According to 2016 NerdWallet statistics, the average American household carries $16,061 in credit card debt.
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But what does that number mean exactly? And if your household debt is near — or even above — the average credit card debt, what steps can you take to start paying it down?
What Counts as Credit Card Debt?
Americans have several different types of debt. Besides credit card debt, this includes mortgages, auto loans and student loans, all totaling up to an average debt per household of $132,529.
Beyond standard credit card debt, such as an everyday credit card account, consumer finance accounts also fall into this umbrella of “credit card debt.” Consumer finance accounts can be thought of as loans extended to consumers on behalf of a company. For example, furniture stores and payday loans fall within this category.
Make a Plan for Paying Down Credit Card Debt
The good news about credit card debt is that it is possible to manage, and there are countless examples of people who have successfully paid off their debts. Here are some tips for managing your own credit card debt.
Set a goal. Is your goal to pay off one or more credit cards, or to get out of debt completely? Figure out what that goal is, and write it down, along with an achievable timeline for being successful.
Stick to a budget. A budget is critical to helping you get out of debt. Make sure that your budget is realistic and takes into account your needs, as well as those of your partner or family. You’ll need their help and buy-in if you are going to make this work.
Create a payment plan. To help you create a realistic plan for paying off your card or cards, utilize an online payoff calculator to help you visualize how much of a monthly payment you can afford, and when your payoff date will be if you chip away at your balance consistently. If you have multiple debts to repay — that carry different interest rates — focus on repaying the higher interest rate debt first, to reduce the total interest you’ll pay.
Designate someone to hold you accountable. “It’s important that you tell someone you’re working to pay off your debt,” says Michael Foguth, founder of Foguth Financial Group. “This person will not only encourage you, but will hold you accountable if your goal is not accomplished.”
Don’t be ashamed. Like you, the average American struggles with debt. Sometimes individuals who are struggling with very serious debt cannot make their minimum required payments. In that case, consider contacting a reputable debt relief firm, says Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix operations for Freedom Financial Network. “They can help determine if options such as debt consolidation, debt settlement or credit counseling could help.” You can get started by checking the American Fair Credit Council for resources.
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