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Kick the debt habit

Last year was a financial nightmare for many Americans, but you can make up for it in 2009 by controlling your credit card debt.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN

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NEW YORK ( -- The year of 2008 was marked by massive 401(k) losses, more people out of work and more homes in foreclosure. But 2009 can be different for your wallet. Here's how to kick your debt habit.

1. Review your habits

Credit Card debt is one of the most costly out there. Our habits - like only paying the minimum amount each month can dig us deeper into debt.

For example: If you have a balance of $5,000 dollars and you only make the minimum monthly payment, it will take you 351 months to pay off that debt. And you will have paid over $6,500 in interest.

We're assuming the interest rate on this card is 14%. Now if you took that same beginning balance and made fixed payments of $120, you would have that debt wiped out in 58 months. Your interest savings: $4,600.00.

2. Don't charge it

Pay in cash when possible. A Report by Dun & Bradstreet indicates that shoppers spend 12% to 18% less when using cash.

3. Lower your interest rate

Don't be afraid to ask for a lower rate.

Here's when you stand a good chance of winning: Your APR is over 12%; you make timely payments for 6-12 months. Your rate was raised several times and balances are consistently less than 30% of limit.

Remember, people who call to negotiate a lower rate succeeded more than half the time. To top of page

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