Recently, I achieved a financial goal I had been working towards for quite a while: paying off my credit card debt. Although my mother warned me to be careful when I got my first credit card after college, I admit I let my spending get a tad out of hand in my 20s. When I entered my 30s, I was determined to become credit card debt-free, and after a few stalled attempts, I realized I needed to up my discipline and put together a solid plan. With the help of a financial advisor and a few changes to my spending habits, I was able to meet my goal.
STOP USING THE CARD(S): This sounds simple but it might be the hardest, yet most important step on this list. Depending on how much debt you have and how much you pay on the card each month, you might only be tackling the interest, not the actual balance. In order for your balance to drastically decrease, you may need to take drastic measures...like cutting up your card(s).
CREATE A PLAN: Everyone's financial situation is different; look at the income you have to work with, your monthly budget and potential strategies to attack the debt. Decide what strategy would correspond best to your financial responsibilities and create an aggressive but REALISTIC timeline in order to hold yourself accountable. If needed, work with a financial advisor to put together an effective plan that will work best for you (and also provide you with an accountability partner).
ATTACK A CHUNK: If you have access to a readily available chunk of cash such as a work bonus, tax refund, vested equity, etc. and you feel comfortable using some of that money to attack a chunk of your credit card debt, DO IT. The faster you can clear out at least a portion of the debt, the more manageable it will be to pay off the rest.
SLICE WHAT'S LEFTOVER: Whether or not you decide (or have the ability) to go the "attack a chunk" route, you will need to budget for an aggressive, but REALISTIC amount you plan to pay each month to clear your debt. Map this out and govern yourself accordingly.
BUDGET ACCORDING TO YOUR PLAN: Your life doesn't stop because you have set this financial goal so make sure to plan the rest of your budget accordingly. Specifically, if you use your credit card(s) for specific, regular purchases, build-in how you will cover or cut that spending in your overall plan.
STICK TO YOUR PLAN: I repeat, STICK TO YOUR PLAN! The more you get off course (and trust me it is easy to do so), the longer it will take to meet your goal.