This 18-Day Challenge Is Perfect for People With $5K or More in Credit Card Debt

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If you have credit card debt, you know. The high interest rates, the constant anxiety, the feeling you’ll never escape…

But today’s the day that’s all going to change. It’s time to finally pay off your credit card debt and live your life with a little less money stress by committing to this 18-day debt payoff challenge.

You ready? Follow these steps to finally conquer your credit card debt:

Day 1: Freeze Your Credit Cards

No, we’re serious. Literally freeze your credit cards.

If you want to get serious about paying off your credit card debt, you’ll want to stop using your cards — at least until you can pay down your balance and temper your spending.

So grab a container from your cupboard, fill it with water, drop your credit cards in, and pop it in the freezer. No more spending temptations. Now you’re ready to get serious.

Day 2: Know What You Owe and Prioritize Your Debt

One of the toughest parts about paying down your debt is simply knowing where to begin. Which of your credit cards has a balance? Carries the highest interest rate? Has the highest minimum monthly payment?

That’s where a free website like Credit Sesame can help. It takes 90 seconds to sign up and access your free credit score. From there, Credit Sesame will outline your debt — exactly what you owe and to whom — and offer personalized recommendations. It’ll even break down the interest rates and minimum monthly payments.

Armed with this intel, you’ll be able to more easily devise your payoff plan. Do you want to use the debt avalanche method, where you’ll pay off the cards with the highest interest rates first? Or maybe you prefer the debt snowball method, where you start with the smallest balances first.

You can continue to use Credit Sesame to keep track of your progress and hold yourself accountable throughout this challenge. And, hey, it’ll be kind of fun watching your credit score react to all your hard work!

It takes just 90 seconds to get started with Credit Sesame.

Day 3: Ask This Website to Help Pay Your Credit Card Bills This Month

The truth is, your credit card companies are probably ripping you off with high interest rates. This is likely what’s held you back from making any real payoff progress in the past.

But today things are about to change, because a website called Fiona wants to help.

If you owe your credit card companies $100,000 or less, Fiona will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month (much more manageable). And because personal loans have lower interest rates, you’ll get out of debt that much faster.

Plus: No credit card payment this month.

Fiona won’t make you stand in line or call your bank, either. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could help you pay off your debt years faster.

Days 4-5: Build a Sustainable Budget

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Now it’s time to build yourself a budget. We’re giving you two days for this because we get it: This can be overwhelming.

Oh, yes, we hear your groaning from here, but budgeting is an integral part to paying off your credit card debt, and it’ll help you accomplish your financial goals. Plus, it doesn’t have to be that difficult.

We suggest using the 50/20/30 budgeting method. It’s easy and offers a lot of flexibility. Here’s what it looks like:

  • 50% of your monthly income goes toward living expenses. These include rent, mortgage, utilities, groceries, car payments, gas and loan payments.
  • 20% of your monthly income goes toward money goals, which can include investments, savings and debt-reduction payments above the minimum amount.
  • 30% of your monthly income goes toward personal spending. That’s everything else.

Because you want to pay off your credit card debt, you’ll want to focus on building your minimum payments into that 50% category. Then any additional efforts will get wrapped into the money goals category.

If you’re struggling to make your expenses fit perfectly into each category, feel free to adjust the proportions. Like we said, this is super flexible, so use it to suit your needs and hit your goals.

Day 6: Get Paid up to $80/Month — Just for Sharing Your Opinion 

Whew, you’re making good progress so far! We know this isn’t always the easiest, so give yourself a little break today. You deserve it, and the last thing you want to do is burn yourself out.

While you’re posted up on the couch and watching the latest Netflix comedy special, go ahead and earn some extra money in your downtime.

It could earn you up to $80 a month. Seriously.

There are a bunch of paid survey sites out there, but one of the best we’ve found is Survey Junkie.

They’ll ask you questions about things like, what kind of laundry detergent you use, or if you prefer Pepsi or Coke. You get points for answering, and many people accumulate enough points to request a check within a few hours.

More than 10 million people already use Survey Junkie, and it has 4.5/5 stars on TrustPilot.

Give it a try by visiting Survey Junkie and clicking the “Join Now” button. It’s free.

Day 7: Stop Wasting Money on Your Monthly Bills

With a budget in place, you’ll be able to take a good look at your recurring monthly bills. Where can you save money? To get started, one of the simplest — and most impactful — expenses you can cut is car insurance.

If you really want to get the best price on car insurance, experts say you should be shopping twice a year. But who has time to do all that?

If it’s been more than six months since your last car insurance quote, you should look again.

Use a website called EverQuote to see all your options at once.

EverQuote is the largest online marketplace for insurance in the US, so you’ll get the top options from more than 175 different carriers handed right to you.

Take a couple of minutes to answer some questions about yourself and your driving record. With this information, EverQuote will be able to give you the top recommendations for car insurance. In just a few minutes, you could save up to $610 a year.

Day 8: Swap Your Grocery Receipts For Free Gift Cards

Paying off your debt doesn’t always require grand gestures. Every little bit counts.

A free app called Fetch Rewards will actually turn your grocery receipts into gift cards. It partners with tons of brands to give you points for every grocery receipt you share. Then you can exchange them for gift cards.

All you have to do is send Fetch a photo of your receipt (from any grocery store), and it does everything for you. No scanning barcodes or searching for offers.

When you download the app, use the code PENNY to automatically earn 2,000 points when you scan your first receipt. Then start snapping photos of your recent receipts to see how many points you can earn without a single trip to the store.

Not so bad for a useless receipt, right? These gift cards can help offset some of your other spending so you can focus on paying off your debt.

Days 9-16: Commit to a “No Spend” Challenge

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You’re making good progress so far! Now it’s time to really pour fuel on this fire by committing to a week of no spending.

That means you won’t spend any money on nonessentials this next week. Definitely still pay rent, your utilities — all those responsible grown-up bills — but don’t spend anything on entertainment, clothes or dining out.

Yes, this will be difficult, and you will face temptations. But this is a great way to reset your spending habits and save up some extra money to put toward your debt.

If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can go for a full month, like personal finance writer Jamie Cattanach. She committed to a No Spend November, to help tame some of her holiday spending. When Cattanach finished her challenge, she saved more than $600. Not bad, right?

Day 17: Find Out If You’re Overpaying

Wouldn’t it be nice if you got an alert when you’re shopping online at Target and are about to overpay?

That’s exactly what this free service does.

Just add it to your browser for free, and before you check out, it’ll check other websites, including Walmart, eBay and others to see if your item is available for cheaper.* Plus, you can get coupon codes, set up price-drop alerts and even see the item’s price history.

Let’s say you’re shopping for a new TV, and you assume you’ve found the best price. Here’s when you’ll get a pop up letting you know if that exact TV is available elsewhere for cheaper. If there are any available coupon codes, they’ll also automatically be applied to your order.

In the last year, this has saved people $160 million.

You can get started in just a few clicks to see if you’re overpaying online.

Day 18: Keep It Going!

Whew! You’ve almost completed the challenge. How are you feeling? You should be proud of yourself for committing to pay off your debt.

Now that you’re done, the key is to keep it going. While you celebrate today, think about how you’d like to keep yourself accountable and on track. Here are a couple ideas we have:

  • Start bullet-journaling. If you’re crafty and creative, this hobby can be a major stress-reliever — and it can help you stay on track and visualize your debt-payoff progress. You can track your spending, your savings and your debt. If you’re curious what this will look like, do a quick Pinterest search.
  • Set up a rewards system. We all need some motivation, so each time you pay off a credit card or a specific amount of debt, reward yourself. Treat yourself to dinner out, or give yourself a day off and go to the beach or park. Heck, it could be as simple as pouring yourself a glass of wine and indulging in reality TV. Do whatever motivates you (but doesn’t drain your bank account).

The key to long-term success is to not burn out, so be nice to yourself and celebrate even the smallest wins. Just think about how good it’ll feel when you pay off that final credit card balance!

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s rooting for you!

*Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the extension using the links provided.