It’s easy to get into debt and it’s much more difficult to pull yourself out of it.
In fact, in the majority of U.S. states — a whopping 35 of them — debt is the No. 1 cause of financial stress, according to a recent survey by GOBankingRates of more than 7,000 adults in across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
That stress is for good reason: Americans hold a collective $1.021 trillion in credit card debt, and it’s growing. “America’s credit card balances have never been higher, but there’s no reason to think they won’t just keep climbing,” says Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com’s senior industry analyst. “Combine that with steadily rising interest rates and you have a potentially volatile mix.”
But kicking debt to the curb is easier said than done. If you’re struggling to jump start your payments, learn from those who have been there and done that. Below are five proven strategies for eliminating debt, gleaned from real people who have paid off thousands.
Curb frivolous spending by setting up clear, firm boundaries for yourself. An easy place to start: Saying adios to your credit cards. If you withdraw and commit to using only the exact amount of cash you need each month, it becomes impossible to overspend.
Lauren Greutman, a former over-spender who dug herself out of more than $40,000 in credit card debt, was only able to kick her spending habits when she ditched the plastic. “I absolutely had to stop carrying my cards with me, because I was just too swipe happy,” she writes in her book “The Recovering Spender.” “I had zero self-control.”
Even though going cash-only caused Greutman a few embarrassing moments, including the time she forgot her bills at home and couldn’t afford to buy groceries, in the long run it held her accountable for her spending and forced her to stick to her budget. “Those boundaries are there to keep you safe,” she writes.