On this episode of The Upgrade, we’re tackling debt. Crippling, anxiety-inducing debt. It can be hard to know where to start when facing such a heavy burden, but fortunately, we’ve got some help. First, we’ll hear from Lifehacker staff writer Lisa Rowan, who’ll answer Upgrade listener and Lifehacker reader-submitted questions about credit cards. Then, we’re joined by personal finance expert (and friend of the podcast) Farnoosh Torabi, who coaches us on how to start to get a handle on debt.
Highlights from this week’s episode
Credit card Q&A With Lisa Rowan
On how to get your card late fees waived:
It’s definitely worth calling. If you’re truly someone who doesn’t routinely miss payments they’ll probably be able to waive the late fee. You have to specifically ask them for that.
So you can’t just call and say, “Hey, I missed my bill, is there anything you can do?” You have to use the specific words: “Can you waive my late fee?” There’s some some wibbly law about that where a customer service representative is not allowed to take that fee away unless you specifically ask for it.”
On automating your credit card payments:
Please automate your monthly payments. It is the best thing you can do for yourself. I don’t care if it’s the first credit card you have ever gotten right out of college or if you’re nearing retirement — it just benefits you so much to automate your payments. Because, like we said earlier the biggest part of your credit score is the fact that you were able to pay your bill on time.
The interview with Farnoosh Torabi
On the first thing you should do when you want to get out of debt:
The first thing is actually to not obsess over the numbers and really take a step back and think about what is the whole purpose of this? Because certainly of course it feels great to not have that financial burden, that bill coming every month. But what will this afford you? ... Put this in context of how this is going to ultimately help you achieve your own personal endeavours.
On finding a side hustle if you don’t think you have anything to offer:
We all have skills, though it may not seem apparent to us because we’re so focused on our particular job. But you may not be using many of your skill sets at the job that you have. [Think about] if you speak a foreign language, if you are really excellent at maths, if you’re really clean and organised, if you’re a great researcher ... there are a lot of skills that we take for granted because we don’t think they’re special or we just do them all the time so we don’t necessary think of them in the context of monetising them.
But certainly there are ways that we can all start making more money if we just think about the things that we’re really good at naturally or the things that we’ve excelled at in academics or at work.