Basic Financial Planning for Newlyweds




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Keeping Your Credit Cards Under Control


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How's this for irony?  Even though too much credit card debt is a leading source of stress in the United States these days, many people find shopping and spending money to be therapeutic.  To keep your credit card debts under control, developing good habits is a must.

Fewer is Better

First, cut up all but one or two of your credit cards.  This will help you keep a closer eye on what you owe, since you'll only get a couple of billing statements each month.  Plus, having only a few active credit cards should help you pay off your balances sooner.  By making payments on only one or two credit cards, you can easily calculate the most that you can afford to pay towards your outstanding balances each month.

The Minimum Isn't Enough

Next, get in the habit of paying more than the minimum each month.  While making the minimum payment is sufficient to keep your credit report clean, it won't make much of a dent in what you owe.  If you owe $1,000 on a credit card that charges 18% interest, it would take you 2 years to pay off this balance if you made payments of only $50 per month.  By increasing your payment to $100 per month, you would pay off what you owe in less than a year. Plus, you would save more than $100 in interest. 

Getting Into Credit Card Debt is Easy, Digging Out is a Chore

Even if you have only one or two credit cards, you probably still have more than enough credit to get yourself deep in debt.  For that reason, use your credit cards responsibly.  Get in the habit of delaying any purchases that you won't be able to pay off within a reasonable amount of time. 

What should you do if you're in a jam and need to make a large purchase on your credit card?  Maybe your car needs repairs or you need to come up with some money to move into a new apartment.  If that's the case, go ahead and use your credit cards to bail yourself out.  But then, don't charge anything else until you have successfully paid off that purchase. 

Take Advantage of Those Low Interest Rate Offers

If you're carrying significant credit card debt, don't overlook those low interest rate offers that seem to be everywhere.  By reducing the interest rate on your credit cards, a higher percentage of your payments will go towards your outstanding balance.  If you take advantage of these offers, don't forget to close the existing account once the balance is transferred to the new card.  Otherwise, this strategy could backfire and you could end up even deeper in debt. 

Start on the Road Towards Debt Reduction

Good habits are not developed overnight.  By reducing the number of credit cards you use, paying more than the minimum each month, and using some willpower, you'll start developing the habits necessary to better manage your credit card debts.

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