Slim Down Your Debt: Go On a Credit Card Diet

Experts say it takes motivation, perserverance to slash debt

Experts say some of the same rules for cutting calories also apply to consumers trying to cut credit card debt.

Angela Davis, of DeSoto, who owes more than $13,000, has vowed to go on a "credit card diet."

"I hit a skid in July, and I just could not catch up," Davis said. "I was paying the minimums, but, you know, I want to pay them off."

Davis is a teacher, and she said she plans to teach herself how to pay for things with cash.

Ken Clark, a certified financial planner and author, said Davis is on the right track.

'"The trick for Angela will be taking that motivation and putting it into a very practical -- not just theoretical -- but very practical action plan," he said.

Clark's first suggestion is to take the cards out of your wallet: Hide them, freeze them or cut them up if you have to.

Then start training yourself to always pay with cash, "whether they set aside money in an account for groceries, for regular variable expenses, or they keep it in an envelope in a kitchen drawer."

Davis has nine credit cards in all, with bills from Bill Me Later, Sears, Nordstrom, American Express and more. Some have interest rates as high as 29 percent.

"I'm telling you, I can't remember what I bought on these cards -- going out to eat, just frivolous, frivolous stuff," she said.

She has expensive shoes that she's worn only a few times, a $425 handbag she's only carried twice, signed art that she hasn't framed or hung up.

Clark's tips for a credit card diet are:

  1. Take the cards out of your wallet.
  2. Open an additional account with a debit card and overdraft protection.
  3. Deposit an "allowance" into the account for hard-to-control expenses.
  4. Look for coupons and deals to help stretch this balance out.
  5. Use leftover money in your main account to speed up your debt repayment.

Davis said she wants to have at least three cards paid off within six months.

"I think it's doable," she said. "But it's going to take a sacrifice."

Clark's book, "The Complete Idiots Guide to Getting Out of Debt," will be released on Feb. 3.

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