Best Ways to Pay off Your Credit Cards after the Holidays

Holidays are fun, but all the merry making
comes at a cost. While you may be an avid budgeter, it’s possible that you end
up spending more that you intended due to the unforeseen cost of festivities.
Most of these expenses end up racking up your credit card debt, which can be as
high as over $1000.

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No matter the amount of debt you are looking
at, managing that debt is the best way to start off the new year. To guide you
on this, here are the best ways to pay off your credit cards after the

Start by Making a Budget

Whenever debts come into play, the first step
is usually coming up with a budget and sticking to it. This is the best way to
track your spending and to ensure that you do not divert your income to
unnecessary expenditure. Start by modifying your existing budget to reflect the

This will force you to assign every dollar to
debt repayment, savings or important expenses like bills and groceries. To free
up money for the increased debt, you may have to forego some non essential
expenses such as driving to work and eating out, for public transport and home
cooking respectively.

Stop Using the Cards

This might sound impractical and harsh but
it’s the only way to keep the existing credit card debts in check. Continuing
to use the cards will only raise your debt which can lead to frustrations, and
eventual disregard of your budget.

This is easier said than done hence you
should adopt extraordinary measures. For example you can lock away the cards,
cancel subscriptions that you charge on the cards and switch to cash or debit
cards for all expenditure- until you have paid off the debt.  

Consolidate your Debts

Credit cards usually come at a higher
interest rate than other lines of credit. As of 9th January, the average credit
card APR stood at an all time high of 17.41%.
This is in contrast to personal loans which come at a fixed rate which can be
as low as 4.5%.

With this in mind, you can reduce the
bleeding by consolidating your credit card debts with a personal loan. Not only
will this reduce the payable interest, but it will also help in increasing your creditworthiness;
personal loans are more favorable on your credit scores than credit card debts.

Prioritize your Repayments

Credit cards come at different interest
rates. Knowledge of this can help you in formulating a specific order in which
to settle the debts. The idea would be to reduce payable interests and roll
over payments. For this to work, start by paying off the credit cards with the
highest interest rates. This approach will help you to save precious dollars in
the long run. This is especially so if the cards with highest APRs also happen
to carry the highest balance.

Having said that, this could mean taking a
long time to clearing off a single card, which can be demotivating. In such a
case it would also be helpful to integrate your payments with clearing off some
of the cards with lowest balances- this will help in motivating you to carry

Increase your Income

Unless you have assets that you can sell, all
debt repayments will come from your income. Thus it goes without saying that
earning more money will increase your chances of being debt free. Boosting your
income will require you to add on your overtime hours or get another job, which
can be in form of a part time job like walking dogs or driving for Lyft.   

easy to find yourself facing a whole year of credit card debts due to
unintended over-the-holidays expenses. There are several ways to getting out of
such debts as highlighted above. The bottom line to avoiding dragging the debts
however lies with coming up with a solid repayment plan and sticking to it at
all costs.     


Credit Card Rewards – Are They Really Worth It?

These last few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about our credit cards, and whether or not we should just close the rest of our credit accounts. My philosophy is becoming more and more anti-debt, and the idea of going credit card free is appealing, albeit a bit scary. It’s becoming less scary as we get closer to having a fully funded emergency fund.

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Other rewards cards may have good terms, but charge an annual fee. This makes it unlikely that the consumer will come out ahead if they don’t spend a large amount of money on their card.

Still other rewards cards may be generous with their rewards, but they have an annual cap or limit which means you can’t fully realize the benefit of having the card.

Another problem is that a good percentage of people who have rewards credit cards don’t even bother to use their rewards that they’ve earned. From CNNMoney:

More than 41 percent of reward cardholders either rarely or never even bother to use their rewards, said a 2006 survey by GMAC Mortgage and Harris Interactive.

That seems like an awfully large number of people who sign up to get rewards, but then never even bother to use them. What a waste! Could it be just another indicator that our culture just doesn’t value saving as much as it does spending?

Avoid The Pitfalls Of Rewards Cards

To avoid the pitfalls and get the most back from your card, Consumer Reports offers these tips:

  • Consider where you shop. Get rewards cards that fit your lifestyle and shopping patterns. In other words, if you don’t travel very often, don’t sign up for a travel rewards card. You might be better off using one that gives you cash back for gas, groceries and home purchases.
  • Project your spending. Figure out how much you think you’ll spend in a given year, and then find out how much you’ll gain for every dollar you spend. Subtract any annual fees or penalties and find out if the card is worth your time. If not, move on and find another one.
  • Favor cash back. Points vs. Cash back. Consumer reports found that cash back cards tend to offer better rewards. On top of that the cards that give points, often the points end up going un-used. Get a cash-back card to optimize your returns.
  • Skip credit if you carry a balance. If you don’t pay your bills of in full, you may want to pass on the rewards cards altogether. Because rewards cards often have higher interest rates, you may end up paying much more in interest than you reap in rewards. I know my wife and I only use the credit card when we know we can pay it off within a week or two.
  • Do the math on do-good programs. Some people are tempted to get a rewards card so that they can have the rewards sent directly to a charity of their choice. When doing this make sure you look into how much is being given because you’ll often find you can give more to the charity if you just get a cash back card and send the money to the charity yourself.
  • Use airline miles fast. If you use an airline miles card, make sure to use your points as soon as you can. Airlines will often change redemption rules, and sometimes you’ll even lose your points if you haven’t used them in time.
  • Avoid temptation. Don’t justify spending on your credit card just because you want to get that “reward” of a new Ipod or digital camera. You’ll usually find that you end up spending more than you would have in the first place – enough that you could have just gone out and bought your own reward.

Conclusion – Be Careful

When it comes down to it I think it is clear – if you already have credit card debt and you’re trying to find your way out, DON’T use your credit card. Period. Lock it up and throw away the key.

But if you are debt free and are able to pay off your card every month without any problem, go ahead and take advantage of the rewards programs. But be careful which one you choose. Find one that fits your needs and spending patterns. Also, be careful that you’re not getting caught in the “spend to earn” trap. Studies have shown that people will often spend more just because they’re getting rewards. Don’t be a sucker, buy only what you need and what you would have bought anyway.

Do you have a rewards card? Do YOU think it’s worth it? Let us know in the comments.


Are You Building Your Credit, Or Just Going Into Debt?

People love to spend money, and they’ll come up with any number of reasons that they just NEED to go into debt.

They will tell you things like, “I’m only using this credit card so that I can build my credit!”. Or, “I’m only buying this new car because they’re giving me such a low interest rate!”.  Or how about this one, “I don’t have the money, but I need this new outfit because I haven’t bought any new clothes for a while”.

Day 4 - Paying off debt

Day 4 - Paying off debt

People are very quick to give you reasons why they should go into debt,  but they will often ignore all the reasons why you shouldn’t go into debt.  I’m going to list some of those reasons here, but first, here are the few situations where I would even think of using debt (but only if I really couldn’t do it any other way).

Times I would find debt acceptable

  1. Buying a house:  I don’t know of too many people who can afford a house without taking out a mortgage.  I’m a big proponent of saving up for things you buy and not going into debt, but even I realize that almost nobody would be able to buy a house if they had to pay for it all in cash.  At the same time, i do believe that people should make sure they’re buying a house they can afford, and that they’re saving at least a 20% down payment so that they can avoid private mortgage insurance.  Also, try to get a house where you can get a 15 year fixed rate mortgage, instead of a longer term and/or variable rate mortgage
  2. College expenses:  I am OK with people taking out some minimal loans for schooling if it is absolutely necessary.  I would prefer that people do other things to avoid the loans including working during school, going to an in-state university with lower tuition, and working hard in high school to get scholarships and grants to pay for your schooling.  If parents can help out as well, that is wonderful, but I’m not sure I would ever have parents pay for everything.  Helping to pay for your own schooling can really help get you more invested in your own success.  Check out my article on the topic here.

These are the two main areas where I would even consider taking out a loan.

Howard Dvorkin, founder of the nonprofit Consolidated Credit Counseling Services says that we need to ask ourselves if we’re going into debt for an asset that’s going to appreciate, or one that’s going to depreciate:

Ask yourself if it’s [the asset] a builder or a loser. An education enhances your job prospects and allows you to build greater wealth, and a home increases in value over the long term,” he says.  On the contrary, something like a car is a loser.  It loses value as soon as you drive it off the lot.

There may be a few other narrow circumstances where I would consider taking on debt, but those instances would be few and far between. In most cases I think it is wiser to save up for the things you’ll need to buy.

How “good debt” becomes “bad debt”

When people go into debt, they often go in with the best of intentions.   But even the best intentions can be turned against you and so called “good debt” (not sure I really believe in that) can quickly become “bad debt”.  Here are some ways to keep your debt from turning against you.

  • Don’t take out more debt than you need to:   Get just enough to cover expenses, and no more.  People will often make the mistake of borrowing more money than they need to pay the mortgage or tuition, and they end up having higher payments, and paying more interest than it is really worth.
  • Make your payments on time:  This may seem like it is a no-brainer, but it is a big sticking point for many people.  If you make late payments even for just a couple of months, your credit score will suffer.
  • Don’t be lured by easy credit:  Often the high credit lines we receive and favorable repayment terms are so attractive that we are lured into buying things that we don’t need.  Then when life happens and we need that money for unexpected expenses (they WILL happen), we fall behind.  Think twice before buying things you don’t need, and when you buy those things – save up for them instead.

Reasons to avoid debt

For me I have been convinced through our classes with Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University that debt is to be avoided in most cases, and we’re doing our best to do just that.  But if you’re not convinced, here are a few reasons that YOU should avoid debt as well.

  • Debt assumes things about the future: Scripture clearly says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). When you commit yourself to payments over time, you are assuming that you will have no pay reductions, no loss of job, and no unexpected expenses.  When you assume,  you will be disappointed.
  • Money borrowed today mortgages your future: Money you borrow, and interest you have to pay ends up working against your future net worth. Instead of investing money and enjoying the returns of compounding interest, you’re losing money, and lowering your future standard of living for quick gains today.
  • Debt encourages impulse buying and overspending: When you have an easy way to spend money you often don’t stop to think about whether you really NEED something.  Also, people who use credit have been proven to spend more than those that save and spend cash.  Instead of buying things right away on credit – never buy anything expensive without waiting at least 30 days first, and always save up for it.
  • Using debt teaches bad habits to your children:  When you casually use debt to purchase things you want, and as your safety margin instead of using your saved assets, it teaches bad money management to your children.  They will see debt as acceptable and learn to use it in the same way you do, instead of learning to save for things they need.
  • Being debt free makes YOU free:  When you don’t have debt, you become more free to do what you want with your money whether that is investing and saving for retirement, saving up for things you want, or giving to charities you support.  When you’re in debt, you’re a slave to the lender.

Those are just a few reasons why I think going into debt is a bad idea. I’m sure if I thought about it I could come up with about 20 more.

Have you thought about how you use debt?  Are you using debt in a wise way, or in a way in which it harms your prospects for the future? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.


Headed for Debt Disaster? Here’s How to Tell

This is a Guest Post written by Tisha Tolar. Tisha is a freelance writer providing content for, where she regularly writes about credit cards, rewards programs and general consumer finance issues.

Busy, busy, busy. That is how so many people describe their lives today. There is not always time to truly focus on the important things like family, friends, and finances. Some days it seems near impossible to get it all done in just 24 hours. This is one of the main reasons people in financial trouble don’t often realize they are headed down a dangerous path, where the big bad wolf of debt is waiting to pounce.

Creative Commons License credit: lemonjenny

Because so many people do not take the time to truly understand their finances or to track their spending, debt disaster can be overwhelming. So how do you know when things are going in the wrong direction? Here is a list of some red-flag warning signals you need to pay attention to or risk your financial well-being:

Do You:

  • Make minimum payments, or less than minimum, on most or all of your accounts?
  • Have no established budget to refer to for spending?
  • Have nothing left of your paycheck after paying your debts?
  • Miss payments just to survive from day to day?
  • Pay your bills more than 10 days late each month?
  • Use your credit cards to sustain basic living expenses?
  • Delete several messages from collection agencies each day?
  • Seek information about payday loans?
  • Apply for more credit cards for balance transfers or cash advances, having spent the limits on all of your other credit cards accounts?

While several of these warning signs may seem outright obvious to some people, the truth is not everyone understands what debt really means. Because some people will never hit rock bottom (ie: losing a home, a car, a job), they may not immediately realize that what they consider to be a normal way of life is in actuality  a train wreck waiting to happen.

There Is No Time for Waiting

In order to prevent further damage to your finances and your credit score, it is imperative you take action now, rather than procrastinate and allow the situation to worsen. Debt can spin quickly out of control and once your feel overwhelmed, your chances of repairing the damage get slimmer. If you have friends or family you can trust, they might be the best source of free advice you will find, provided pride does not get the best of you. If you find you need professional assistance, debt counseling services, provided they are legit and priced right, can be an added resource to help you pay down the debt you already have in a manner you can afford. If worse is really coming to worse, a part time job may be the solution you need to pay down debt faster. Allocate your entire pay from your second income strictly to debts you already have.

One of the most important things to remember when surviving a brush with debt is to not get yourself in the same situation in the future. Make a budget, manage your money, review your statements, and don’t be so quick to use your credit card outside of emergency situations.


5 Keys To Overcoming The Urge To Splurge

Christmas Is For Debt?

Christmas will soon be upon us with all of the good cheer, family get-togethers and presents!

All of the big department stores are already in full-on Christmas mode, with aisles upon aisles of decorations in the front of the store and Christmas music pumping over the PA systems.  It’s hard not to get  into the Christmas spirit and spend, spend, spend!

Christmas time can be one of the most expensive times of the year, and a lot of people blow out their budgets trying to give each other a “nice Christmas”.  In fact, a Consumer Reports poll found that many people are still paying for last year’s Christmas bills.  if you do the math – that means approximately 12 million of us!:

Six percent of those surveyed are still paying off debt from last year’s gift purchases. If you do the math, that translates into approximately 12 million Americans who are in hock to credit-card companies for this reason alone.

This year, let’s try to be more responsible with our purchases, and think before we act and go into credit card debt.  In fact budgeting for Christmas expenditures earlier in the year is the best way to go.  Make it a line item in your budget!

5 Keys To Having Power Over Your Purchases

Dave Ramsey suggests that you work on developing a “power over purchase”, and make better buying decisions. You can do that by:

  1. Waiting overnight before making a purchase.  We often get caught up in the emotion of the moment, picture ourselves using the purchase, and how much it would make our life better.  Wait overnight and take some time to think about it.
  2. Carefully considering your buying motives.  No amount of stuff equals contentment or fulfillment: A lot of times we buy things because we think it will make us look cool, or be a status symbol.   In the end things just leave us feeling empty.  Remember, you can buy fun, but you can’t buy happiness.
  3. Never buying anything you do not understand: Don’t ever buy something without first knowing exactly how it works, what it does, and how to use it.   Don’t understand how that variable annuity works? Don’t buy it until you’ve researched it and understand how it works.  Too many people waste money on things they don’t understand, and will never use.
  4. Considering the opportunity cost of your money:  Remember, if you spend money on that new car, you may look cool driving around, but you’ll never make back that $25,000 you spent on the car – which you could have invested in a good mutual fund and been appreciating, instead of depreciating.  There is an opportunity cost to everything you buy.
  5. Seeking the counsel of your spouse (or accountability partner):  If you’re considering making a purchase, make sure to seek the counsel of your spouse or a trusted accountability partner.  Often they can tell you when you’re making a rash decision, and convince you to forgo a purchase.

Remember, when you’re making buying decisions, especially for items over $200-300, it can be very easy to become emotionally involved, and make rash decisions. Studies have found that most people actually have physiological reactions to when they’re purchasing something over $300. Their heart rates speed up, they get sweat on their upper lip, they feel nervous, etc. Keeping the above tips in mind will help you to overcome those emotional reactions, and get on your way towards a debt free new year in 2009!

He who is impulsive exalts folly.– Proverbs 14:29  (NKJV)

What do you think about Christmas debt?

Have you ever ended up paying your Christmas debt until the following Christmas? Do you think budgeting for the expenses may have helped you to avoid going into credit card debt? Are you making different Christmas spending decisions this year, or do you feel that Christmas is just too important to cut back on the spending?

Let us know what you think in the comments!


13 Cats Who Totally Understand Your Debt Payoff Struggle

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.

Ever think no one understands your debt payoff struggle? Everyone’s taking pictures of their fantastic lives and you’re over here dining on leftovers and tap water.

I know your pain, you don’t put 60% of your income towards debt and get to experience the luxury of air conditioning in the summer or hotels when you’re out of town.

I’m not the only one who understands you, cats do. Of course, they’re not real cats, real cats DGAF about anyone. These cat gifs though, are the symbol of our plight. I hope they comfort you and inspire you to keep going.

1. Cash Cat

You work hard for the money so you pay for things in cash. And studies show we spend 12-17% more when you use a card instead of cash so you’re saving more than those cash-back rewards.

2. Online Banking Cat

You’re not the only one neurotically checking bank and loan servicer accounts. You keep tabs on everything at any time because you can and you’re slightly obsessed.

3. Used Car Cat

All your friends are upgrading to shiny new cars with heated seats and Bluetooth but you’re holding strong in that 2003 Corolla with the manual locks. But hey, you don’t have a car payment.

4. “Can’t Even” Cat

You “can’t even” every time someone says they’re only paying the minimum on their student loans. Do they “even know” how much money they’re wasting in interest!?

5. Extreme Saving Cat

It started with clipping some coupons and it’s escalated to washing clothes old school style and eating other people’s restaurant leftovers. You may be taking things too far but man have you cut your grocery store budget!

6. Overtime Cat

You’re the first to volunteer for extra hours at work even when every fiber of your body says “I need to sleep!”

7. Impulse Buy Cat

It seemed like a good idea at the time but when you come face to face with the sum of your bar tabs, Target trips, and Chipotle addiction, not so much. I know guacamole is extra and I don’t care!

8. Carpool Cat

Hitching a ride with your friend who’s always late to avoid paying for parking and Uber surge prices. On the bright side, if you’re late that’s one less drink you’ll buy!

9. Home Workout Cat

Working out at home not just because you hate the gym but because you have no money to afford someone yelling at you to try harder.

10. Side Hustle Cat

You’re putting in the extra hours after work and on weekends for that sweet, sweet freelance money. Even though you know you can only keep 75% of it.

11. FOMO Cat

Casually browsing social media and bleeding through your eyes looking at all the fun vacations your friends are going on and the cool tech gadgets your chemistry partner from high school is getting.

12. Every Last Bit Cat

When you’re on the last drop of shampoo, but you’re stretching it to next month because you used that money on concert tickets. That’s true commitment to the budget.

13. Debt Free Cat

Everything is worth it when you make that final loan payment and you know every dollar you make from that day forward is yours.

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Cats Paying off Debt

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Jen Smith is a personal finance expert, founder of Modern Frugality and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lifehacker, Money Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider, and more. She’s passionate about helping people gain control of their spending.


We’re Debt Free + Saving with Spunk is 1!

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.

Today is a special day y’all. Saving with Spunk is one-year-old! And it just so happens that we also became debt free last week!

This journey has been so different than I anticipated. I mean, I guess I didn’t know what to expect going into it. I had nothing to compare it to. We were the first people we knew to go full throttle to become debt free.

Two years ago today I was a month out from getting married. I knew this journey was coming and I was riding out my last few weeks of freedom with a little more frugality than I would have otherwise. (Granted I was always the most frugal person in our friend group.)

Over the past 23 months, my life has changed from feeling hopeless about my student loans to being free from them.

Last night I had dinner with some friends and we realized that between our three families we had less than $3,000 in debt. Less than $3,000 in debt between six millennials, 1.5 babies, and three masters degrees sounds crazy! And none of us are bringing in 6-figures.

Living out our goals has drawn us closer to like-minded people and cultivated a community that builds us up. That knowledge was a great way to turn the page to start this new chapter.

New Life, Who dis?

So now we’re on to baby step 3, building our emergency fund. We’ve changed around a few things but we’re staying on a tight budget this month to ease into our new lifestyle. (Though we did splurge by ordering chips and queso two nights in a row.) I got a little anxious about going off the deep end so this budget makes me feel better.

It should take us three months to build our emergency fund to $10,000 since we already have $1,000 in there. You’d think I’d be ready to burn the budget but I’m actually more into it than I’ve been all year because now I get to see numbers go up instead down all the time!

What’s Next for SwS?

First up is FinCon at the end of October. I’m excited to network, make new friends, and soak up all the knowledge I can in four days. I have a long list of bloggers I want to hug.

Next is my book launch. November 14th I’ll be launching The Ultimate Guide to Quit Spending Money on Crap (working title of course.) Being a published author has been a dream of mine for years and while I’ve been published in some major publications, this will be the true fulfillment of my goal.

I’ll be involving you and anyone who’ll listen to help me pick out the final title and cover art for the book before it goes live on Amazon.

In addition, I’m still designing shirts for Merch by Amazo as Shirts with Spunk. I’m hoping to kick into high gear with that to maximize revenue during the holidays. I’ve finally made it to the 500 Tier with only 73 designs up and my goal is to break 400 by Cyber Monday.

So with all that’s going on, I’ll be posting here once a week and on Instagram at least five times per week. My goal is to motivate, encourage, and equip you with the resources you need to sustain the debt pay off journey so if you have any struggles or suggestions please tell me about them!

What Can I Expect From Starting a Blog?

Blogging has changed my life. It’s opened my eyes to all the ways I can make money by simply having my own website and it’s a portfolio of my work that I can repurpose as many times and wherever I want. But most of the time what bloggers make is a little deceiving.

So I’ve been at this a year now and while I consider myself a pretty successful blogger you should know some real life stuff about this site. I’m averaging around 11,000 page views per month with over 400 subscribers. I’m actively revamping my opt-in strategy but things that make me money always take priority so I’m a little behind.

I make very little money on affiliate marketing because my page views are so low and I have little to no interest in social media marketing so no motivation to increase them.

I’ve discovered in the last year that I like writing more than anything. Creating content that helps people is what I love, hence I make money freelancing and the venture into self-publishing. I’ve decided to use my blog to gauge interest in topics and monetize by building a library on Kindle.

I have a bunch of ideas for “quick read” books (because who has time to read a lengthy self-help book when you’re working three jobs?) and rather than branching off into all the different personal finance topics I’m gonna stay narrowly focused on paying off debt and saving money.

No one’s journey will look exactly like mine so I love to hear other’s stories. If you want to share what you’ve learned while making a side income or paying off debt shoot me an email at savingwithspunk @ gmail dot com.

Can’t wait to share more and have more fun over the next year with you.

Jen Smith is a personal finance expert, founder of Modern Frugality and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lifehacker, Money Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider, and more. She’s passionate about helping people gain control of their spending.