How to Pay Over $10k in Credit Card Debt on a Limited Income

profile Erin Bruehl  |  September 27, 2022

Paying off debt is a great way to save money in the long term while moving toward a budget with more breathing room and fewer monthly bills. But when people see a total debt amount of $10,000 or higher when they’re on a limited income, their first thought might be, “That’s not even possible!”

The good news is that it absolutely is possible even if you are on a limited income.

The simplest way to accomplish this is to:

  • Know what you owe and gather all your credit card debt info.
  • Make that number as small as possible by limiting growth due to accumulating interest.
  • Make room in the budget to put payments toward the credit card debt.
  • Apply the snowball method of debt repayment until it’s all gone.

Here’s how you do that, step by step.

Transfer Amounts From Cards With High Interest Rates to Cards With Lower Interest Rates

Your $10,000 in credit card debt will continue to accrue interest as you work through paying it off. Over time, you’ll end up paying much more than $10,000 once you factor in interest accumulation over time.

One way to cut down on this steady growth of debt is to find out whether or not you can transfer the higher interest rate balances to the cards with lower interest rates. To get started, list how much you owe on each card, the average monthly payment for each, how much available credit you have on each card, and the interest rate for each one.

Take a look at how much open credit is available on the lowest interest rate cards. See if you can transfer all or some of the balance of one or more cards with higher interest rates to cards with lower interest rates if it’s going to take you some time to work through the payments. Especially if you are over your limit on an account, it will help you to avoid getting more fees that will slow your overall progress.

Though it may be tempting to try to open a new credit card and transfer as many of the old cards to the new card, it is not easy to get a new card when you have a limited income and high credit card debt, especially one that will offer low transfer fees. In most cases, the best option is to work with what you have and move as quickly through your debt payoff process as you can.

Know What You Owe

In addition to knowing what you owe across all your credit cards, it’s important to know what else you owe and where your money is going each month. To that end, it’s key to build a simple budget that is as detailed as possible and that you will update throughout every month so you always know how much money you have and where it’s going.

Here are a few tips to make that happen:

  • Get specific. For example, instead of having a line in your budget for “utilities,” have separate lines for the power bill, the gas bill, the trash bill, and the water bill. This will help you to see exactly what expenses can be trimmed.
  • Don’t leave anything out. If you pulled $20 out of the bank and spent $8 on a sandwich, gave $2 in tooth fairy money to your kid, and spent $10 on shampoo and conditioner, then each of those goes into its own category rather than just noting that $20 went out the door as cash.
  • Write down where every dollar goes. The more detailed you are, the better able you will be to ensure that every dollar spent is intentional.
  • Commit to tracking your budget all the way through your debt payoff process and beyond. Emergencies arise, as do unexpected bills. If you have irregular paychecks, it’s even more important to make sure that you are on top of your spending so you don’t create more debt.

Slash That Budget

Now that you’ve slowed the growth of your credit card debt by consolidating high-interest cards with low-interest cards, it’s time to get creative and start finding more money for your credit card bill payoff in your current budget.

Here are some of the easiest places to find money in your budget that you can use to pay off credit card debt:

  • Trim the fat. Do you have subscriptions to multiple apps, cable, or other monthly entertainment subscriptions? Time to put those on pause. Do you tend to buy new clothes every month? It’s time to stop that for a while.

    Notice what is absolutely necessary in your budget and what isn’t. The more you cut out, the faster you’ll pay off your credit card debt and the more quickly you’ll have a budget free of credit card payments.
  • Consider pausing savings. If you regularly put money in a savings account or toward retirement, such as by using Current’s Savings Pods, consider pausing your savings so you can make more progress on your goal to pay off your credit card debt.
  • Reduce eating out. Eating out is far too expensive to justify, even if you’re in a rush in the mornings or on your way home. Choose some healthy recipes, cook batches of food in advance, and make sure you always have a healthy snack or meal available to bring with you to work or when you’re tempted to order food.
  • Decrease your food budget. In general, food is one of the largest bills we have after rent. Junk food, processed foods, and individual meals are very expensive. You can save a ton of money by buying ingredients, making meals, and cutting out all processed foods.
  • Energy-proof your home. If your utility bills are high, it’s worth it to find ways to energy-proof your home. If you make a concerted effort to limit your use of air conditioning or heat, turn off lights, and unplug appliances so they aren’t sucking power 24/7 even when they aren’t on, you could save some money.
  • Consider downsizing. If your rent payment is high, it may be worth it to consider moving to a more economical location or take on a roommate. Cutting back on rental costs and associated utilities can move you toward your goal much faster. The longer you do this, the more you can put toward paying off your $10k in credit card debt.

Find Extra Money

Once you’ve made the most of the money you’re making, it’s time to find ways to bulk up the amount of cash you can throw on top of the minimum payments on credit cards to pay down your debt faster. If you’re on a limited income, a little extra cash can go a long way.

Here are some ways to pick up some extra cash quickly so you can pay off credit card debt faster:

  • Sell things you no longer need online. From clothes you no longer wear to books, knickknacks, and household items, you can find a buyer through local Facebook groups, eBay, and other online consignment sites.
  • Get into the gig economy. Become a driver for food delivery or ride share services, and make some extra money on the side when you have time.
  • Offer your services to neighbors. Does someone you know need childcare, a dog walker, or a house cleaner? Offer to provide those services and get paid.
  • Start a side hustle. Is there something you’re known for that people always ask you how to do? Are you great at doing nails, housetraining dogs, or helping cranky kids fall asleep? If so, you might be able to hold a workshop online or create a course that will help people master the skill. In the process, you can generate some cash.
  • Earn cash by using the Current debit card. For all the purchases you have to make while you are paying off your credit card, use the Current debit card and get 15x points that can all turn into cash you can use for debt payoff.

Begin the Snowball Method

This is the easy part. It’s time to start the snowball method. Pay the minimum payment toward all of your credit cards and pay your monthly bills. Then, put everything extra you have after your budget cuts toward the smallest credit card bill you have.

When that is paid off, put the minimum payment you used to pay that smallest card bill with the minimum payment for the second smallest credit card bill. Then, add on everything extra until it is also gone.

Your payments will “snowball,” getting larger and larger until everything is paid off and you have extra room in your monthly budget.

Current Can Help You Reach Your Debt Payoff Goals Faster

Even if you have a limited income, you can pay off over $10k in credit card debt if you approach the situation carefully. It might take you a bit longer than if you made more money, but it’s possible.

Current offers a number of financial resources. You can get your paycheck up to two days faster with direct deposit, earn points on purchases you can redeem for cash back, create budgets and earn 4.00% APY on the money in your Savings Pods. Find out how Current can help you speed up your road to being debt-free.


Figuring Out These Three Budget Numbers Will Help You Pay Off Debt and Save More for Retirement in 2022. (December 2021). CNBC.

How to Pay Off Debt. (February 2022). Ramsey Solutions.

Why Your Credit Card's Available Credit Is Important. (October 2021). The Balance.

Creating a Budget. Bank of America.

5 Ways to Consolidate Credit Card Debt. (August 2021). NerdWallet.

32 Proven Ways to Make Money Fast. Entrepreneur.

How to Use Debt Snowball to Pay Off Debt. (December 2021). NerdWallet.

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