Credit Card Debt Is One of the Biggest Dating Dealbreakers. Here's How to Pay It Off

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  • 28.6% of Americans say that credit card debt is a dealbreaker while dating.
  • If you have credit card debt, start by figuring out what caused it and cutting back on your spending.
  • Decide how much you can pay toward it per month, and choose a debt payment plan that works for you.

Dating is harder when you have baggage, and that includes financial baggage.

Money usually isn't the first thing that comes up when dating, but it's definitely important. While most people don't care if a potential partner is filthy rich, financial issues can be a turnoff. And some are worrisome enough for daters to immediately call it a night.

In a recent survey, Western & Southern Financial Group asked Americans about their biggest dating dealbreakers. Credit card debt came in second, right after personal loans, with 28.6% of Americans calling it a dealbreaker. This was also a top dealbreaker for both sexes, with 27.5% of men and 30.3% of women saying they wouldn't date someone with credit card debt.

If you have credit card debt, there's no need to beat yourself up over it. Lots of people are in the same boat. However, this type of debt holds you back financially. The best thing you can do for yourself is work hard to pay it off. You'll save money in the long run, and it may even help your love life. Here's how to do it.

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Figure out what caused your credit card debt

There's always a reason why people end up in credit card debt. To get out of credit card debt, and avoid it in the future, you'll need to fix the underlying cause. Think back on why you started carrying balances on your credit cards and what you can do differently going forward.

For example, many people get into debt because they overspend. They make purchases that they can't afford on credit and plan to pay them off later. If you were overspending, start by setting firm monthly spending limits to follow. Make sure to track your spending so you don't go over these limits. A budgeting app can help you stay on top of this.

Another common cause of credit card debt is a big, unexpected expense. Maybe a home appliance broke down and required a costly repair, or you had some surprise medical expenses. In this case, after you pay off your credit card debt, focus on saving money for an emergency fund. That way, you can cover these types of expenses without going into debt.

Tighten up your spending

The more money you can put toward your credit cards, the faster you can pay them off. Go over your financial statements for the last few months to see how you're spending money and where you can cut back.

You don't need to cut everything to the bone here. Getting rid of every last streaming service and going on a beans-and-rice diet are extreme steps that probably aren't necessary. Just look for reasonable changes that will free up extra money you can put toward your credit cards. Here are a few ideas:

  • Stop going out to eat and ordering food deliveries. Make meals at home for the time being.
  • Find low-cost alternatives to expensive activities. For example, instead of expensive exercise classes, work out in a nearby park or go on a hike.
  • Cancel subscription services you aren't using often. If you have three streaming services, trim it down to one, at least until you're out of debt.

Commit to a monthly payment amount

One of the reasons people have credit card debt for so long is because they take an "I'll pay what I can" approach. They make their minimum payments, and then they might pay a little extra, if they have money left over. What usually happens is that they overspend and don't pay nearly as much on their credit cards as they could.

This is why you need to commit to an amount you'll pay on your credit cards each month. Compare your income to your expenses and come up with an amount that works for you. If it's $500, schedule $500 in automatic payments every month. 

Pick a debt payment plan

Once you know how much you'll pay toward your credit cards, you need a payment plan. Fortunately, there are several good options to choose from.

If you have a solid credit score, you could start by consolidating your debt. With debt consolidation, you open another credit account and use it to pay off all your credit cards. You'll then have just one monthly payment to make, and you could get a lower interest rate this way, as well. There are two popular ways to consolidate debt:

  • Balance transfer credit cards: You transfer your credit card balances over to a balance transfer card. These cards normally offer a 0% APR on balance transfers for an introductory period, which can last 12 months or longer. That means you don't pay any interest during that intro period.
  • Debt consolidation loans: You pay off all your credit cards with a personal loan. Loans usually have lower interest rates than credit cards. They also have fixed payment amounts and terms, so they provide a structure you can follow to repay your debt.

If your credit score isn't high enough for either of these options, your best options are either a debt avalanche or debt snowball plan. These plans are great for paying off multiple credit cards. Here's how they work:

  • Debt avalanche: This plan focuses on cards with higher interest rates first to save you the most money. Make minimum payments on all your credit cards, and put all leftover money on the card with the highest interest rate.
  • Debt snowball: This plan focuses on cards with lower balances first to pay off accounts quickly and keep you motivated. Make minimum payments on all your credit cards, and put all leftover money on the card with the lowest balance.

At first, credit card debt can seem like this giant, insurmountable obstacle. Once you have a good plan and you're paying as much as you can toward your debt, you'll start seeing fast progress.

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