4 Steps to Living Frugally with Excessive Credit Card Debt

by Jason on October 6, 2010

Excessive credit card debt is the bane of credit card users in America.

Revolving credit is easy to get, and tough to get out of.   Unfortunately, our credit card debt was well in excess of the average, and we needed credit card help.

It came to the point where the minimum was all we could pay each month and something had to change.

There were not many options that we could see, as a family that would not kill our credit rating.

So, my wife and I decided to do something positive toward paying off that debt which would have taken us 12 years to pay off (if we were lucky) making minimum payments and keep our credit rating decent.

A second mortgage on the house was not acceptable or even possible then because the wife was pregnant and not working.

We decided to cut back our expenses instead and see how big a chunk this would take off our debt. I can tell you now it has not been easy but we do see the light at the end of the tunnel and honestly, we had a lot of money going out to what we realize now, were non-essentials.

So how did we do this?

Step One for Credit Card Help – Use Cash

This was the hardest part; we cut up the credit cards. We knew that we could save all the money in the world but if we continued to pile up debt on the credit cards, well it was not going to be a winning situation for us.

Instead, we used all cash.  We used and still use our bankcard but unlike the credit cards, you cannot spend what you do not have in the bank.

Step Two for Credit Card Help – Cut the Non-Essentials

This too was something that was difficult. It is strange how much we have labeled as “essentials” that are not essential at all.

Though my wife loves to have her nails done (I am not sure why) we decided that perhaps that was something she could fore-go for a while or at least have those fake nails put on less frequently.

Coffee on the way to work was $25.00 a week for me and now, I bring a mug from home for the drive to work.

Lunch out at the local restaurant was at least $10.00 to $15.00 a day and over the month, I would spend around $200.00 a month eating at work.  My wife packs a tasty lunch now and our family saves $200.00 a month.

We did not eat out every night but pizza once a week and a night out at a nice restaurant was running us well over $250.00 a month. We cut eating out down to once a month and it has made an incredible difference.

Groceries were another place we changed things around to cut savings.

Prepared foods were costing us an amazing amount, but now dinnertime at our house we prepare our own salads rather than having them come out of a bag.

The wife makes real mashed potatoes rather than boxed. With just a few changes we are eating just as well but a lot healthier and saving around $150.00 a month on groceries.

Step Three for Credit Card Help – Stop Big Ticket Purchases, For Now

As most people once the new line of cars come out each year, we always started thinking about replacing our older car that normally was only one to two years old.

We have cut this out, though the newest and best model is nice, it is not living frugally. Instead, we plan to replace our three-year-old car next year when our debt should be about paid off.

It is easy to get in the habit of living in a disposable world, at least for us it was. It is harder to break that habit.

We have not redecorated in three years though before our decision to cut expenses the wife would totally redo the house and furniture each year.

To tell you the truth I do not miss the redecorating or the expenses that go with it at all. Adding a new patio and that holiday abroad, all those can wait, they will still be there when we are debt free and we will be a lot more able to enjoy them.

Step Four for Credit Card Help – Consider Your Options and Choose a Plan

Although we had cut our budget a lot and had more free cash to use towards our credit card debt relief goal it wasn’t going as quickly as we hoped. So, my wife and I sat down and did some calculations as to whether we should try a balance transfer.

Here was the math for us, though it could be different for everyone.

Balance transfers were available to us because we had stepped in quickly before our credit rating sank too far.

However because our debt was such that we could not pay if off in the 6 to 9 months allotted for a no interest rate offer, and the transfer fee simply added to the amount borrowed we decided to stay where we were.

This could vary with everyone but we decided to keep paying on our moderate interest credit card and not incur any further fees.

What works for one family might not for another, but spending more on anything is never a good idea if you want to live frugally with excessive credit card debt.

Sometimes the best step in living with a high revolving credit debt is to stick it out if we could have seen a quick payoff from the transfer we might have taken that step but, it wasn’t for us.

I cannot say this will work for everyone but with modification, it can certainly help cut down the pile of credit card debt anyone has accumulated.

It is more a matter of deciding what is essential to your quality of life and what things are really luxuries you can do without to have a better life. Now, she and I see the end to our debt and plan never to get that deeply in debt again.

Mirsad writes for Think Credit Cards, a consumer oriented site where you will learn how to pick a credit card that suits your needs.

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