If you’re struggling with how to pay off credit card debt, you’re not alone.

The trouble is, you’re probably not getting anywhere if you don’t give your debt picture a serious and disciplined review. As most of us know, when you’re carrying debt, the interest payments alone are enough to swallow up most of your budget. That can easily lead to a vicious cycle, whereby you end up putting more and more purchases onto your credit cards, driving up your principal and interest even more. Making headway can seem like pushing a boulder uphill.

“Acknowledging that you’ve got a debt disorder is the first step,” says Scott Smith, President of CreditRepair.com. “From here you can begin to draw up a plan of action (with a debt repayment plan focus) that will put you squarely in the driver’s seat – and not in the headlights of an oncoming financial pile-up.”

So let’s get to correcting the problem, as CreditRepair.com shows you how to create and maintain a debt management plan when it comes to debt.

Action Step #1: Convert yourself to using cash only, or at least just a debit card. Sure, this may seem crazy – or downright unworkable – at first. (But if it does, that’s a sure sign you’re becoming too dependent on your credit cards). Let’s face it, if you keep using plastic much of the time, you’re bound to wind up with more and more debt. Regardless of the convenience, making purchases with credit cards removes an important level of self-awareness and self-control in consumers. It’s all too easy to simply lose track of what you spend every day. Instead, make a pledge from now on to only buy what you can afford with the cash in your wallet – even though it means making do with less from time to time. The small sacrifices you make today will spell major relief in your financial future.

Action Step #2: Come up with an aggressive payment ‘plan of attack.’ Your goal should be to send in at least double the minimum payment on your credit cards every month. Again, this may seem painful at first. – but it’s absolutely crucial when it comes to reducing your overall debt. The interest on your cards is what’s beefing up your personal debt amount, so every bit you can shave off the principal helps. (Plus, the more money you’re sending into to your creditors, the less you’ll be tempted (or able) to spend on items or services you don’t really need. This may include cable TV, salon haircuts, or restaurant meals – but so be it. You can find creative ways to treat yourself without spending more money). A great way to help with this is to set up automatic payments through your bank. This way you don’t have to remember to write out the checks every month – and you’ll be sure you’re sending a consistent, prompt payment. You can also make payments more than one time a month – say, remitting $50 every two weeks, instead of $100 at the end of the month. This is a clever and effective way to reduce your monthly interest – since the average daily balance will be lower for half of each month). All of these tips add up to a long-term savings.

Action Step #3: Increase your income. Bringing in more revenue to your household is one fairly obvious way to help reduce and ultimately eliminate debts. You may not be in a position to request a promotion or raise (but you should never assume this without asking). Even a small uptick in your take-home salary can help make a dent in your debt principal. If your full-time gig simply can’t be changed or improved on, consider taking a second job to help you catch up with your bills. There are a multitude of part-time, evening or weekend opportunities – from catering to dog walking, landscaping, retail jobs and much more. (But if you do choose something in retail, make sure you’re not spending your paycheck before it arrives.)

Last-minute tips: If your debt has reached a crisis point and you can’t feasibly create a plan for yourself, it is time to seek professional help. You may not require a full-fledged debt management program, but establishing a simple plan with the help of a financial advisor can be extremely helpful when you’re feeling backed to the wall. An advisor may also be helpful when it comes to lowering interest rates or late fees, which you may not be comfortable with on your own.

So how to pay off credit debt? As with any other diet, a debt management plan implies a period of willing sacrifice and self-discipline, with the goal of reaching a desirable and worthwhile result. As with other diets, you may find yourself feeling frustrated, even ‘starved’ from time to time. The key is to remember what brought you to this place and why you wanted to change things. The peace of mind that comes from reducing your debt is a great feeling, so try it. Chances are, you’ll love it.

Posted in Finance