By Kaleb Strawn, Brighton Jones, and Obioha Okereke, College Money Habits
To maintain good credit standing, it’s important to pay your credit card bills on time. Try to pay them in full or at least the minimum amount due. Late or missing payments can lower your credit score.
If you find yourself unable to pay off your full credit card balance each month and begin to accumulate credit card debt, there are a number of strategies to help get your balances to zero. The most important thing is to find a solution that works best for you and that will keep you motivated to reduce your debt.
Below are two popular strategies to help you pay off your debt:
1. Snowball Method
The snowball method to paying off debt consists of identifying your lowest outstanding balance and focusing on that repayment first, regardless of the applicable interest rate. The idea behind this method is to build momentum, like a snowball, and generate motivation as you begin to see account balances fall to zero.
For example, if you have two loans:
Loan 1: $25,000 in student loans
Loan 2: $3,000 in outstanding credit card debt
Then you would focus on paying off loan 2 toward your credit card debt first, since it is the lower of two balances.
2. Avalanche Method
This method consists of targeting your debt that has the highest applicable interest rate and paying down this balance first.
Financially, the avalanche method can make the most sense over the long term since you will pay less in interest. Emotionally, however, this method may prove dubious as the account that is contributing the highest interest typically also has the highest balance. Because of this, it may take some time before you feel real progress.
Now using the same example from above, let’s say that your student loan has an interest rate of 5% and your credit card has an interest rate of 3%.
Loan 1: $25,000 in student loans, 5% interest rate
Loan 2: $3,000 in outstanding credit card debt, 3% interest rate
Using the avalanche method, you would focus on paying off your student loan debt first because it has a higher interest rate.
Investopedia notes, “The debt avalanche method is the best strategy to save money and time, but it does have its downsides. Mainly, it requires discipline — to put all your extra allocated money into paying off a particular debt, and not just the minimum. The debt avalanche will not work as effectively if you lose motivation and skip a month or two of strategic repayments.”
While credit cards can sometimes be intimidating, confusing and lead you to accumulate debt, they can provide enormous benefits, when used appropriately, setting you up for financial success.
If you have any questions regarding these personal finance resources and/or general questions about managing your personal finances, contact Obioha Okereke from College Money Habits at firstname.lastname@example.org
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