The relationship almost everyone had with money has changed considerably since the Great Recession.

For business or personal cash flow that has shifted into debt, people worry over how to make themselves whole again. Is there a systematic way to regain control over credit card debt?

What starts out as a convenience, too often becomes a source of confusion and financial stress for too many: credit cards.

“Help! I keep paying my credit bills every month, but it seems like I never make any progress with my balances!”

“I want to pay them all off, but how? I am overwhelmed!”

You’ve no doubt heard warnings, and seen the math formulas, but the truth is, one size does NOT fit all.

Which of these 3 credit repayment plans will work best for you?

 Pay the one with the highest balance or interest rate first.

Pay the one with the lowest balance first.

Pay the one you’ve had the most trouble with first.

It may surprise you, but each of these repayment strategies can work, and what makes them work is not simply the math. In years of working with clients to give them better financial clarity, I have observed that there are four basic money-personalities: spender, saver, hoarder and ostrich. What matters most, is which plan gives you what you need most:

• a logical structure

• instant gratification

• immediate relief

1. Pay the Highest First

For some people, this structure makes the most long-term sense, as they calculate the interest they will save, and see how the benefit of paying down the biggest bite first, improves the bigger picture. They may want to focus on just knocking the balance down, rather than calculating interest saved.

They feel real satisfaction, and the sense of accomplishment which motivates them to reach their goal: to pay it down and set it aside as completed. The saver and hoarder money-personality types are often an excellent fit for this approach. The others can adopt it successfully too, but it’s a bigger stretch for them to stick with it at the beginning.

2. Pay the Lowest First

This is especially gratifying if you need to see results more quickly. By putting more money toward the lowest balance, you achieve your goal of full pay-off sooner, with one less bill to pay each month, and one less deadline to meet.

The spender money-personality gets the quicker gratification of reaching a goal quickly. For everyone who uses this, then puts the paid-off credit card away, gets must faster relief from one less bill, while building confidence that you can become financially wiser in future choices.

3. Pay the one that’s the Most Trouble First

Which credit card gives you the most trouble? You won’t even need to compare statements to know this, it will be obvious, to every money-personality type, especially the ostrich.

Whether it’s late fees, over-balance fees, dunning calls, or the temptation to be extravagant when it always hurts later, this card causes the most emotional stress. Making it your first priority to rid yourself of the stress you have over this card makes a huge difference. Especially for the ostriches among us, getting this card under control, and then solved, can forge a very practical pathway out of the labyrinth and into financial self-confidence.

One Size Does Not Fit All

The process of taking control of your credit is never the same for everyone, since the route you took into the present was unique to you.

You may begin with one plan, and switch to another once you start to see your own progress.

You may need help, emotional support, or even further financial education along the way, but in recognizing that there is no single formula for financial decisions, you have taken an important step toward greater financial maturity, and success.

As you take control of your credit obligations, and begin to improve your financial picture, you can put attainable financial goals into place. You’ll know not only where your money went, but why… and, you’ll be able to plan for where your money will go in the future.

— Arleen Salzer Kennedy