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In November 2017, Americans’ outstanding credit card debt increased by over $11 billion, officially surpassing $1 trillion in total. Although this record high may indicate that consumer confidence is rising in the United States, it could be a warning sign of a major financial issue down the road.

It is no secret that a high debt-to-income ratio places a massive amount of stress on American households, especially if the family’s income is unpredictable. Additionally, such a large outstanding balance increases the possibility of credit card delinquencies — which have already risen from 7 percent to 7.5 percent since the beginning of 2017.

Such negligence is also a telltale sign of compulsory spending habits and an overall disinterest in one’s own credit history — a conclusion that is drawn from the fact 91 percent of Americans were unaware of their credit score. Additionally, many credit card holders are unaware of just how their score is calculated — through the evaluation of their payment history, debt amount, mix of credit types, new credit, and overall credit history.

These poor habits can lead to any number of financial troubles down the line, from spending nearly three times your outstanding balance in order to pay off debt, to being completely denied for a loan or mortgage.

However, it is entirely possible to get a grip on your spending and effectively pay down debt throughout the new year. With that in mind, let us explore the ways in which you can improve your financial stability in 2018.

Make more than the minimum payment

As tempting as it may be to make the minimum payment and get on with your life, studies show that those who pay down their debt in this way end up paying more for a longer period of time than those who simply focus on eliminating their debt entirely.

Therefore, it would be wise of you to reevaluate your spending habits and operate off a wants versus needs basis, thus ensuring you are only spending money on the bills and items you need to survive.

Consider consolidating your debt

Although this is not always the most ideal method, consolidating your debt by opening a balance transfer credit card could buy you more time, especially if you are strapped for money. These cards typically include a zero-interest introductory period that could span between six and 21 months, depending on the company.

If you do take this route, though, be sure you actually achieve the goal of paying off your debt in that window of time. Otherwise, the interest rate on your remaining balance could skyrocket as high as 25 percent, landing you back at square one.