Paying off credit card debt might be one of the best moves for your personal finances. It can improve your cash flow, giving you an opportunity to build an emergency fund or save for retirement. In addition, paying off credit cards helps increase your credit score.
But if you have huge credit card balances and live paycheck to paycheck, it can feel as if you'll never make headway.
American households carrying credit card debt have an average balance of $15,609, according to personal finance website the Simple Dollar. Paying off large debt is by no means easy, but if you change your mind-set and adjust your approach, you can trick yourself into getting out of debt.
Minimum payments are a trap to keep people indebted for as long as possible. Interest accrues every month you carry a balance on your credit cards.
To pay down large balances faster, you should pay more than the minimum, so set a goal to double your minimum payments every month. This is a simple concept, yet it can be hard to drum up the extra cash. This is where a little trickery comes in handy.
You might say you don't have enough cash to make higher credit card payments, but I'm willing to bet you spend money impulsively on at least a few items every month. So the next time you're about to spend impulsively, have a heart-to-heart with yourself. Think about your debt goals and ask yourself: Do I really need this item?
This approach works because you're able to take a step back and think about what you're buying and perhaps realize the purchase is pointless. But don't just put the item back on the shelf and move on. Take the money you would have spent on this "almost" impulse buy and use it to pay down your credit card debt.
Money-saving expert Andrea Woroch offered a practical suggestion for making this approach a part of your daily routine.
"If you feel the urge to buy a new pair of shoes or sunglasses, take a quick peek at your credit card debt by viewing your mobile app," she said. "This will remind you of your debt-free goals, and every time you seriously avoid an impulse purchase, make a payment in the amount that you would've spent on that item."
Payoff milestone rewards
Getting out of credit card debt takes willpower, which some of us lack. If you haven't been successful with meeting your debt payoff goals in the past, there's a simple way to boost your willpower. According to the American Psychological Association, you can build up self-control and reach goals by rewarding yourself for reaching milestones.
Obviously, you'll need to make sacrifices and cut some spending to get rid of credit card debt, but this doesn't imply never having fun or treating yourself. You might find it's easier to stay on course if you reward yourself with a free or low-cost activity or splurge for every $1,000, $500 or $250 of debt you pay off.
This approach is different because it strikes a healthy balance between saving and splurging, plus it reduces the risk of frugal fatigue, which can trigger overspending later. It's also effective because you're giving yourself an incentive to stick with a plan.
Valencia Higuera writes for GOBankingRates.com