Paying Off Credit Cards

September 29th, 2008, byMichelle Singletary

Q: I finally came clean with my husband when I told him that I have several credit cards that he knows nothing about. He is an over-the-road truck driver, and he always sends money home for the expenses. Okay, I have learned my lesson. I have listed all of the credit cards that I have. I need to start paying them off, then cutting them up. How do I begin? Do you have a how-to book that can help me? I get panicky every time I look at this list.

–Deborah from Philadelphia

A: First, good for you for choosing your marriage and honesty over continuing your deception. And I assume your husband handled the news well and is willing to forgive you.

So now the hard part begins. There are a number of ways you can pay down this debt. Some might suggest you list all your debts starting with the credit card with the highest interest rate. Although the math works this way, I like a different method. It’s more commonly known as the snowball method.

List your debts, starting with the credit card with the lowest balance. For example, let’s say you have the following credit card balances:

  • Card A: $5,000
  • Card B: $1,000
  • Card C: $2,500
  • Card D: $700

To begin paying off this debt, this is how the debts should be listed:

  • Card D: $700
  • Card B: $1,000
  • Card C: $2,500
  • Card A: $5,000

I want you to ignore the interest charged on the cards. Instead, right away, throw all the extra money you can find (by either cutting your expenses or getting a job or a second job) and pay off Card D as fast as you can.


Psychologically, you get a tremendous boost by getting rid of one of the cards. Right away you feel a sense of accomplishment. Often, people fail on debt repayment plans because they don’t see much progress at first. They get discouraged and then just quit.

Now, while you are making payments on Card D, make the minimum payments on the other cards. You do this because you want to put all the extra money on Card D so you can pay it off quickly.

Once you pay off Card D, take the money you were throwing at the card and put it on Card B�and so on, until all the cards are paid off.

If you do this right, it won’t matter that you may be leaving the card with the highest interest rate last. You’ll be attacking the debt so quickly you will reduce the interest charges anyway.

As for a how-to book, I would recommend Spend Well, Live Rich, by yours truly. My book will give you the motivation, with lots of humor and personal stories, to get rid of this debt.

And, the day you pay off the last credit card, cook a great dinner for your husband and give him lots of good loving when he comes home from the road.

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Last modified: April 26, 2011 at 10:59 am