Melanie Tait is an award-winning playwright, journalist, author and radio-maker. She has worked for the ABC and has written for Guardian Australia, The Daily Telegraph and The Australian. Melanie curated the much-lauded live storytelling series Now Hear This, which she presented on ABC Radio Network for five years.
Melanie Tait tells her story for MLC Life Insurance
I couldn’t believe I’d done it again. After getting out of $30,000 of credit card debt when I sold my small Sydney apartment and moved to Hobart, only two years later I was in a black hole of credit card debt again.
This time, to the tune of $13,000.
I’d gone back into credit card debt by being careless with my money. Never looking at bank statements or checking my spending meant that I was buying expensive food, which meant my weight was increasing and I had to buy new expensive clothes. There was also interstate travel and I tore through three credit cards way too easily. With a reasonably paying full time job and a home, the banks loved giving me more cards.
The thing is: I don’t like the way being in debt feels, and I suspect none of us do. It feels as though there’s a cloud hanging over every life experience we have - from having dinner with your family to a night at the movies with friends. I didn’t want that anymore, and I also didn’t want to sell my house. So, I started looking around at the people in my life who didn’t have any debt and worked out how to pay it down.
I paid it down over about 8 months, and have lived easily without a credit card for the last two years.
1. Cut-up those cards and don’t reorder them
The first step is cutting up the cards, so you can’t use them. Also, delete them from your computer's memory. They’re dead to you. Don’t ever re-order them, they’re not worth it. I can tell you from experience there aren’t too many experiences as sweet as calling up the bank to close your credit card account.
2. Pay down those cards one at a time
Start with the smallest balance and pay it off. Once you’ve paid down the first card, there’ll be no stopping you. Rather than tackling all your debt at once, this is a sure fire way to maintain momentum and feel like you’re actually achieving something.
3. Every extra bit of money you have, it goes on paying down your debt
It’s time to buckle down and do everything you can to pay off that debt. Remember when you were a kid and you saved all your change for the latest footy cards, or a bike or a new dress? It’s just the same, except this time, you’re saving for your freedom. Any spare cash needs to go straight on that card. This is a tip I got from the Barefoot Investor book, and if you’re the one Australian who hasn’t read it, go find it, pronto!
4. Trim that fat
Where are you spending money you don’t need to? It’s a cliché, but are you buying a coffee or lunch each day at work? Scrap them. Start to love instant coffee and baked beans on toast. It’s going to be worth it when you’re free of debt, I promise.
5. Use your skills
We all have skills we don’t use that we can do extra work with on the weekend or in our spare time. Can you drive? Why not Uber a few hours a week to pay down the debt. Are you good with kids? Let your networks know you’re available to babysit. Do you have a spare bedroom you could Airbnb out? I paid the majority of my debt down by leasing out my spare bedroom in Hobart.
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