How to Trick Yourself Into Paying Off Your Credit Card Debt

By Valencia Higuera, Contributor

Paying off credit card debt might be one of the best moves for your personal finances. This can improve your cash flow, giving you an opportunity to build an emergency fund or save for retirement. Plus paying off credit cards helps increase your credit score. 

But if you have huge credit card balances and live paycheck to paycheck, it can feel as if you'll never make headway.

As of 2015, American households carrying credit card debt have an average balance of $15,609, according to The Simple Dollar. From this data, you might conclude that credit card debt is simply a way of life. But just because some people live with massive debt doesn't mean you have to be a permanent member of this club. You have more power over your personal finances than you think. 

Paying off large debt is by no means easy, but if you change your mindset and adjust your approach, you can trick yourself into getting out of debt.   

How to Get Out of Credit Card Debt With Double Payments

Minimum payments are a trap to keep people indebted for as long as possible. Interest accrues every month you carry a balance on your credit cards. This increases how much you owe overall, and it makes your credit card company richer.

To pay down large balances faster, you should pay more than the minimum, so set a goal to double your minimum payments every month. This is a simple concept, yet it can be hard to drum up the extra cash. This is where a little trickery comes in handy. 

You might say you don't have enough cash to make higher credit card payments, but I'm willing to bet you spend money impulsively on at least a few items every month. This can be extra junk food tossed into your grocery cart or random $5 purchases at a convenience store. These purchases seem minor, but you're failing to realize that every impulse buy wastes money that could be used to increase your minimum payments and pay off debt sooner. 

So the next time you're about to spend impulsively, have a heart-to-heart with yourself. Think about your debt goals and ask yourself: Do I really need this item? This approach works because you're able to take a step back and think about what you're buying and perhaps realize the purchase is pointless. But don't just put the item back on the shelf and move on. Take the money you would have spent on this "almost" impulse buy and use it to pay down your credit card debt. 

Money-saving expert Andrea Woroch offered a practical suggestion for making this approach a part of your daily routine.

"If you feel the urge to buy a new pair of shoes or sunglasses, take a quick peek at your credit card debt by viewing your mobile app," she said. "This will remind you of your debt-free goals, and every time you seriously avoid an impulse purchase, make a payment in the amount that you would’ve spent on that item." This is an effective trick because you're able to make room in your budget for additional payments with very little effort.

Even if you only pay an extra $10 every month, you'll save on interest and pay off the debt quicker. According to an example provided by Bank of America, it can take more than 13 years to pay off a $1,500 credit card balance with an 18.00% annual percentage rate if you only pay a $37 minimum. But if you increase the payment by $10, you can pay off the card in less than four years.

You can also eat at your debt faster with biweekly payments. Some credit card companies charge interest daily, so increasing the frequency of your payments can reduce your average daily balance, resulting in fewer interest charges. For example, you can make minimum credit card payments on your due dates as normal and then submit additional payments every two weeks.

Reward Yourself for Hitting Payoff Milestones

Getting out of credit card debt takes willpower, which some of us lack. It takes willpower to cut up your credit cards and live off cash, and you need willpower to consistently make higher payments. If you haven't been successful with meeting your debt pay-off goals in the past, there's a simple way to boost your willpower. According to the American Psychological Association, you can build up self-control and reach goals by rewarding yourself for reaching milestones.

You might think you have to stop spending altogether to pay off credit card debt. But depriving yourself long-term can backfire. Obviously, you'll need to make sacrifices and cut some spending to get rid of credit card debt, but this doesn't imply never having fun or treating yourself. You might find it's easier to stay on course if you reward yourself with a free or low-cost activity or splurge for every $1,000, $500 or $250 of debt you pay off.

This approach is different because it strikes a healthy balance between saving and splurging, plus it reduces the risk of frugal fatigue, which can trigger overspending later. It's also effective because you're giving yourself an incentive to stick with a plan.

"Humans are emotional, not logical creatures," blogger Trey Henninger of DIYInvesting explained. "Even though logically, you don't need to splurge to pay off a debt faster, this small reward triggers the need you have for emotional fulfillment."

If you're paying off a $2,000 credit card, you might reward yourself for every $250 you knock off the balance. Maybe treat yourself to dinner after paying off the first $250, and then scheduling a mani-pedi after paying off an additional $250. 

"Small rewards are important in order to be successful in a hard task like paying off credit card debt," Henninger said. Just make sure it's an inexpensive splurge and you're paying with cash, not credit.

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This article originally appeared on How to Trick Yourself Into Paying Off Your Credit Card Debt