You might think it's a wise idea to use leftover cash, like a holiday bonus, to pay down your debt. But you also want to make sure you're setting aside extra money for things like an emergency savings account. "Don't put all extra funds toward debt. Doing so just leaves you in a place where you do not have any cash to cover an emergency. Having no cash for an emergency, say a car repair, means taking on more debt, perpetuating the problem," says Krista Cavalieri, a certified financial planner and owner of Evolve Capital, based in the Columbus, Ohio, area. Keep in mind, that additional money could be better spent on essential big-ticket items.
Be punished for missed payments: Not all late payments are created equally. If you are fewer than 30 days late, your missed payment will likely not be reported to the bureau (although you still will be subject to late fees and potential risk-based re-pricing, which can be very expensive). Once you are 30 days late, you will be reported to the credit bureau. The longer you go without paying, the bigger the impact on your score, ie: 60 days late is worse than 30 days late. A single missed payment (of 30 days or more) can still have a big impact on your score. It can take anywhere from 60 to 110 points off your score.
Next, estimate your monthly spending habits for other expenses such as gas, groceries and entertainment. Create a limit, based on your income, of what you can spend in each of the different categories of expenses. For example, if you tend to spend $400 a month on groceries, try to stick to $300 a month on groceries by making changes like buying generic brands, using coupons, and resisting impulse purchases.