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As credit card debt reaches a record high, do you need help getting out of debt?

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Consumers racked up $67 billion in credit card debt during 2018, an all-time high, according to the “Credit Card Debt Study,” a report by WalletHub, a personal-finance website.

Since the end of the Great Recession, consumer have increased their credit card debt in six of every 10 quarters.

WalletHub also released a “2019 Debt Survey,” which highlights consumers’ thoughts about over-borrowing, including the fact that 156 million Americans admit they’d go into debt for frivolous purchases.

The current credit card debt situation is similar to the period just before the Great Recession. However, WalletHub’s analysis of the latest data indicates the nation is in for another $60 billion-plus in new credit card debt during 2019. That would push the average household’s balance from $8,788 currently to $9,295 by year’s end – higher than it has ever been.

Debt is a problem nationwide, but some areas have bigger payment problems than others. WalletHub compared the amounts owed to credit card companies by consumers in more than 2,500 U.S. cities – and, how those balances changed in 2018.

Cities with the biggest debt increase 

Cities with the biggest debt paydown

Huntington Beach, California

Tempe, Arizona

Denton, Texas

West Valley City, Utah

Springfield, Illinois

Norman, Oklahoma

Murrieta, California

High Point, North Carolina

Wichita Falls, Texas

New Bedford, Maine

San Mateo, California

Yakima, Washington

Germantown, Maryland

Miami Beach, Florida

Greenville, North Carolina

Champaign, Illinois

Newport Beach, California

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Hoover, Alabama

Warwick, Rhode Island

Here are tips for managing credit card debt:

Make a budget and stick to it: It’s difficult to spend within reason or plan savings if you don’t know how your monthly spending compares to your take-home pay, or where that money is going. That is why you should make a list of your expenses – including debt payments, emergency fund contributions, and other savings – rank them, and trim the fat, if necessary. Once you develop your budget, make sure to stick to it.

Build an emergency fund: With a safety net of cash to fall back on, you won’t be as likely to fall behind on your bills if you have emergency expenses or if you lose your job. Your goal should be to gradually save about a year’s worth of after-tax income. Set aside a small amount every month until you have a nice cushion.

Improve your credit: Improving your credit standing will have a positive impact on the cost of your debt. And reducing the cost of your debt will allow you to pay it off faster. Better credit can also make it easier to find a job or a place to live, which impacts your bottom line. There are a variety of websites where you can get your credit score for free and lots of websites that offer money on budgeting, saving, and retirement planning, including WalletHub, The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Clark Howard, Money Crashers, and MoneyWise.

Take a look at the Island Approach and figure out whether it would work for you: The Island Approach is a strategy that involves using a collection of credit cards, each with a special purpose. For example, you could transfer your existing debt to a 0 percent balance transfer credit card to save on finance charges and get out of debt sooner. And you could use a rewards card or two – maybe one with travel rewards and one with cashback, or perhaps a store credit card – for purchases that you’ll be able to pay off by the end of the month. This will let you get the best possible set of terms. However, you have to carefully monitor the Island Approach or it could backfire on you. Your 0 percent balance could expire or you could miss making your monthly payment on a retail credit card, then you’d be hit with big payments and fees.

Repay your most expensive debt first: Most people with serious credit card debt have many balances. If that’s you, try the “avalanche method.” That means putting the majority of your monthly debt payment toward the balance with the highest interest rate and making the minimum payment on the rest. Once your most expensive debt is paid off, repeat the process until you’re debt-free.

Evaluate your job situation: Sometimes, budgeting and planning won’t be enough to solve your debt problems. You may need to look at whether higher-paying opportunities are available for people with your background or consider acquiring some new skills so you can make more money. This may require an investment in yourself, but as long as you get a worthwhile return, it’s money well spent.


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