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It’s easy to rack up debt-especially credit card debt-and even harder to pay it down. But the weight of tremendous debt on your shoulders is not the end of the world. Tackling your debt load is like any other project. If you are ready and committed, you will meet your goals. It’s a long road to travel, particularly if you have several credit cards and owe large balances. But following a few sensible steps will lower your credit card debt as well as improve your credit score.

Step 1: Add up the Numbers

Your first priority is being honest with yourself and calculating the total amount you owe. Sometimes, debt spread out on several credit cards doesn’t seem like a lot. Adding up everything will help you, albeit painstakingly, realize that your spending was way out of control. Many times, people are shocked when they realize how much money was spent on frivolous items.

Step 2: Lock up Your Credit Cards

Once you’re sufficiently determined the total amounts owed for each card, remove the cards from your purse or wallet, put them away or cut them up. If you can’t quite relinquish all ties to your credit cards, you can tie a rubber band around the cards and put them in a box out of sight. If you feel you might be too tempted to reuse them, simply cut up the cards and dispose of them appropriately making sure to safeguard all private account information. The only way to begin to clear your debt is to stop using your cards.

Step 3: Determine Your Expendable Income

It’s important to determine (generally) how much expendable income is left at the end of every month that can go towards paying off your credit cards. Expendable income varies from person to person due to income levels and priorities. It’s important to really figure out what is essential in your life and what can truly be eliminated or cut back.

Step 4: Make Monthly Payments Based on Interest Rates

Now that the cards are out of sight and you’ve determined the amount of money to distribute to your credit card debt, start making payments. Not just payments but “smart” payments. This may seem like a no-brainer, but people make mistakes when they are allocating money towards credit card bills. Before you determine how much you plan to apportion to each credit card balance, first determine the interest rate for each card. The card with the highest interest rate takes priority. Allocate just the minimum monthly payments towards the other cards and the rest towards the card balance with the high-interest rate.

Once that card is paid off don’t cancel the account. While having that card active could prove dangerous, actually having open credit cards helps your credit score. Continue following the same formula attacking the cards with the highest rates until they are all paid off.

Drowning in Debt

In some cases, individuals are having trouble making even just the minimum monthly payments to their credit cards. After necessities like groceries and utility bills are paid, you may not have the expendable income needed to pay down your debt. In the current state of the economy, you are not alone. If you feel overwhelmed with debt, filing for bankruptcy can help you get a fresh start.

Millions of individuals and businesses have benefited from the protection of bankruptcy. Contact an experienced bankruptcy attorney to discuss your situation and find out if bankruptcy is a viable option for you.

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