Financial Spring Cleaning: 7 Money Moves to Make Now
2. Reduce Credit Card Debt
Upshot: $826 a year saved
In the early years of our marriage, Rob and I got a little giddy with plastic. The unsurprising result? $10,000 in credit card debt we're still trying to pay off.
Personal finance expert Liz Weston, author of The Ten Commandments of Money, told me that, after a long dry period, banks are offering 0 percent APR cards that charge only a 4 to 5 percent balance transfer fee and are good for as long as 21 months. But, she cautioned, people often think they will pay off the balance within the 0 percent window and then don't, leaving them either scrambling for another offer or accepting an exorbitant interest rate. She had me there: Back in 2008 I swore we'd be debt-free by the end of 2009. Then the economy tanked and saving suddenly seemed more important than paying off debt, especially since it was parked at 0 percent.
So Weston had another idea. "Take out a three-year personal loan from a credit union," she suggested. "You lock in the rate, which can be about the same as a transfer fee, and it's better for your credit score."
That appealed to me. We wound up with a 6 percent interest rate, but we're free of the vagaries of credit cards -- like suddenly jacked-up rates -- and with auto pay we'll still get the debt paid in 21 months. Yet we have breathing room if an emergency comes up and we have to extend the payoff period.
Bonus Resources: Creditcardguide.com has info on credit offers and deciphering fine print. Credit.com gives you a "soft" estimate of your credit rating without the request registering with credit agencies.