Strategies for Getting in the Black

January 17, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
With all the cuts and lost jobs, more people are focusing on saving money and paying off their debt. Credit card debt in the U.S. is a staggering $850-billion dollars. Consumer Reports money adviser Amanda Walker said now more than ever you need to put the brakes on credit card spending. "The best way to protect yourself in tough economic times is to bulk up your savings and pay off your debts."

Your first move, pull together all your credit card statements. And get out the bills for other non-tax-deductible loans like your car loan. Make a list of what you're being charged every month in interest and other fees from the most money to the least.

"It can be confusing if you've got balance transfer fees, cash advance fees on your credit card as well as your regular charges. You want to check the finance charges box to get the total," said Walker.

Consumer Reports said once you've prioritized your debt, make the bulk of your payments to the one that's costing you the most. And, says consumer reports, don't rush to pay off mortgages or a home equity line of credit because these are usually low interest and tax deductible.

And one move that can help you save some money, call and ask your credit card company to lower your interest rate. "In a survey we found that more than 50 percent of people that called their credit card company to get their interest rate lowered were successful. It can help if you let them know you're thinking of transferring your card balance to another company," said Walker.

Paying less interest on your credit card and eliminating your most-expensive debt first can add up to money saved.

If you need more help whittling down your expenses, many software programs offer free budget worksheets online. Consumer Reports found helpful ones from Microsoft, as well as from betterbudgeting.com, and todaysseniors.com.



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