According to CardWeb.com, the average household with credit card debt owes in the neighborhood of $9,000. That can seem pretty high -- unless you're among the many people who owe much more than that. (Remember that $9,000 is an average. There are gobs of people who owe nothing and gobs who owe much more.)
On our Credit Card Debt discussion board, I recently ran into a reminder of just how deep in debt some of us are. Fool Community member Ccharlan shared his recent credit card debt balances:
- January 2002: Lowest, $67,500
- December 2005: Highest, $100,821
- August 2006: Current, $93,400
He may have been thinking he was exceedingly rare, but some others chimed in, such as DeterminedMom, who wrote "I win. ... That is, at our highest we had $168,000 in credit card debt." (Note how steep credit card debt is not hopeless -- DeterminedMom has paid off more than $100,000 of that debt so far and expects to have it all paid off within two years.)
If you're in a similar camp and owing an embarrassing amount to banks and credit card issuers, take heart. You can dig yourself out. Here's proof you can pay off your debt -- and some get-out-of-debt guidance from The Motley Fool.
Our online community is a great place to get support and ideas. After just two months of debt-reduction, community member Ccharlan shared these thoughts:
Since June 4th, we've accomplished quite a bit:
* Removed the credit cards from our wallets, and stored them where they can't be used without some work to get to them. For a few days I whined, cried, got frustrated, annoyed and then finally accepted that this is what I needed to do to break this cycle.
* We're only using Citibank's virtual account numbers for online purchases, instead of our debit card. The physical card is also safely stored.
* Got most of the credit card interest rates to below prime. 5% of amount owed is over 10% and that is the top of the snowball; everything else is in the 3.99-6% rates for life of transfer.
* Got one card out of eight to get a zero balance. Next card should be at a zero balance by the end of the year.
* Cut overall spending down by 10% and still need to cut it some more. I'm hoping that July wasn't a fluke and that we'll still be able to cut expenses as we keep on fine-tuning our plan.
* Review all spending with DW weekly to make sure that we are changing our spending habits and following our rules. I'm helping the binger change her ways, while she's helping the nickel and dimer change his ways.
* Got better expense tracking by reducing cash usage down to $240/month, from over $400 in June, and even higher in previous months.
* Monthly review of budget, spending needs for the month, and overall goals, so that we can make joint decisions on what to do.
You can learn more in our Credit Center, which features some surprisingly interesting info about the credit card industry. And speaking of credit cards, check out our Fool credit card, which is so snazzy that it often serves as a conversation piece. Use it responsibly, and it can serve you well.
Once you've got your debt under control, you'll be able to enjoy the upward spiral of stock market growth, instead of the downward spiral of credit card interest. Sock some money away into a mutual fund with solid performance, such as the Dodge & Cox Stock Fund