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Unless you're a professional athlete, cardiac surgeon or industrial magnate, you know that $15,000 is nothing to sneeze at. It takes the average American at least three months to earn $15,000. If you owe this much money to your credit card lenders or other unsecured creditors, you're probably sick of feeling trapped in a cycle of debt. Fortunately, you can plan your escape without radically altering your lifestyle.
If $15,000 feels like a lot of money to you, the idea of paying off such a debt burden in a single year might seem downright impossible. After all, you're probably barely making ends meet as it is. Siphoning hundreds or thousands of dollars from your household budget into a debt repayment plan each month might seem crazy.
Before you begin your year-long quest to pay off $15,000 in credit card debt, take a moment to assess your situation. In order to make your plan feasible, you'll need to do several things at once. As with any prudent investment, these things will require a sizable commitment of time, energy and discipline.
For starters, you'll need to trim the fat out of your household budget. You can accomplish this in any number of ways. The path of least resistance may involve reducing the amount that you spend at the grocery store and controlling your utility costs.
To do the former, conduct your next weekly shopping trip as usual. When you get home, take a look at your receipt and determine exactly how much you've spent on brand-name items that have perfectly adequate generic analogs. For instance, you may have spent an extra dollar per box of brand-name pasta. If you bought four boxes for the week, you would have unnecessarily deprived yourself of $4.
On subsequent shopping trips, take care to purchase generic pastas, breads, sauces and other staples. Chances are good that you'll notice the savings right away.
When it comes to reducing your utility costs, common sense rules the day. Be sure to unplug unnecessary appliances that aren't being used and turn off the lights in empty rooms. To save water, take shorter, cooler showers and run larger laundry loads. Depending upon the size of your family, you could save several hundred dollars per year by streamlining your home's utility outlays.
You may also need to find a steady stream of extra income. Even if you have a decent full-time job, it may not be enough to pay the bills. Consider taking on a part-time job in the weekends or evenings. Even an unglamorous position at a local department store or call center might net you an extra $150 or $200 per week. Over time, this inflow could provide a sizable boost to your bottom line.
In addition to your new-found second-job income, you may need to find some novel ways to earn extra spending money. If you live near a college or university, sign up for a few research studies each month. These procedures typically aren't embarrassing or invasive and may require just an hour or two of your time. In return, you could receive $30, $50 or even $100 per study.
Alternatively, consider tackling some freelance or consulting work in your area of expertise. As long as this work doesn't conflict with your current job, this could turn into a permanent side gig.
Finally, you'll need to come up with a sensible method of paying down your existing credit card debts. This strategy could take many different forms. Many borrowers choose to follow Dave Ramsey's "debt snowball" strategy and pay down their smallest bills before tackling their larger obligations. Others prefer to pay off their high-interest debts as soon as possible. If it's employed correctly, this strategy could help you avoid paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest charges.
With a little bit of faith and a lot of hard work, you can pay off $15,000 in credit card debt in a single year. Using the strategies outlined above as well as your own well-placed ideas, you could turn the next 365 days into one of the most consequential years of your life.