3 Ways Paying Off Credit Cards Is Like Playing Beer Pong

By J. Money. Last updated 1 March 2010. 4 comments

I'll admit right away — I miss college. I miss the friends, the freedom, and especially the parties. What I don't miss is all that credit card debt that once accumulated!

I'm smart enough to stay away from those "free" t-shirt deals now, but it took me a while to get a good game plan down. And luckily, I can present it in a way our inner college student can appreciate — through a little game we like to call Beer Pong. Paying off your debt isn't as FUN as playing beer pong, of course, but it's a much better way to think about it than your old wrinkly neighbor would have it.

Here are three ways the rules of play are similar to paying off your debt.

1. You pick your partner (or credit card you want to start with).

Some say this is the most important part of the game. After all, if you pick the wrong partner it'll take you much longer to win! With beer pong, it's easy — you look for the guy (or hot girl) who has the best aim. You get them going, and BAM! You've knocked away all 6 of your competitor's cups and you win.

With credit cards, it's a bit trickier. Do you start with the one at the higher interest rate, or do you go with the card with the lowest balance to knock out quicker? Personally, I like the faster option as it gives you a better feeling of accomplishment and a little more momentum. Mathematically, it makes much more sense to start at the higher rate card though. Why pay off a card at 8% when you have one at 16%, right?

When it comes down to it, it's all about personal preference. There are no right or wrong answers here — just that you CHOOSE ONE and start. Begin paying down the lowest amount first, or get started on the biggest interest rates. Just pick one and get moving.

2. You set up the cups (aka you set up your gameplan).

For a second, I'll pretend you've never heard of beer pong before. To set up the game you place 6 cups opposite from each other on a long flat surface, fixed in triangular fashion (3 cups in the back, 2 in the middle, 1 at the tip), pour a few ounces of beer in them, grab yourself a few ping-pong balls, and voila! You're ready to go.

The game of wiping away credit cards, however, requires a little more calculation. First, how much money do you have to start paying this first card off? After all your bills are paid, do you have $100? $200? Do you just have to look at your budget?

If not, spend a few minutes going back and looking through the last 2 months of expenses and income. Don't trick yourself into thinking you can pay XXX amount every month if you know you can't do it. Instead, come up with a number you're comfortable with and feel confident about. Being honest with yourself makes it all go by much smoother, believe me. It also gets a lot easier once you're used to setting aside the same amount every month (on top of paying your minimum amounts on the other cards, of course).

3. You shoot until you've won the game (or until you've paid off the card)!

In beer pong, both teams take turns tossing their pong balls across the table until they've sunk all of their competitor's cups. Once you win the game (because you have a game plan and those debt mongers don't), you celebrate for a bit and then get right back to defend your crown!

What type of credit card are you interested in?
How much do you spend per month?
Do you carry a balance?

The same goes for your credit card debt. Once you've scoured your finances and finally set up that budget, you now know you've got an extra $100 to play with (for example), even after paying off all the minimum requirements on the other cards.

Then you shoot, and you shoot, and you pay off that card by $100 every month until one day it's all gone! It may take 6 months, or it may take 16, but the point is that the more you knock away every month, the less interest you're accumulating and the better you feel. Over time you'll notice it gets much easier, and you might even find yourself with a few extra dollars laying around which you could ALSO apply to the debt! Life has a funny way of working out like that. And by "life" I mean "when you manage your money and know what you're playing with"!

And when you've finished paying that first card off? You celebrate (although, not by using that card again, or by drinking excessively). Then you start the whole process again with the next one in line — only this time, you've now got an extra $100 to use towards this 2nd card, on top of that minimum payment you've already been paying! This is called the debt snowball theory, and as you move from one card to the next, the amount you have to pay every card increases, and your overall debt DECREASES. It really is a most beautiful thing, and something you can easily put to use any time of the day.

So there you have it — 3 ways paying off credit cards is like playing beer pong! And unlike Beer Pong, there's no losing in this game, nor any messes to clean up. You stick with your game plan until it's all done, and if you have to take a month off as things come up, that's perfectly fine — but only if you start right back up again and you don't miss any minimum payments. You might not realize it now, but a $10 mistake can easily cost you $100 or more down the road. It's not worth it, believe me. Stick with your plan, and be proud of yourself.

Maybe, just maybe, you'll find yourself next to me at the next beer pong game. Only we'll be teammates instead of competitors, and we'll no longer be anywhere close to the college years anymore. And you know what? We'll be okay with that. We've had our fun, we've caused our trouble, and we'll now be ready to live like civilized adults. With $0 credit card debt!

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Guest's picture

What, no mention of reracking and how it relates to the debt snowball? It's like, when you've paid off a debt, you call for a rerack and adjust your "aim" to the next "cup!"

Of course, I say this having gone to a geek school and only played beer pong twice in my life, and having only witnessed about three more games in addition to that. ;)

Guest's picture

I like the beer pong analogy brings back some good college days. But with regard to the budgets, most people can't stick to them. An easier way is just to go all cash. By doing that, you are totally limited to the cash you have in hand while you pay down your credit card. You can use the credit card for those things that nobody wants to use cash for (like the gas station, who wants to wait in line).

Basically, your "budget" is the cash you take out of the ATM once a week. Your budget control is not going to the ATM again. You know you are over budget when you look in your wallet and see some dust or hair staring at you. Makes life really easy. Sure you pay your rent or your mortgage with your online banking. All your utilities and whatnot. But your discretionary income is all Dead Presidents. If you want to pay the credit card off faster, take out less dead white guys from the ATM. Let me tell you when you start paying with $20 bills, you just stop buying crap you don't need. Paying with a credit card is like paying with someone elses money, but unfortunately, its your money with interest added on.

Good article on this here: A Quick Tip How To CUT your Spending and Credit Cards

Seriously, some people have just obscene credit card rates. I thought 13% was high or maybe 18% but someone told me recently that they are paying 29.99%. That's criminal and stupid.

SoCal
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Guest's picture
credit card guru

It's always hard to part with cash. There is something about it. If people had to buy houses with cash - you'd see prices drop like a rock. It's amazing what people will sign up for when all that is needed is a signature.

The best way to handle credit cards is to never have a balance and pay them off when they show up in the mail. I went twenty years without paying a dime in interest and got all the mileage perks. The credit card companies still make their money - off the merchant. That's why you should always use cash when you bargain with small merchants - between sales taxes and credit card fees - some merchants are willing to wheel and deal.

People try to hold onto their cash. It's that simple. Just try doing cash for a few months and see what happens.

Guest's picture
J Money

@Reracking - Haha, I like the way you think my friend. It's all about making it fun!

@SoCal - Sure, another excellent way to manage your money as well! It doesn't work for me personally (I prefer budgeting with spreadsheets and credit cards ), but as long as people find a way that works great for THEM I think that's great. It really is about tweaking and trying out new methods until one sticks.

I know "budget" has a dirty connotation to it (hence, the adding of "sexy" to spice it up!) but it's a necessary element to financial freedom - even if just to get the ball rolling. And you don't have to be all old and boring to appreciate it either ;)