Guest Post By Cait Flanders, RateHub.ca
I will never forget the day I realized I was maxed out financially. I was sitting on my bed and my hands were shaking, as I finally opened up the credit card statements I’d been ignoring for months and saw that I was within $100 of my limit. After years of spending more than I made, my credit card-swiping lifestyle had finally caught up with me and I had no choice but to start paying it all off.
It wasn’t just my credit cards that were maxed out. Leading up to this, I’d also financed a brand new car over 5 years and borrowed money from my parents to pay for the last of my university tuition. I also made a move that I don’t talk about very often: two years before, I had consolidated all of my oldconsumer debt into a personal loan – but then I racked my credit cards back up again.
I had every intention to pay off my debt, two years before I was truly maxed out. The $12,000 personal loan I got in 2009 was supposed to be paid off in 5 years, and I was supposed to steer clear of my credit cards during that time. But I wasn’t done spending. I hadn’t really learned my lesson. So I made the minimum monthly payments on both, until I reached the point where I couldn’t spend anymore – and by then I had close to $30,000 of debt in total.
When you’re faced with a situation like that, you have no choice but to start paying it off. I went into a sort of panic mode about the numbers and realized I wanted my debt gone as soon as possible. I did things no twenty-something wants to do, including not going out with friends and saying no to travel. Instead, I allocated upwards of 55% of my income towards debt repayment. I paid it all off in just under two years and have been debt-free ever since.
People always ask if being debt-free feels as good as they imagine and my answer is yes – wholeheartedly, yes. I have full control over my finances, get excited about reaching my savings goals and feel grateful when any of my “wants” are in the budget. But it wasn’t a smooth transition. It took some time, afterward, for me to find balance in my budget and learn how to trust myself – especially with my credit cards.
For months, I used my regular old credit card to pay for just a few essentials, so I was sure I would pay off the balance each month. Eventually, I started to pay for more and more, until all my regular expenses were being paid for with a credit card and I could still pay it off each month. Then I made the leap and signed up for my first rewards credit card. Now, I have two in my wallet and they’ve given me more than $600 worth of rewards over the last year – and I’ve paid $0 in interest, because I pay off my balances every month.
The benefits of paying off your credit card balances are obvious – especially when you’re using rewards credit cards and earning all kinds of free bonuses for doing so. But the benefits of paying off any debt are the same. You may not get a bonus at the end, so to speak, but it gives you the opportunity to finally take control of your finances and make your hard-earned dollars work for you.
If you’re carrying any credit card debt right now, look at some of the other low interest options available to you, like what Borrowell offers. I could’ve saved a lot of money if I hadn’t been stuck with the interest rate I had on my credit card. After you pay off your credit card balance, don’t make the same mistake I did – make sure you stay out of debt.
Being debt-free = having more financial freedom. Pay off your credit card balance, pay off your loan balance and then learn how to use financial products that can give you real benefits, the way rewards credit cards can. I can tell you, it feels pretty amazing to be having credit card companies give me money for a change versus the other way around.
Do you have a story about paying off your credit card, or a question about how to do it? Share in the comments below
Cait is Managing Editor at RateHub.ca and blogs as Blonde on a Budget. Follow her on Twitter @blondeonabudget and @ratehub.