How to pay credit card debt faster

Ask the expert: How do I pay off my credit card debt faster?

Question: When I proposed to my fiancée on Valentine’s Day, she said yes — but I have to tackle $14,000 that’s on my credit cards. She pays off her credit cards every month and doesn’t want to go into our marriage with my debt weighing on her and our future family.

Of course I said, “Sure, honey, no problem.” Well, it’s a problem.

I’ve managed to cut the debt to around $12,000, but at this rate, I’m not going to pay it all off by our target wedding date of next summer. She’s cool with that, as long as I’m showing a lot of progress. Thing is, I’m not. What else can I do to pay this credit card debt faster?

— Gregory in Wisconsin

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

Howard Dvorkin on how to get out of debt fastFirst off, congratulations — and not on the wedding itself. Rather, I congratulate you on finding a financially responsible soul mate. According to a poll by divorce lawyers, 22 percent of married couples split over “financial issues.”

Your fiancée is wise to insist you conquer your debts before paying for a wedding and then a family. She also seems reasonable, since she’s willing to marry you without all your debts paid off, as long as you show significant progress.

If you’ve made one mistake, Gregory, it’s this: Paying off your credit cards often requires more than making bigger payments.

Why? Because with as much debt as you’re carrying, interest rates eat into the extra you’re paying. If you had only a few thousand dollars in credit card debt, I would simply recommend a zero-percent APR promotion financing offer, which would give you 18 months to really attack the problem. Regrettably, your debt is too large to really take advantage of that offer — at least based on the fact it’s taken you eight months to cut your debt by $2,000.

Instead, I’m going to recommend you explore credit counseling. Click the link to learn more. It’s free, and it allows you to talk to a certified professional about your options, including a debt management program.

Without more details, Gregory — like your credit score, your income, and other debts you may have — it’s impossible to give you more definitive advice here. However, I can tell you this: The secret to a great marriage is agreeing on the big issues like child-rearing and money. Then the disagreements over the littler issues, whether it’s what TV shows to watch or what to eat for dinner, become amusing.

I believe you’re on your way to a wonderful marriage, Gregory.

Have a debt question?

Email your question to editor@debt.com and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a  CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.

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