Sign up for our FREE Monthly Email Newsletter
In addition to keeping in the financial know, you may be interested in checking your credit score and report.
¹The credit scores provided under the offers described here use the Equifax Credit Score, which is a proprietary credit model developed by Equifax. The Equifax Credit Score and 3-Bureau scores are each based on the Equifax Credit Score model, but calculated using the information in your Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit files. The Equifax Credit Score is intended for your own educational use. It is also commercially available to third parties along with numerous other credit scores and models in the marketplace. Please keep in mind third parties are likely to use a different score when evaluating your creditworthiness. Also, third parties will take into consideration items other than your credit score or information found in your credit file, such as your income.
²The Automatic Fraud Alert feature is made available to consumers by Equifax Information Services LLC and fulfilled on its behalf by Equifax Consumer Services LLC.
³Equifax Credit Report Control™ is only available while you have a current subscription to Equifax Complete Premier. Locking your credit file with Equifax Credit Report Control will prevent access to your Equifax credit file by certain third parties, such as credit grantors or other companies and agencies. Credit Report Control will not prevent access to your credit file at any other credit reporting agency, and will not prevent access to your Equifax credit file by companies like Equifax Personal Solutions which provide you with access to your credit report or credit score or monitor your credit file; Federal, state and local government agencies; companies reviewing your application for employment; companies that have a current account or relationship with you, and collection agencies acting on behalf of those whom you owe; for fraud detection and prevention purposes; and companies that wish to make pre-approved offers of credit or insurance to you. To opt out of such pre-approved offers, visit www.optoutprescreen.com/.
4We will require you to provide your payment information when you sign up and we will immediately charge your card $4.95. After that, we will charge the card $19.95 for each month you continue your subscription. You may cancel at any time; however, we do not provide partial month refunds.
Equifax® is a registered trademark and Equifax Complete™ Premier is a trademark of Equifax, Inc. © 2014, Equifax Inc., Atlanta, Georgia. All rights reserved.
I knew a person who came from extremely humble beginnings. Growing up, he didn’t have that much. Kids made fun of the clothes he wore, and when he got into high school he worked evenings and weekends just to have a little spending money. Neither of his parents had a college degree, so education wasn’t much of a priority. He graduated from high school and decided to join the Army.
This was the first time he saw real money. He took home about $700 every two weeks. His clothes, housing, and food were paid for by the military, but he had trouble saving money and would always find himself with nothing in the bank. After about a year in the Army, he got his first credit card. Before his signature on the back of the credit card was dry, he’d maxed it out.
Even though he lived paycheck to paycheck with a maxed out credit card and no money in savings, he was promoted to private first class. A higher rank meant a higher salary, which gave him the opportunity to get another credit card—and he soon maxed that out.
You might be thinking that he would eventually catch on, but the cycle continued to repeat. He would get promoted, make more money, get more credit, and max out his credit cards. As long as he could make the minimum payments, he thought had a handle on his debt. He would always tell himself that the next time he got promoted, he would have more money to pay off credit card debt.
I’m sorry to say that after 12 years in the Army, he left with $32,000 in credit card debt. I’m even sorrier to tell you that this person was me.
I know what it feels like to live paycheck to paycheck and have nothing in savings, a poor credit score, and a mountain of debt. I want to let you know that there is hope if you can follow these four steps:
1. Admit there is a problem. I thought that because my friends had debt, it was OK for me to have debt, too. I had to admit that I had a spending problem—I spent more than I earned. Nobody likes to admit that he or she has a problem, but you have to take responsibility in order for things to get better.
2. Start spending less. What helped me curb my spending was keeping a spending journal. In it, I wrote down exactly where, what, and how much I was spending each day. After doing that for a few weeks, I started keeping more money in my pocket.
3. Build your savings. It might not make a lot of sense, but the only way I was able to get out of debt was to build up my savings. When I first started saving, I would have to use my credit card when an emergency came up. After I built my savings and those emergencies reared their ugly head, I was able to take care of them without resorting to credit cards.
4. Make a plan and be flexible. That’s not a mistake. Don’t make a plan and then stick to it no matter what. There were times I felt I would never be able to pay off all of my debt because things would happen and throw me off track. I had to be flexible and adjust my plan.
What worked for me was making minimum payments on my debts with the lowest interest rates, and paying more towards the cards with the higher interest rates. You could also start by paying off the card with the lowest balance and working up from there. The only wrong way to approach paying off your debt is to not have a plan at all.
Steve Repak is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, CFP® Board Ambassador, and financial literacy speaker. He is also an Army veteran and the author of Dollars & Uncommon Sense: Basic Training For Your Money. Follow him on Twitter: @SteveRepak
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.
Equifax maintains this interactive forum for education and information purposes in order to allow individuals to share their relevant knowledge and opinions with other members and visitors. We encourage you to participate in discussions about personal finance issues and other topics of interest to this community, but please read our commenting guidelines first. Equifax reserves the right to monitor postings to the forum and comments will be published at our discretion. Do you have questions or comments about your Equifax credit report or customer-service issues regarding an Equifax product? If so, please contact Equifax directly. All opinions and information expressed or shared in blog comments are solely those of the person submitting the comments, and don't necessarily represent the views of Equifax or its management.