Opening the Doors to Healthier and Stress-Free Living
A Column by Alice Abbott-Moore,
Technical Services, Ekstrom Library

These Days There's a lot of Interest in Credit Card Debt

The holidays are over. Are you still reminiscing about them as you pay your credit card bills? I recently read that the average American has five to six credit cards and that each card is over its "limit." I don't know what that means to you, but I perceive it to mean that we really are a spending society. Unfortunately, some folks do not choose to "live within their means." While I was growing up, I used to hear the older folks in my life talk of living within one's means. I didn't understand that phrase fully until I moved out on my own. As a young person who had just finished an undergraduate degree and who was establishing a home for herself, many credit card companies offered me a line of credit. I learned fairly early and quickly about the pros and cons of credit cards. I hear and read a lot about consumers who fall into debt due to huge credit card bills. The luring techniques of some of the companies are incredible. One cannot go to the store without having store credit cards hawked at them. One cannot receive mail without promotions by credit card companies. Also, one cannot even go to the University Bookstore without ads for credit card applications being placed in bags of purchases.

I was offered one "deal" recently. The promotional letter boasting a certain credit card began: "You have been chosen ... " Yes, I have been chosen to begin a life of financial ruin, thank you. I feel strongly about this subject if you haven't been able to tell. I am a firm believer in spending only the money that I already have, and not money that I may have someday. I have to ask, "Who needs a credit card with a limit of $25,000.00??"

Getting out of credit card debt is possible. This difficult task requires discipline, organization, patience, and, most of all, commitment. It is hard to break old habits and too easy to fall back into old habits at a second's notice.

The first step is organization: see how much you owe. See if you can consolidate the credit card debt to a lower-interest bearing card.

The second step is to reduce the number of cards being used and carried. Cutting up their credit cards works for some people. This may sound extreme, but it works! Before cutting up any credit cards, choose one card that may be used for all projected purposes in the event of an emergency.

The next step is to start paying on the debt. There are two schools of thought on how to do this. The first school of thought directs consumers to pay the minimum balance owed on the other credit cards while also paying off the credit card that has the least amount of debt. The second school of thought directs consumers to pay the minimum balance on the other credit cards and also to pay off the credit card with the most debt and which charges the most interest. Either way you should keep contact with the credit card company. In other words, do not avoid bills and calls from the credit card companies, but, communicate with them to ensure that your credit rating is not tarnished.

Once you have paid off your bills , you will find that you will have extra money. Just remember where you came from: stay away from credit cards that require you to pay high interest. Start saving money. You need to have money to make money. You will never make money if you have to pay huge amounts of interest on balances owed.

Remember that getting and staying out of credit card debt is not only possible, but it is a way of life. In addition to saving money, it allows you to enjoy peace of mind and freedom from creditors.