Finished Paying Off Credit Card Debt? 5 Tips to Avoid It in the Future

by Lyle Daly | Updated July 22, 2021 - First published on Feb. 23, 2021

Many or all of the products here are from our partners that pay us a commission. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.
A laughing man and woman drinking beer while standing on a rooftop under string lights.

Image source: Getty Images

When you've gotten rid of your credit card debt, the next step is staying debt free going forward.

Nothing matches the feeling of getting out of credit card debt and seeing your balances at $0. It takes a huge weight off your shoulders. You don't need to deal with the stress of owing money and paying costly interest charges every month.

You should definitely be proud of what you've accomplished, but the work isn't entirely done. If you relax your spending habits too much, you could run into the same issues again. That's why it's important to follow a plan to help avoid future credit card debt.

1. Commit to paying in full every month

The simplest, most effective way to avoid problems with credit card debt is to always pay your balance in full. You could even set up autopay on your credit cards so that they're paid in full and on time every month.

When you do this, you won't get charged credit card interest on your purchases. You're also unlikely to ever have a balance you can't handle if you consistently pay in full.

2. Plan ahead with your savings

One of the most common reasons consumers go into debt is they weren't ready for big expenses. When you don't have enough money for a bill you need to pay, your only option may be to use your credit card.

Save for these expenses ahead of time so you're prepared for them. Start by figuring out what you'll need. One thing everyone should have is an emergency fund to cover any unexpected issues. You can also save for a vacation, home maintenance, and any other bills you expect to have.

Next, decide how much you need to save for each one. For example, you could put aside $100 per month toward your emergency fund, $100 per month for home maintenance, and $50 per month for a vacation. When these expenses come up, you'll have money set aside for them.

3. Don't spend what you don't have

A benefit of how credit cards work is that you don't need to pay for your purchases right away. You have time, sometimes weeks, before the bill is due.

This can also get you into trouble, which I know from firsthand experience. You want to buy something. You don't have the money for it. But you figure you'll have the money by the time the bill is due, so why not go ahead and treat yourself?

You don’t want to build habits like this because they often lead to spending much more than you can afford. Instead, set up a budget with clear limits on what you can spend.

4. Stay away from 0% intro APR offers

All credit cards can lead to overspending, but credit cards with 0% intro APR offers are by far the riskiest.

If you know you won't be charged any interest for a year or longer, it can be very tempting to relax about your budget. You may find yourself thinking about making some big purchases, since you have so much time to pay them off. Even if you can't pay in full, there will likely be the option to move your debt to a balance transfer card with its own 0% interest offer.

Ideas like these sound reasonable in theory. But it's much easier to spend money than to buckle down and pay off what you owe. That's why it's better to avoid unnecessary debt, even if there's an introductory 0% intro APR offer available.

5. Leave yourself some fun money

If there's one secret that can make a huge difference in staying out of debt, here it is: When you create your budget, make sure to leave yourself fun money every month. You can use this money however you want, as long as it's for something you enjoy.

The reason this helps so much is two-fold. You give yourself the freedom to spend money on things that make you happy, while also putting a limit on how much you'll spend.

Setting that limit makes it much easier to control your spending. There's no internal debate about whether you can afford something you want. It either fits in the fun money section of your budget, or it doesn’t.

You're in a great position once you've paid off your credit card debt. If you work just as hard on avoiding debt in the future, you'll build smart spending habits and continue to improve your financial situation.

Top credit card wipes out interest until 2023

If you have credit card debt, transferring it to this top balance transfer card secures you a 0% intro APR into 2023! Plus, you'll pay no annual fee. Those are just a few reasons why our experts rate this card as a top pick to help get control of your debt. Read our full review for free and apply in just 2 minutes.

About the Author