Millennials are known for their innovation and goal-driven mentality. But unfortunately, they’re also known for carrying a lot of debt. Much of this comes from student-loan debt, which has increased exponentially over the past decade, to no fault of their own. But millennials may also be toting more credit card debt than previous generations. When it feels like the economy is always working against you, take a look at these tips to help lower your credit card debt.
Young adults are typically new to using credit cards in their own name. Some may not have even opened their first line of credit until their early 20s. As a result, navigating the credit card landscape is unfamiliar territory.
Before opening a new credit card, be sure to read all of the terms and conditions. Many credit companies try to lure you in with attractive introductory deals and then send interest rates through the roof after the first year. If you are taking out a credit card with one of these deals, know precisely when your introductory period is up and when interest rates will start to hit. Also, be sure to know whether your cards come with an annual fee.
Additionally, learn more about how credit scores are calculated. Millennials typically have a short credit history, which factors into their scores. Keeping credit cards open, even if you are not using them, is actually a good way to build credit.
One of the biggest influences on your credit score, however, is paying your bills on time. One missed payment can severely hurt your score.
And the bigger your balance at the time of the missed payment, the longer it will take your score to recover. In addition, having a lot of credit cards open can lower your score. So think twice before opening one at every store you shop at. It’s best to keep one or two cards that you use for day-to-day purchases and can pay off each month.
Make a Plan
Budgeting is also something that may be new to many millennials. But having a plan is key to successfully paying down your debt. Keeping track of all of your monthly expenses – rent, car payments, etc. – will help you figure out how much you can put towards your credit card bills. At its simplest, you can keep a budget with pen and paper. But if you’re looking for a digital version, Excel, online budget templates, and budgeting apps are great options.
Millennials can adopt a couple of different strategies to try to pay down their debt. One method is “debt stacking.” Debt stacking involves paying the minimums on all of your credit cards and then allocating any extra money towards the cards with the highest interest rate. Once the one with the highest rate is paid off, move to the next highest rate. This will help work down your debt by reducing the amount of interest you’re accruing.
Another option is “debt snowballing,” which is essentially the opposite of debt stacking. Snowballing involves paying the minimums and then putting extra money toward the card with the lowest balance. While this means you will pay more in interest, debt snowballing is more of a psychological method. The technique helps you feel as though you are gaining momentum in paying off your debt like a snowball rolling down a hill.
You can also work on your debt by paying a little more each month. If you need to, you can start with the minimum payment and work your way up. Make a plan that includes what increment you will increase by each month. Then you will be able to factor that into your monthly budget accordingly.
Paying just the minimum doesn't do much to help your situation, because in many cases it doesn’t cover much more than the interest.
Find Other Ways to Save
When looking at these debt payoff strategies, you may be thinking “What extra money?” Think of saving in other ways, such as using public transportation or ditching cable for Netflix and Hulu. Take the money you’ve saved and put it towards your credit card debt.
Have a Safety Net
Millennials are known for being dream-chasers, which often means more job changes than previous generations. Including savings in your monthly budget can help you build a comfortable safety net. It is recommended to have at least three months of living expenses – including credit card payments – saved up. This way, if you end up between jobs, you won’t fall behind on your bills. Missing payments will make your debt situation worse and hurt your credit score.
Millennials are unique from any generation that has come before them. And, simultaneously, the financial climate for millennials is different than it has been for any other generation. Millennials aren’t afraid to take risks, which is a laudable quality, but can lead them into debt. Recognizing this and taking action to lower your debt now is an essential first step. By examining the causes and making a plan, you can position yourself for a debt-free and prosperous future.