Managing credit card debt in the New Year

Following the splurge of last month's spend on Christmas presents, many consumers feel overwhelmed with the prospect of managing the increased levels of credit card debt. Keeping the following points in mind will help avoid having the same experience next year. First of all, make the resolution to decrease your levels of debt. If you have more than one credit card, spend most of the available money on paying off the one with the highest interest rate, or, for those needing an easy win, pay off the one with the lowest balance first to gain momentum. Secondly, create a budget for your household, as horrifying as that thought may be, especially as a lack of one is what makes many peoples' credit card debts skyrocket in the first place.

Much like long-distance runners need a stopwatch to keep personal feelings out of tracking their development, a budget helps you see everything in black and white. You might be surprised at how much money you spend on non-essential items, which can easily be curtailed by asserting a little bit of self-control. Thirdly, sell off un-needed items, including unwanted Christmas gifts through eBay or other online options. Speaking of Christmas gifts, make sure you do not let gift vouchers and cards expire, especially if they can be used towards sensible purchases. Fourthly, make sure you pay your bills on time.

A good way of making sure of this is to pay them as soon as you get them in the mail. Credit card companies make an absolute fortune in late fees, and as the bill needs paying anyway, putting it off until the last minute doesn't help matters. If anything, it increases the likelihood that you'll forget to pay it on the day. If you can, set up online bill paying for your credit card and recurring monthly expenses, such as utilities.

This will eliminate the possibility of bills getting lost in the mail and means you can dispute any bills as soon as they're sent out. Lastly, the next time you're looking to take out a credit card, take the time to compare credit cards before filling out the application. For example, so many credit cards offer rewards schemes nowadays, and if the rewards scheme is of actual use to you, then that makes it all the better. While these points are a step in the right direction, do also consider getting professional help from a non-profit organisation, such as the Consumer Credit Counselling Service. Using credit cards as a method of short-term finance happens for a variety of reasons, but for some, simply living a bit closer to the bone and resisting indulgence can make this year easier on your conscience and wallet.

Adam Singleton is an online, freelance journalist and keen gardener. He lives in Scotland with his two dogs.

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