There are financial professionals out there who have experience in consolidating loans, negotiating your debt for you or even helping you create a payment plan that will keep you on track with your bill payments. They may be able to negotiate better terms for your credit card debt, which can potentially reduce what you owe by a significant amount — a 60% to 80% cut in your debt is not entirely impossible to work out.
By applying these strategies, you may just be surprised by how quickly your debt diminishes; it may take a few years but by staying focused, making your financial goals a priority, and executing your anti-debt program, all the misery of debt can soon become a distant memory.
The Silicon Valley Blogger (SVB for short) is behind the The Digerati Life, a blog that covers personal finance, business, investment and real estate topics along with the occasional Silicon Valley tech story sprinkled in. SVB is a married mother of two young kids who juggles a nine to five job in the IT industry along with raising a family and various entrepreneurial pursuits.