Most Americans will admit that carrying debt is stressful under any circumstance. Whether it is a loan that you signed for or making purchases on a credit card, debts must be paid pack even if you lose your job or are unable to make a living due to an illness, accident, or a life-changing experience such as having a child, getting a divorce, or the death of a spouse.

However, it is not uncommon to get into credit card debt as a consequence of excessive spending during a holiday or vacation, especially during Xmas. Then when you get back into your daily routine, the bills start to pile, and you get slapped in the face. Don’t give up, credit card debt relief is possible. You can be out of debt in no time at all if you put your mind and muscle to it.

You must make a call to action to yourself and your lifestyle, first of all. So if you’re ready for credit card debt relief here are some simple steps you can take to ease your way out of debt into financial freedom. Ready?

1. Don’t borrow any more money

It may seem a simple enough decision to make, but that’s not always the case. Believe it or not, when some people find themselves in debt they borrow even more money. For example, they may max out one card and pay the minimum on that one while they max out another. Then, when both cards are maxed out, a third one may come in the mail to continue the cycle. If you use debt as a funding option for the lifestyle you want to have, chances are you will have to change your lifestyle if you’re going to get out of debt. Financing furniture, cars, vacations and eating out at the local gourmet will require increasing your income at the same rate that your expenses increase so you can pay the bills in full when you receive the statement. If you cannot pay them in full, then you need to consider putting more focus on living within your means.

2. Start and replenish Emergency funds

The amount you put away for emergency funds depends on how high your necessary cost of living is. It’s important to calculate how much money you need to live on every month so you can put aside funds for a rainy day and your retirement day. If you are not making payments towards this end before making charges to your credit card and you don’t have enough money to pay the credit card debt in full at the end of the month, then you should look at your lifestyle long and hard. Perhaps it’s time to decide which is more important, a debt-free life in which your wealth will grow over time, or being in the hole two out of every three months?

3. Budgeting – it does the money good

We’ve all heard about creating a budget and sticking to it, but most people don’t heed this advice and think they can spend as much as there is in the bank from one paycheck to the next. It may be due to lack of training and awareness. The truth is, that if you don’t budget, your money won’t go where you’d get the most out of it. Instead, you’ll end up wondering what you spent your money on each month. Alternatively, as is often the case, we hear people say, “where did all my money go?” If there were no emergency or retirement payments made from your paycheck to support you in times of illness or old age, how will you tread through those times? Does having the latest shoe style or eating at the best restaurant worth your peace of mind? Don’t think you’ll be able to become debt-free? Look around you. How many people do you see who probably didn’t either?

The trick to creating a budget and sticking to it is seeing if you have a deficit or a surplus. In other words, a budget will show whether you have enough money to pay all your bills and still lead the lifestyle you wish or if you don’t. Once you know exactly what your situation is, you can move on to the next phase of credit card relief, which is to increase your surplus or the amount of money left over after you pay all your bills each month.

· Earn extra cash – increase your revenue by making more sales or doing over-time at work. If that’s not possible, consider taking on a side job for a few months until you clear your way out of debt. Some people deliver pizza; others wash cars or paint houses on their days off. What’s important is that you set and meet a realistic deadline for paying off your debts.

· Cut your expenses – this can be done by tracking your expenditures. Once you have a clear view of how your money is allocated during the course of a month, sit down and analyze each of the items. Ask yourself these simple questions: “can I do without it?,” and “how can I make this number smaller?” Cancel services you don’t use regularly or do without them like a gym membership, cable, and video streaming subscriptions. Amenities are the crème of life, but a basic lifestyle also has its advantages. Check out books from the library and read the works from which movies and shows are created. Walk, jog, ride a bike, or do calisthenics in your neighborhood or with your family and make it a good habit.

Make your budget work for you. Substitute amenities with meaningful experiences and activities that cost less or nothing. My wife and I started walking and exercising with our children on a regular basis instead of going to the gym and taking turns watching the kids. Making this change worked for us twofold and we became a stronger family unit for it. So much so that when we paid off our debt, we continued to practice the same lifestyle we had adopted to become debt free.

4. Rank your debts

There are two ways of organizing your debt. One way is to start with the highest balance and go on until you get the smallest balance or amount you owe regardless of interest rate. The second way to organize your debts is called laddering, and it ranks your debt according to the interest rates you pay on them. You start with the one with the highest interest rate and continue to the lowest. Once you know which debts you are going to pay off first, you can decide on how long it will take you to get it done. What worked for us was to start paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first because these were smaller debts. It is often the case that mortgage loans and auto loans have a lower interest rate than credit card debt, but they are more considerable debts, to begin with. Once we paid off the first card, we gained the momentum we needed to become credit card debt free. We still had the mortgage and the auto loan to refinance for a lower interest rate. However, this took a little longer until our credit score rose and our lenders noticed the change. Stick to your plan, and you will succeed.

5. Don’t close your accounts

Don’t forget that you still have to pay at least the minimum payment due on the other credit card accounts as well as your mortgage and auto loans while your debt relief plan is in action. If you choose laddering, it will save you the most money in interest over time. However, once you finish paying off the credit card debt don’t close the account, or you’ll lose the positive points this will have on your credit score. Finally, if you get any extra cash, put it towards good use, make payments on your principal or balances on a loan. At the end of the day, you’ll be so glad you followed through and your credit scores will show it.