Chipping away at credit card debt can sometimes feel like you’re Sisyphus, condemned to an eternity of rolling a boulder up hill, only to watch it tumble down again. You make the minimum monthly credit card payment, only to watch the number stay the same month after month due to high interest rates.
Living paycheck to paycheck means that you don’t have the extra money to put towards debt. It might also be the reason you have the credit card debt to begin with. Your child gets sick, and you have to pay the doctor. Tree roots invade your plumbing, and you are left facing $3,000 on your credit card for tree removal service. Life happens and you have no savings to lean on. Now you are left pushing against the boulder of credit card debt and watching the interest rates roll you right back to where you started.
In order to pay down debt, you have to do one of two things: increase your income or decrease your spending. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that you can’t increase your income at this time. You’re already working two jobs, and every last penny you earn pays the bills and puts food on the table. Don’t despair! Just get creative with cutting your expenses. Practice these four spending cuts, and you will be able to put upwards of $100 towards your credit card debt every month.
Stop Buying Paper Towels
Paper towels are expensive, stop buying them! Even if you already buy the cheapest ones, you can still save your family $25 a month by not using them. I made the switch to actual cloth towels and will never look back. Cloth works better than paper. One 4×4” washcloth does the work of half a roll of paper towels. Walmart carries packs of 18 cloths for under $5. I bought three packs and never run out. Just throw them in with your regular laundry. Even paying per load at a laundromat, paying $2.50 twice a month to wash your cloths, you will still save your family $20 a month to put towards your credit card debt. As an extra bonus, you will also be helping out the planet.
Stop Eating Away Your Income
Pack a (reusable) bagged lunch and make homemade dinners. It’s so tempting to buy lunch when you’re running late or to pick up drive through food on your way home from a long day at work. The hard truth is that those $3-$10 lunches and $20-$30 dinners add up quickly. Track your food spending for a month to see how much of your income is lost to frivolous food spending. My husband and I were shocked to realize that we had spent almost $200 on non-grocery store food items one month, $200 we should have put towards the credit card. Life gets busy. It’s ok to have the occasional take out meal. Just be careful that it doesn’t take its toll on your bank account. And try to always take steps to save on groceries when you do go to the store.
Drive Less and Walk or Bike When You Can
In this country especially, it can be difficult to get around without a vehicle. It’s expensive to fill up the gas tank. It costs money to drive to work, the super market, the library, or the park. Start a carpool, consolidate your driving, and don’t run to the store every time you forget something. Walk or bike if possible. By driving less, you’ll be saving money on gas, and you may have an extra $30-$40 per month to put towards debt.
Reduce Utility Costs by Increasing Home Efficiency
Utility bills account for a bulk of monthly spending. Replace your light bulbs with energy efficient CFL or LED ones. Replace your shower head with a low flow one instead. Caulk your windows to prevent air leaks, which waste the heating or cooling. Auto set the temperature in your home to be turned down while you’re away or sleeping. Simple changes like these will make your home more energy efficient and bring down utility costs. Look at your utility bills from the month before and after your implemented changes, and put the difference towards your credit card debt every month. An added bonus is that some changes qualify for tax deduction!
These four ways of lowering your monthly expenses are just the tip of the iceberg. There are millions of ways to eliminate or reduce spending. Ask yourself what is truly necessary to life and cut out what isn’t. Give these tips a try, and you may soon be on your way out of credit card debt.