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Paying down your holiday credit card debt is not impossible

With March finally here and warmer days ahead, the last thing on your mind is probably the holiday season. That is right until you open your monthly credit card statement.

According to data from the Federal Reserve, the amount of outstanding credit card debt in the U.S. jumped by an astounding $29.2 billion from November to December 2014. To help put his in perspective, consider that the amount of outstanding credit card debt increased by only $8.2 billion from October to November 2014.

While many who incurred significant credit card debt over the holidays are likely doing their best to reduce their balance one minimum monthly payment at a time, experts are now urging them to reconsider this approach.

The reason?

Paying off a credit card balance using smaller payments means it will take that much longer to pay the balance off, such that you could theoretically still be making payments on the 2014 holiday season when the 2015 holiday season is just getting started. More importantly, they argue that this approach will lead to the accrual of more costly compound interest.

What then can people do to responsibly increase their monthly credit card payments?

Experts urge them to utilize any one of the available online credit card payoff calculators that enable users to enter various figures to see how long it would take to get their credit card debt paid off.

Once they've identified an amount they are comfortable paying, experts urge them to create a plan of attack -- i.e., start paying off the smallest balance first or the balance with the highest APR -- and stick to it.

While this is indeed helpful advice, it's important to understand that there are many for whom this is not an option, as their credit card debt has simply spiraled out of control due to unforeseen circumstances such as divorce, job loss or prolonged illness. It's important for people faced with these seemingly insurmountable debt levels to understand that bankruptcy may be able to provide them with a fresh start.

Source: CBS Money Watch, "Still paying off holiday debt? How to make a plan," Christine DiGangi, March 5, 2014

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