A lot of people spend money on their credit card without giving a second thought to the payments — until the statement comes at the end of the month. By that time you may not have the money to make the payment. This leads to late payments, late fees, and a diminishing credit score — no one wants that.

The good thing about getting into credit card debt when you’re young is you can recover from it, start over, and turn your financial life around. Learning from your mistakes is part of growing up and this includes learning how to manage your money responsibly.

If you have more credit card debt than you can handle take these three steps toward becoming debt free:

Leave the plastic at home
If your credit card is in your wallet then you may be tempted to use it — so just take it out. Leave your credit card at home to help avoid impulse purchases, keep your balances from increasing, and help your debt start to get paid off.

It’s very easy to tell yourself, “I’ll just use it this one time,” but we all know that one time leads to more spending, higher balances, and bigger monthly payments. Let’s avoid that. The first step toward becoming debt free is to stop spending. If you don’t have your credit card with you then you can’t use it.

Don’t apply for more credit cards
When you’re in debt and your credit card is maxed out, you may be tempted to apply for another credit card. It’s a bad choice, but a lot of people do it. Paying credit with credit is a vicious (and costly) cycle because it isn’t helping your debt get paid off, it’s just making your debt load bigger and costing more in interest charges.

The only way to pay off your debt is to stop accumulating debt. Welcome to step two. Stop spending and start living on less to help free up income and make payments on your credit card.

Set up affordable payments
One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to pay off debt is making payments they can’t afford. Very often people make large payments on their credit cards and don’t leave themselves enough money to live for the rest of the month. Then they end up using their credit cards again until their next paycheck. This is a bad habit.

Set up automatic payments on a frequency that coincides with your pay check. Credit card payments should be factored into your monthly budget as a fixed expense. If that means you need to make cuts in other expenses then so be it.

Voila! Now you’re on your way to becoming debt free in three easy steps.

 This article first appeared on  Check out the rest in this series on developing good money habits from the start!

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