You’re not sure how it happened, but it happened. One moment you were admiring a new pair of ankle boots and a couple of hours later, you were waltzing out of the mall with armfuls of shopping bags. There’s a reason this type of shopping excursion is referred to as a “spree”, which is defined as “a spell or sustained period of unrestrained activity”.
You temporarily confuse your needs with your wants, and, typically, your credit card spending limits with what you can actually afford. As with many bad behaviors in life, the best way to pay off credit cards is to nip the problem in the bud. Here are our best suggestions for doing so.
Undo the damage
This of course is not what you want to hear, but sometimes we can hit the “undo” button on our financial mistakes. If tags have not been removed and returning is an option, consider bringing the merchandise back to get the purchase price credited back to your card. While it’s hard to return things that you love, this simple approach may just be the best way to pay off credit cards, when it’s a possibility.
Make a plan
While the credit card purchases may have been made without much of a thought, paying off the bills will require thoughtful and careful planning. Simply put, unless you consciously set money aside to direct towards credit card debt, it won’t get paid. So take a good, hard look at your budget and figure out where you can cut costs to make up for that shopping spree. Maybe you’ll have to skip drinks with friends for the month, maybe you’ll have to cancel that spa day you had planned, maybe you’ll need to take some money out of your vacation fund. The point is, sacrifices will need to be made for you to take care of that credit card debt.
Credit card finance charges are no joke and they are one of the big reasons that banks make the kind of money that they do. These interest charges are also going to make it way more difficult to pay off your purchases than if you’d just paid with cash you already had. If paying off the balance in the next month or two isn’t feasible, you may want to consider finding and opening a card with a balance transfer promotion.
Typically, these credit cards will offer 12 months or so of 0% interest on balances transferred over from other accounts. User beware, by no means should you use this as a strategy to defer your debts or, worse, to charge even more to your cards. However, it should make your credit card payments go further since you won’t be paying the finance charge portion of the bill. Note also that there is typically a relatively small balance transfer fee you’ll need to pay.
Next time, do better
Perhaps most importantly, learn from your overspending! Identify what your trigger points are that make you want to spend more than you should. Come up with strategies to stop yourself in your tracks when you start to head down the path of overspending. The next time the urge to overspend hits, you’ll be better positioned to withstand it or at least minimize the impact. That way you won’t have to spend your time reading about the best way to pay off credit cards!