So, you’re in debt.
Well you’re not alone. In fact, American household debt reached $13 trillion in 2017, and that number continues to grow with each passing year. Being in debt depletes your wallet and often feels like a life sentence. When a large portion of your paycheck goes towards paying off just the interest, it's hard to feel like you’re making any progress towards eliminating your household debt. But if you’re dedicated and willing to do some responsible planning, it is possible to free yourself from the shackles of your debt.
There is no “best way” to relieve yourself of debt. It varies for every individual depending on your financial situation. For some, taking out a debt consolidation loan is a good option, while others may decide to transfer debts to one credit card. Whichever decision you make, it’s always important to weigh the pros and cons and explore all your options.
Here are 5 key steps to help you get the ball rolling and gain control of your debt:
The first and most important step is to assess your financial situation. When you’re reviewing your household debt, it’s crucial that you find out the current remaining balance of your debt, the monthly amount and most importantly, the due date for each debt payment. . Assessing your finances may seem like a daunting task, but ultimately it will allow you to see exactly where you stand in terms of the amount of debt and the type of debt that you have. With this knowledge in hand, you’ll be able to make an informed decision regarding your debt relief options.
Once you’ve assessed your finances, the next step is to make a monthly budget. By creating a budget, you can manage how much money you’re taking in and how much money you’re spending. A budget will also allow you to visibly see how much money you have left over to pay off each debt. If the amount left over is not enough to make a sizable contribution, then you’ll have to look for ways to reduce your spending habits. The more money you can put towards paying off your debt each month, the less money you will end up having to pay over the long haul due to accrued interest.
Now that you know exactly where you stand, the next step is to create a plan of action to consolidate, simplify and overall reduce your debt. Whether you make the plan yourself or enlist the help of a debt consolidation agency, a debt management plan will help you stay on track and prevent you from getting overwhelmed. Debt management plans are offered by both for-profit and non-profit credit counseling agencies. These plans often consolidate your debt into a single payment to keep up with each month and also allow you to pay less in interest. Before committing to a plan, make sure you do your homework to determine which plan is right for you.
After you’ve created a debt management plan that best suits your type of debt, the next step is to contact your creditors and lenders to see if you can improve the terms on your debt. When you speak to the user service department, you may have the option to lower your interest rates or negotiate a reduced settlement on certain debts. If most of your debt is credit card debt, consider using a balance transfer to combine your credit card debts onto one credit card. During this time, you may also want to consider consolidating your debts into a personal loan. Taking out a personal loan can be a useful tool to refinance your debt to a lower interest rate. Compared to a balance transfer, your repayment period is typically longer with a personal loan and your monthly payments are fixed so it can be easier to budget.
All of these steps will have been for nothing if you don’t hold yourself accountable and follow through with your budget and repayment plan. Do your best to meet your repayment goals each month and remember that it’s okay if the amount you put towards paying off your debts varies each month. Putting some money towards your debts each month is better than contributing no money at all. Remember that getting out of debt is possible, but it’s never quick and easy. While these steps are simple, they do take work, and your progress only moves at the speed of your motivation.
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