Getting Out of Debt – Do you feel like you’re swimming in debt? Does the burden seem too huge and you think there’s nothing you can do?
No matter how long you’ve been having challenges with money, or how tough your situation is, you can free yourself!
Culturally Encouraged Spending
These days, almost everyone has debt. Owing money seems like an inevitable part of adulthood. But most of our grandparents didn’t have debt like we do. In fact, some of them may have never owed on anything besides a house. How is it, then, that debt can feel unavoidable?
One of the reasons is that being in debt is incredibly common now. Many of us don’t even pay much attention to it anymore. Our credit card bills get paid right along with electricity and transportation.
Banks call people every day to tell them that their financial dreams can be fulfilled right away. They promise that all you have to do to get the money is to sign a little piece of paper.
Finance companies run advertisements claiming that you can have this new toy, or that shiny gadget, right now, with no money down.
We’re encouraged to want everything and to demand it immediately. Just by signing your name, you can have a top-notch computer, a home remodel, and a new car. And if you don’t buy these things, you may feel like you haven’t made as much of your life as your neighbor or friend.
It’s no wonder that many of us consider credit cards and loans as normal and even necessary. Keeping up with the Joneses has never been so expensive!
Compulsive Spending: A Self-Test
In a society where debt is normal, how can you tell if you’re having financial issues? How do you know when to start being careful with your money so any debt you do have doesn’t become overwhelming?
“If you had your life to live over again – you’d need more money.”
– Construction Digest
Here are four questions to ask yourself:
- Do I have a tendency to spend more than I earn?
- Can I afford my regular daily purchases without borrowing money?
- Am I able to make my monthly payments without difficulty, and perhaps pay a little more each time?
- Do I have savings I could use to sustain myself for 3-6 months if I lost my job today?
These questions might seem a little bleak, but if you answer them honestly, you’ll be able to quickly assess your financial situation. What’s more, if you do this exercise regularly, you’ll be able to spot trouble when it’s still far away.
The Journey To Freedom
In this report, we’ll cover effective ways to become debt free. In the process, you’ll also learn tips on staying out of debt by handling your money more successfully.
This process will require dedication and a bit of time. But if you really commit to being in control of your money, instead of letting it control you, you’ll be able to enjoy the liberation of a debt free life before you know it.
“Man is the only animal whose desires increase as they are fed;
the only animal that is never satisfied.”
– Henry George
Debt consolidation can be especially useful when you have many small debts and it’s tough to manage them all.
As the name suggests, debt consolidation will allow you to aggregate all of your debts. With this method, you take out one larger loan and pay all of the other balances with it.
Of course, you still end up with a loan that you have to pay off, but in many cases the interest rates on consolidation loans are lower than your credit card interest rates. This means you’ll not only have just one loan to worry about, you’ll also need to pay back less over time.
Before you go looking for a debt consolidator, though, here are some things you should know:
- A debt consolidator knows that if you’re taking a loan to consolidate your debt, you’ve most likely been unable to make a few instalment payments already. This could mean that your credit score has gone down and you’re less eligible for low-interest loans.
- They’ll promise you that your interest rates will be lower, which will lower your monthly payments. Also, they’ll assure you that they’ll do all of the paperwork for you.
- None of this is free. The consolidator will always charge a fee. A consolidator’s fee will vary from company to company, but it’s usually about ten percent of your monthly payment (for instance: if you pay $350 a month, the fee will be $35).
- After the consolidation agency receives the payment, they pass it on to the creditor and get anywhere between ten to fifteen percent back, because the creditor will usually reduce the amount of debt that the consolidator has to pay.
Use these tips to protect yourself when considering debt consolidation
- Read the fine print. Ensure that you’ve thoroughly looked into hidden fees, costs, processes, and anything else before you sign any papers.
- Research the company. Check out the Better Business Bureau (http://www.bbb.org/) to see what they say about the consolidation agency. Not all agencies are reputable, and you don’t want to get burned on top of being in debt.
- Find out what your interest rates will be if the consolidator takes over your debt.
- Ask if your interest stays static for the duration of your business with the agency. Sometimes changes that are out of your control can change your interest rates on some consolidation loans.
- Missed or late payments may cause your interest rates to skyrocket.
- Sometimes consolidation companies will promise really low interest rates for the first few months only to increase them later on. Knowing your expected interest rates for the duration of the contract will save you trouble and worry.
You can refinance many things, such as cars, furniture, or anything valuable that you own. But the most common form of refinancing is refinancing your mortgage. This is where you pay off your current mortgage loan and take a new one, often with lower interest rates as your home gains value over the years.
If you decide to refinance your mortgage and you get a good interest rate, you’ll have money to quickly and easily take care of your credit card debts and other small loans. As with debt consolidation, you can also pay just one loan instead of many.
When considering refinancing, you’ll want to make your decisions from an informed perspective. You should fully understand your financial situation before you make any big decisions like extending or changing your mortgage.
What to Know Before You Refinance
- Small debts, like credit cards, are usually not secured. This means that if you can’t or don’t make your payments, your creditor has no way of forcing you to pay. Even though your credit score will suffer, they can’t garnish your wages or repossess your belongings.
- Your mortgage loan is secured. So if you’re not able to make your payments on time, you might end up losing your home.
- To avoid that situation, make sure that, if you refinance, you’re still able to make your monthly payments in a timely fashion. This requires some planning and thinking ahead.
- Talk to the right people. You might be a very trusting person, but not everyone, especially in the financial world, has your best interest at heart all of the time.
- Ensure that your refinancing company:
- Understands the market
- Is able to find the lowest rates, best payment schedules, and understand your specific situation
- Truly wants what’s best for you
- Consider the ramifications of rolling your debts into your mortgage loan. When you refinance, you may have the option of rolling your current debts into your mortgage loan. Know that there are fees related to transferring your debts to the mortgage loan, like paying interest on those debts for the duration of the loan.
- For example, let’s say that you have a few thousand dollars of credit card debt, and you know you can pay it off within 2 or 3 years. Even if your interest rate is 10-15%, you’ll still end up paying less than the fees involved in getting that debt transferred under your mortgage loan.
- In other words, unless your other debts are really substantial, you may be better off staying away from including them in your mortgage refinancing.
Any good loan company helping you refinance your home will help you understand which option is best for you. However, it’s important to realize that those companies are not financial or debt advisers. If you need budget assistance, it’s best to talk to financial professionals about managing your money.
Cutting Down Your Expenses
The very best thing you can do to get out of debt is to reduce your expenses to realize more funds for paying off your debt.
Living more frugally can enable you to cut years off the time it takes you to pay off your debt, plus thousands of dollars off your total debt when you take interest into consideration!
Try these ways to cut down on your current expenses:
- Stay out of restaurants. An average restaurant meal will cost you $10-$30 per person, but the same meal prepared at home will often be less than $5. Multiply that out over a year and you can save hundreds!
- Consider trading down your car for one with a low payment or no payment.
- You can get a nicer one when you’re out of debt and have some money saved again. That $200-$300 could go a long way toward paying off your debt!
- Drink the coffee at work instead of grabbing one on your way in. Make specialty coffee a treat instead of a daily occurrence.
- Make one night a week meatless. For a family of four, you can save $3-$10 a week doing this. Over a year, that could add up to more than $500.
- Set a budget for birthdays, holidays, and special occasions, and stick to it.
- Agree with your family on a truly reasonable amount. Many of us go into debt every December and don’t get it paid off for months or even years!
Slash Your Grocery Bill
In any household, food is a huge part of the budget. If you become more conservative about how you shop for food, you’ll see your monthly expenses plummet.
- More costs less. If you buy a wholesale case of 30 cans of corn for instance, you’ll pay less per can than you would if you bought just three cans. Buying in bulk is almost always cheaper. You can do this with flour, rice, beans, canned goods, and many others.
- If you buy the right type of food, it’ll last for months or even years.
- Check out “wholesale to the public” stores like Costco and Sam’s Club. Sometimes these kinds of places even offer coupons to their members, who can then get already discounted groceries for even cheaper.
- Buy the “no name” brand. We all know that the food advertised on TV is generally more expensive, but there is usually a store brand or generic alternative for pretty much anything you want.
- Buy only what you need. Let’s be honest with ourselves here. People don’t need peanut butter cookies to survive. People don’t need soda pop to live. And we definitely don’t need potato chips.
- We want those foods because they’re tasty and they’ve been heavily advertised to us. But you don’t have to succumb to advertising. Remember: buying things you didn’t need is possibly what got you into debt.
- In this situation, you can educate yourself on what exactly you want to buy to meet your basic needs. Deprivation isn’t necessary, but thoughtful purchasing is.
- Make a list. Make a shopping list in advance and stick to it.
- Avoid shopping when you’re hungry, as your hunger will tempt you to buy all kinds of things that aren’t on your list!
- Big stores have a way of tempting you into buying things only because they look nice or are cheap. If you have a list, you won’t get distracted. You’ll save money and
But what if you barely make enough to cover the necessities? What if you’ve already trimmed back on expenses? In this case, there are government aid programs that can sometimes help with food, utilities, or housing expenses to free up some money to pay off debts.
If you’d like the government to help you with your bills, though, you’re going to have to fulfil certain conditions. The criteria you’ll need to meet will vary depending on the type of assistance you need.
For instance, if you want help with your electricity bill, you first need to be a registered resident of the state where you’re applying. Then, your income level should be lower than what’s specified by the government.
If you meet those criteria, you need to call a toll-free number and you’ll be informed exactly what to do and where to go.
Because there are many attempts each year to abuse the system, each applicant must go through the applicable agency’s specific screening processes. Apart from helping you to pay electricity bills, the government can also help you with your rent, food, and other expenses.
The main thing is that if you need help financially, you’ll want to find out who can help you and what they can do for you. For that, it’s best to do some research.
You might also consider going to various churches in your community. Churches are there to help, and if you really need help, they won’t let you go hungry.