consumer-debt-trap

Crawling Out of the Consumer Debt Trap

The average American currently carries between $10,000 and $15,000 in consumer debt, and this includes credit cards, store cards, auto loans, personal loans and any other amounts owing that don’t include mortgage payments. If only the minimum required payment is made on debt of this amount, it would take a whopping 13.5 years to repay it in full – and this is if no additional debt is accrued during this time.

Regardless of the type of debt you’re carrying, there are steps you can take that will help you get out of the consumer debt trap once and for all.

Pay More than Minimum Required Installments

One of the best ways to eliminate consumer debt as quickly as possible is to pay more than the required minimum balances on any outstanding amounts. This will not only reduce the amount of time you’ll need to pay a bill in full; you will also save a significant amount of interest while repaying your debt.

Consider Using the Debt Snowball Method

This process involves paying as much as you can on your smallest consumer debt, while ensuring that minimum repayments are still being met on the others that still need to be repaid. 

Start by listing all of the consumer debts you’re currently carrying, from the smallest amount owing up to the largest. Do everything you can to pay as much as possible off on your smallest debt each month. Once the smallest debt has been fully repaid, take the amount you were paying towards it and include it on the minimum amount you were paying on the next smallest outstanding debt. 

An alternative approach here can be to get the debts with the highest interest rates paid first – this will help save a lot of money over the long term.

Stick to a Tight Budget

After deciding that you want to eliminate your consumer debt, you’ll need to examine your budget carefully – if you don’t have a budget outlined, now is the time to address this issue. 

Start by collecting bank account statements and carefully check each line item – this will allow you to see how your hard-earned cash is being spent each month. While those drive-through coffees and $10 lunches may not seem like a lot of money, they quickly add up, especially if it becomes a regular habit to indulge in them. 

Subscriptions to the fastest internet packages (slower options usually get the job done just as effectively but for a fraction of the price), online streaming, club memberships, monthly box deliveries and any other recurring expenses that aren’t genuine essentials should be eliminated from your budget until your debt is fully repaid. 

Once your debts have been paid in full, you’ll be able to re-examine your budget to determine how much money can be set aside for discretionary expenses. 

Although you may think that you’ll be depriving your family of the ‘nice to haves’ while you’re dealing with your outstanding consumer debt, the truth is that your whole family will enjoy far greater peace of mind in knowing that you’ll now be able to start saving for a rainy day instead of stressing about trying to make ends meet each month. 

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credit-cards-retirement

Are you Really Benefiting from those Credit Cards?

These days, a number of rewards-based credit cards are available to consumers and incentives such as air miles, discounts on store-specific purchases have never been easier to obtain – or so it seems. While many of these cards may seem to provide extremely attractive incentive options, it’s crucial to read the fine print associated with each of them before signing up.

Those Rewards Likely come with High Fees and Interest Rates

Accumulating rewards may seem awesome initially, but you’re totally defeating the object if your card comes with fees that actually outweigh the benefits you think you’re getting. 

In most cases, the average reward redemption value on these credit cards is around 1% of what you’ve paid to earn it. This means that if your interest rate is higher than 1% on the card, then the credit card company is the one who is really benefiting from this arrangement – and not the cardholder. 

Another thing to keep a close watch on is any annual fee that may be charged – these can often be quite exorbitant on rewards credit cards.

You’ll be Encouraged to Spend More

Basic human psychology suggests that when someone is offered anything that seems like a good deal, most people will be tempted to purchase it – even if they don’t need it. As such, companies that offer reward credit cards take full advantage of this type of thinking.

Before putting any purchase on your reward credit card, do the math to see how much you’ll really need to spend before you’ll qualify for any decent type of incentive. For example, it’s not worth spending an extra $1,000 on credit just to get a reward of $10.

Rewards may come with Limitations

That long list of potential rewards that can be earned with your credit card may seem tempting, but it’s crucial to read and understand all of the terms and conditions associated with using these cards. For example:

  • Rewards may expire – some credit cards rewards may expire after a predetermined period of time, so ensure that you’ll be able to redeem them before this happens
  • Rewards may be limited – some credit cards reward programs limit the amount of incentives that can be earned in a quarter or during a year, so you may not end up getting as much of an incentive as you’d initially thought
  • Beware of redemption thresholds – Unless your credit card offers cash-back rewards, you’ll have to convert accumulated reward points into something useful such as a gift card or even airline ticket. However, keep in mind that many reward programs require a minimum number of points to be accumulated before you’ll be allowed to redeem them for a reward – and this could mean that you’ll have to spend thousands of dollars before being able to take advantage of rewards you’ve earned

In most cases, consumers will benefit from using standard credit cards that charge lower interest rates and don’t charge annual fees of any sort instead of signing up for rewards-based options. Always ensure that all fine print is fully understood before signing up for any type of credit card – whether it’s reward-based or not. 

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