By David Bakke
NEW YORK (Money Crashers) — Since recovering from more than $30,000 in personal debt, I've never understood why people continue to carry credit card balances. Paying interest on these balances is simply a major waste of money. The average credit card debt per person in the United States is more than $7,000 – and you simply can never become financially secure with such a high lingering credit card balance.
Paying off your balances is key, but it may be difficult to get started if you're tight on money. There are a number of easy ways to free up cash to pay off credit card debts, though:
1. Save on utility bills
By reducing your thermostat by at least three degrees, you can save up to 20% on your home energy bills. Turn off all lights and appliances when they're not in use, take shorter showers and wash only full loads of dishes and dirty clothes to save even more money.
2. Clip coupons
Believe it or not, those who partake in extreme couponing can save upward of 80% per grocery bill. Buy an extra copy or two of the Sunday paper to increase the amount of coupons you can collect. Then use them when your local grocer features a double coupon offer and increase your savings. Be sure to organize your coupons by expiration date to ensure you use them before they expire.
3. Cut back on monthly bills
There are multiple ways to trim your monthly bills. First, examine your cellphone bill, and swap your unlimited plan for an allotment of monthly minutes close to your actual usage. Cut back on your TV bill by reducing your channel package, and eliminate paid movie services. If you like to watch movies, subscribe to an affordable service such as Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, or Netflix instead. Reduce your Internet connection speed, and consider dropping your home telephone for a service such as MagicJack.
4. Save on purchases
Sign up for daily deal websites such as Groupon and LivingSocial. Monitor these sites for deals on products or services you actually need, refraining from frivolous purchases regardless of how good the deal is. Remember to redeem the deals you buy before they expire – otherwise it's simply wasted money.
5. Generate cash
Instead of scrolling through Facebook or watching TV, make some extra money in your spare time. Fill out online surveys to make extra cash at a website such as Pinecone Research, or gather up all the objects around the house that you no longer want or need and sell them via eBay or Amazon.
You can even start an actual side business. Identify one of your key talents, figure out a way to make money from it, and work hard to make it happen. Not only can you pay off your credit card debts, it may develop into a full-time gig for you.
While you are working to pay off your credit card debts, understand that any sacrifices you make will not last your entire life. You just need to cut back until your debts are paid off. Once you accomplished your goal, you will have plenty of extra money to spend as you wish. Or, better yet, you can set aside your newfound savings for retirement or your children's college fund.
What other ways can you think of to free up cash to pay off credit card debt?
David Bakke is a contributor to Money Crashers, an online resource dedicated to personal finance education including topics such as frugality, money management, investing and retirement.