New Year’s resolutions to help trim your credit card debt

By Gregory Bresiger

You've made New Year's resolutions to stop smoking or eat less or possibly go to the gym on a regular basis.

A few sensible personal-finance resolutions could be to your benefit as well, financial pros emphasize, especially a vow to keep debt — particularly card debt — under control.

In 2015, suggests Bill Hardekopf, CEO of LowCards.com, resolve to charge only what you can pay for each month.

"If you have gotten into the habit of charging more than you can afford," he says, "now is the time to change." Paying off card debt each month, Hardekopf adds, "will help you avoid debt and maintain a higher credit score over time."

And paying off bills each month, card pros say, will generate a bigger source of income for you. That's because you'll get more rewards points and receive more offers from card companies hungry for your business.

Unable to pay off debts each month because you are deep in credit-card hell? Then resolve to escape from hell as soon as possible.

"Have a plan to pay for your debts as soon as possible. Consider getting lower interest rates by refinancing your mortgage or consolidating your loans," says Nicole Mayer, an adviser and accredited investment fiduciary with RPG-Life Transition Specialists in Riverwoods, Ill.

"First, pay off the cards with the highest interest rates," adds Charles Hughes, an adviser with his own firm in Bay Shore, NY. Hughes also counsels clients to build up emergency savings because he is fearful of a possible recession.

Mayer warns that, without a plan, it is easy to fall into bad spending habits. She believes most cardholders would benefit from reviewing a year-end summary of card spending.

Advisers also say 2015 is a good time to put automatic savings vehicles in place.

"It's very easy to call up and tell your 401(k) administrator that you want to add an extra percent or two to your retirement-plan contributions. It can make a big difference, and you will hardly feel it in your take-home pay," Mayer notes.

Advisers also say to have a consistent investment strategy.

"Don't jump in and out of investments, trying to chase the latest hot fund," says Queens-based adviser Ray Mignone, adding that too much trading leads to superfluous transaction charges.