Is there a way to get out from under a hopeless amount of credit card debt? I'm spending more than I'm earning every month, and as result I'm sinking deeper and deeper into the hole. Most of the advice I get doesn't apply to my situation because I'm in too much trouble. What can I do?
In the first place, we don't believe there is any such thing as a "hopeless" case. Granted, some problems are more easily resolved than others, but that doesn't mean that a person in your situation has to give up in despair. At this point, your greatest enemy is inertia. The worst thing you can do is sit still and allow the momentum of the world's misguided values and your personal fears and insecurities to carry you deeper into financial bondage.
What should you do to get out of this hole? That's easy to answer: you do whatever it takes. You should probably begin by attacking both the income and the expense sides of your financial equation. If possible, take extra jobs. Sell as many of your possessions as you can stand to part with. Cut spending to the bone. Deny yourself small pleasures and luxuries. You'll be glad you did once you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
If your situation is really desperate, you may have to sell an asset you prize dearly, such as a car that you enjoy driving but are only able to keep at the expense of high payments, exorbitant insurance rates, and operating costs you can't afford. It might also mean that the first checks you write each month are for credit card bills. Another strategy would entail increasing your monthly payments while at the same time destroying your credit cards. If you make the reduction of debt a priority, write the checks each month for that purpose, and commit to no further debt. Your remaining expenses will then have to fall within your remaining monthly funds. You will have a "de facto" budget.
Decide what your highest spending priority is – savings, debt reduction, lifestyle, etc. – and then write those checks first in order to accomplish at least one financial goal each month.
No matter how hopeless your situation appears, it can be improved – often with very small and simple initial steps. Poor finances make a person feel bad about every aspect of his life. That's why it's so important to do something, however insignificant that something may seem, to begin reversing the trend. The effort will give you a sense of accomplishment, self-worth, and control. Once you're moving in the right direction, you can build on your success by learning how to spend less than you earn over a long period of time.
For additional help and information on this topic, we'd encourage you to consult the resources and referrals highlighted below. Or if you have relationship concerns and challenges associated with this situation, please don't hesitate to give our Counseling department a call.
How Can I Repay My Credit Card Debt?: Ron Blue presents the most effective way to get out, and stay out of debt.
Family & Personal Finances (resource list)
Money and Finances