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Assessing Your Credit Card Debt

Mar 11, 2008
Are you deeper in debt than you realized?

Credit cards can undoubtedly be a useful and advantageous tool, provided they're used wisely, of course. Unfortunately, statistics indicate that a staggering number of people are deeply in credit card debt, many of them completely unaware of the financial peril they've placed themselves in.

Make an Honest Assessment

Too many people make the grave mistake of looking at their credit card's limit as the amount of their debt when making an overall assessment of their finances. For example, if a card's limit is $1,000 and the cardholder has charged $900, they are not actually $900 in debt, but more realistically, two or three times that amount, depending on the interest rates, and whether or not they'll be assessed any late or over-the-limit fees.

Make a list of every card, the limit, the balance due, the minimum payment amount, and also, how long you've had the card. Create a plan that you'll be able to follow that takes all of your financial obligations into account. Having a plan and sticking to it may seem simplistic, however, the fact remains that those who follow a budget are statistically far less likely to succumb to debt or ever have to file for bankruptcy.

Spend Responsibly

Needless to say, only you are in control of what happens to your finances, unless of course you do have to file for bankruptcy, and then you've got a host of legal issues to deal with. One good rule of thumb to follow is to never use your credit card for an item or service that you won't still be making of use of, or have, when the bill arrives.

Also, if you're going to have a credit card, you might as well make sure that it works to your benefit by taking advantage of the various reward programs available. When comparison shopping for the best type of card for you, take into account what you'll be using the card for before settling on one.

Easy Ways of Saving Money

Here are just a few easy ways you can save money each and every month, money that will be better spent paying off your debt, essentially freeing up more of your income for the future.

- Packing a lunch for one person for only five days out of the month can save at least $50. Imagine what you'd save if everyone in the family did that for at least two weeks each month.

- Likewise, eating in more often instead of ordering or dining out will also help to cut down on expenses, and it's never wise to use a credit card to pay for items such as food. Buy your food in bulk if possible, spend one day cooking and preparing meals, freezing them for use throughout the week, which is especially helpful if you have young children.

- Coupons do count, so use them whenever possible. This isn't to say you should purchase an item simply because you happen to have a coupon for it, but rather comparison shop, making use of savings and discounts whenever they'll benefit you the most.

- Find inexpensive ways of being entertained, such as free concerts or plays in the park or your local community center, and add the money you've saved on your next month's credit card bill.

- Instead of buying expensive gifts and cards for everyone you know, why not make handmade presents and cards instead? They're almost always treasured more than something store bought with little thought to the recipient.

Debt doesn't occur overnight, and neither does recovering from it, however, by honestly assessing your financial situation and following the above steps, you'll soon be on your way to changing it for the better.
About the Author
Shirley Bullington writes about debt issues. You will find articles as well as informative Reports and interviews with credit card debt specialists about credit card debt and unsecured debt and suggestions on resolutions at her site.
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