I’ve been sharing my five-step program of money moves proven to bring down financial stress and anxiety and boost your wellbeing. Today, you get step 3, the N in BONUS: Negate high-cost debt. 

For those of you who racked up big credit card bills in December, this is a really important money move. 

Why? Households carrying credit card debt owe roughly $8,500 on average – and that debt doesn’t come cheap. Average credit card interest rates are near 17 percent for consumers who carry a balance from month to month. At that rate, if you are only making minimum payments of 3 percent AND EVEN IF YOU DON’T CHARGE ANOTHER PENNY, it would take you 18 ½ YEARS to pay off what you owe – and you would pay over $7,000 in interest. 

Now, it’s not like credit card companies publicize the cost of carrying a balance. In fact, the biggest numbers on your credit card statement are likely the amount you owe and the minimum payment. It looks like the minimum is what you are supposed to pay, right? Wrong. You are way, way better off paying as much as possible every month. 

How to get going? Start by taking a close look at your spending. See what you can cut back on, at least for a while, and use the savings to reduce your credit card balance. 

If you have an emergency savings cushion to protect you, you can also consider using other (non-retirement) savings. Extra money sitting in a checking account or low-interest savings account is probably earning no more than 2 percent interest. Giving up that 2 percent interest to reduce debt at 17 percent makes a lot of sense.  

The most important element in negating your high cost debt is consistency. Use $50 of each paycheck or use $100 – and keep doing it. Every payment above the minimum will reduce the eventual cost of your debt, and you’ll be out from under (and breathing easier) sooner than you think.