It was a brilliant day in the summer of 2008 when I went to the front of the “How to Get Out of Debt and Into Praise” class at church and cut up my green American Express card and put the pieces in a wicker basket.
“That’s my ‘fall back’ card,” I told the teacher. He asked what I should fall back on in lieu of my credit cards, and I obligingly stated I’d rely on God instead. How I wish now I’d left credit cards behind for good that day.
The lure of the green, blue and gold cards comes a-calling
Cut to a scene less than two years later – in January 2010 – of me sitting in front of a woman at Chase Bank, asking her what was the catch regarding all the positive virtues she was extolling about the new Chase Business Ink credit card I was about to receive.
There was no catch, she assured me, and that may have been true – if and only if I would have used the card responsibly, which would have meant only for business expenditures that I could afford to pay off in full each month, gaining the points and eschewing the “purchase interest charge” that I had to Google in order to discover what it really meant.
Not only did I happily accept that deep blue Chase Business Ink card, I also gladly took the gold and green American Express cards that the credit card companies were more than willing to throw at folks with great credit. It became easy to slap my CPA’s fee and other business expenses on the card – and more than easy enough to buy groceries, gas, human hair weave and whatever else suited my fancy.
The value of money became more like Monopoly money to me – that’s until the charges caught up with me and I was unable to make the minimum payments on my American Express cards. Now I’m hyper aware that my Chase Business Ink card has a current balance of $14,119.19; the AmEx green card, $12,035.87; and the AmEx gold card is sitting pretty at $15,430.58.
Here are my five tips that I’ve used to reduce the balances thus far, and how I plan to continue:
#1 – Renegotiate with your original credit card lender
When I didn’t make my AmEx minimum payments, I spent the last 2013 summer season dealing with the company’s collection department calling me randomly to debit whatever they could from my checking accounts. Finally, I broke down crying one day, telling the woman on the phone I’d been selling things to get the monies to pay them off. Heaven had mercy upon me, and AmEx set up a deal whereby I agreed to “auto-pay” via checking account debits every month two amounts: $420 for the green card and $490 for the gold card with a reduced interest rate.
If you’re in debt with a credit card company, it’s best to negotiate your debt repayment plan with them as opposed to an outside debt collection agency.
#2 – Sell your valuables
I’ve sold my gold jewelry. I’ve sold a profitable website for $3,900 on Flippa.com. I’ve wandered around my house, cleaning and looking for stuff I don’t really need or use. As such, I’ve recently sold a Kindle reading device, some 1957-era dollar bills and a 500GB external hard drive on eBay, among other items.
Sell stuff from your house on eBay and use the cash to pay off your credit cards if you’re looking for a way to pay off debt.
#3 – Use your best skills to get cash faster
I already receive income every month from a variety of places that pay me to write online, but facing down thousands of dollars in credit card debt made me think of ways to earn more money faster. As a result, I parlayed my writing skills into an increased income by finding freelance writing clients on Elance.com that are willing to pay for the way I craft words.
Therefore, think up what you do best and find people willing to pay for your time and talents, whether it’s photography, fitness training or whatever.
#4 – Think debit, not credit
One huge lesson this whole “getting out of debt” brouhaha taught me was to shift my mindset way more towards my debit cards than my credit cards, because I was forced to do so. AmEx eventually cancelled my credit cards, and while I still use my Chase Business Ink card when I can, it’s maxed out, therefore I am on a nearly 100% cash basis in terms of my spending.
And that’s probably the best thing that could’ve happened to me. Whereas before I might not have thought slapping $325 on my Chase Business Ink card was a big deal, these days I’m a lot more aware of the value of a dollar, especially when I realize that $325 taken from my debit card represents a good 10 or 20 hours worth of my writing time earnings.
#5 – Tell your truth
Somehow I can feel that the truth really does set us free. There might be lots of people reading this with a $25,000 credit card statement tucked away in their bedside nightstand who might cringe at the thought of telling anyone about their debt, much less making it public in a forum such as this.
But the articles that inspire me the most are written by honest people who speak about the silly mistakes they’ve made in getting into credit card debt, while revealing all the creative ways they’ve gotten out of debt, from getting loans, filing bankruptcy, using websites like www.cashadvanceonline.net in a pinch, or any and all of the above tips.
Here’s hoping that exposing my risk-taking and wild spending ways has helped you see a bit of your own missteps, and more importantly, that this article has served as the impetus to encourage you to turn things around for the better like I have.