Paying off debt can be hard. It takes time and effort. And even then, new challenges can get in the way of becoming debt-free.
It’s so difficult that many people are unsure when they will pay off their debt — if at all.
This problem is especially widespread in the United States. More than 65% of Americans said they don’t know if or when they will be debt-free, according to a recent poll by CreditCards.com, while 25% believe they won’t be able to pay off their debt in their lifetime.
These numbers seem alarming. But keep in mind they’re based on what people believe. The real question is why so many believe there’s no solution for their debt.
Credit card debt is the second-most common type of debt (53%) among Americans, according to the poll, and 20% of the people polled said they have no plan to tackle their debt.
With national credit card debt at a record-high $1 trillion and an average American household credit card debt of $5,700, it’s no wonder people believe there’s no end in sight!
But here’s the good news: There are two simple strategies that can put your mind at ease and help put you on the path to debt-free.
Pay more than the minimum
This strategy is no secret. A whopping 95% of people who have a debt plan said they pay more than the minimum amount owed, according to CreditCards.com.
So, how effective is it? Look no further than Tally.
Tally members who successfully reduced their debt by 20% within the first 3 months of using the app paid an average of 5 times more than the minimum amount owed.
That means those who owed $88 one month went above and beyond and paid $454!
Of course, this won’t work for everyone. Sometimes, paying 5 times the minimum just isn’t possible. And doing it every month is even harder.
But the strategy is clear: Paying more than the minimum now saves you money in the long run. It minimizes your interest charges and usually gets you out of debt faster.
Leverage balance transfer cards
This strategy isn’t as well-known. Only 15% of those polled by CompareCards.com said they transferred a balance to pay down their debt.
A balance transfer card can give you the benefit of promotional 0% interest rate for a set amount of time, usually between 12 and 18 months. When you transfer an existing credit card balance to a balance transfer card, you’re basically buying yourself time to chip away at your debt, without paying interest.
So, what’s the catch?
If you don’t pay off your balance before the promotional interest rate expires, a new (usually much higher) interest rate is applied to your remaining balance. This is why balance transfer cards require discipline.
In fact, a study conducted by Tally — “The Transfer Trap: Why Debt Transfers and Consolidation Increase Indebtedness and Stress” — found that a majority of people who used balance transfer cards found themselves financially and emotionally in a similar or worse-off position than they were three years prior.
Put simply, balance transfer cards aren’t for the faint of heart.
If you think there’s a chance you won’t pay off you balance in time, it’s best to avoid them. But if you’re committed to paying off your debt quickly and efficiently, balance transfer cards offer tremendous upside.
Yes, you can be debt-free
Credit card debt doesn’t have to be forever. Getting out of debt starts with a strategy, but it’s up to you to find out what works and follow through.
You can start by paying more than the minimum one month. See how it feels and how much of an impact it makes on your balance. Then, take it one step further and try to pay more than the minimum two months in a row. Over time, you should see what a difference it makes when you pay more than the minimum.
If that works for you, keep it up and make it a regular habit. If you want to push it even more, apply for a balance transfer card. Create a realistic plan — one that accounts for possible financial bumps in the road — and execute on it.
Remember: Finding financial peace of mind is easier than you think.