How To Dig Out Of Credit Card Debt

how to dig out of credit card debt

Ten years ago I was thousands of dollars in credit card debt and it was getting worse by the month. Spoiler alert: I not only got out from under it, I started building my savings. Here’s how.

In a (surprisingly fun) compliance meeting, the head of regulatory shared the following anecdote.

Compliance Dad: “I’ll never forget the time my daughter landed her first job out of college. She was so excited when she earned her first paycheck that she came home with this big Prada gym bag!”

Me: [Surprise face followed by grin slash attempting to imagine the bag…was it like that hot pink lulu bowling bag style I once had?! Was it a sleek black crossbody?!]

Everyone else: [groans]

Fellow Dad team member: “Yeah unless it has four wheels and a steering wheel, that’s not the kind of purchase you’re expecting her to come home with!”

Me: “Ah yes the paycheck purse! I remember my first paycheck shoes…” [Trails off fantasizing about the Stuart Weitzman floral suede lace-ups from 2006.]

Compliance Dad: “The next day she returned that big Prada gym bag and we had a serious, educational discussion about financial decisions.” 

Fellow Dad team member: “Yeah, financial literacy is not something they really teach in school.”

Me: “I know! I had never really learned about it and then I was suddenly thousands of dollars in credit card debit. I finally learned the hard way that you can’t spend money you don’t have!”

Compliance Dad: “That’s right!”

Me: “Soooo what color was the Prada bag???”

Everyone else: [laughter, groans]

Annnd Scene.


Obvs I was KIDDING wondering the color of the clearly fabulous Prada gym bag. But, being $1,000’s of dollars in credit card debt was no joke. Gratefully, a former bf taught me fiscal responsibility 101, perhaps the most important way to “stop the bleeding” when in financial trauma:

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How to Get Out of Credit Card Debt

  1. Do not spend money you do not have

I know, this seems obvious, but years ago for me, so was buying Stuart Weitzman floral suede lace-ups! If you HAVE to pay for electricity, rent/mortgage, car payment, food, then ask yourself do you really have money leftover for those amazing shoes? Which leads me to my second point.

  1. Create a budget

Figure out your take home pay. Determine your expenses (see above: electricity, rent/mortgage etc.) Ensure you can afford to live where you reside (read: avoid being house poor). Once you have a budget, become and remain aware of it to avoid spending money you do not have.

  1. Track every expenditure

Years ago, I had minimal awareness of where my money was going. There are many money management apps like Mint and these others to help you track your cash flow. Being an excel guru (nerd emoji with glasses) I prefer to go old school and track my spending in a spreadsheet. That’s right, with every swipe of my debit card at Trader Joe’s, Gas Stations, Yogurtology (if we are being honest here, and we are!), I request a receipt, place in my wallet, and at the end of the day or the next day, I enter my expenses. Like any nutrition log or diary, you can start to see the patterns right on the page. Racking up the receipts at Target? On what? Necessities or nice-to-haves? Spending hundreds at the salon? Can you paint your own nails every other week? Are there hair products that are good for you that you can purchase for less elsewhere? You get the pic: track the money, identify the patterns, and get real with yourself about necessities vs. wants and viable substitutes that will still meet your needs.

  1. Sell your sh!t

I will get to the point in a minute, but first, a story. I have this awesome best friend. Her hubs had to work the weekend of their huge neighborhood garage sale. She invited me to come over and hang out with her and bring my stuff to sell. It worked out beautifully: I made approx. $300, we each got to take water/washroom breaks while the other one watched the stuff. The clothes I didn’t unload, she advised me to “just put on Poshmark and sell”. I told her I had no clue how to do that (clearly she is wayyyy cooler than me), so instead of throwing my lulu’s in the already-bursting donations box, she offered to sell them on Posh for me. A week later, I awoke to a $48 PayPal email from her for my goods. What. That weekend I joined Poshmark and while to date I did purchase ONE THING (a $7 cute pink plaid flannel shirt because hey I’m moving to Wisconsin and having a flannel shirt is basically mandatory to cross the state line,) in the past couple of months I have earned hundreds of dollars in selling clothes I no longer need. #Minimalist (If you have a washer, then you really only need 5 workout tops. I know, you are shocked at this coming from Miss best dressed. Work with what you have. Even if it’s only 5 super cute workout tops).

  1. As long as you are happy, that is all that matters.

We are so materialistic, but it does not make us happy. What makes you happy? Is it something priceless like loving your family? Then spend your time on that. It’s free.

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Image credit: Simon Cunningham

Kelly Christiansen

A top columnist at MsCareerGirl, marketing guru Kelly Christiansen has 10+ years of strategic leadership experience and is a Senior Marketing Strategist on the Health Care team at Kahler Slater, an architecture firm in Wisconsin. An avid reader, runner, and recipe experimenter, you can follow Kelly on twitter @kellymc247

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