Debt consolidation: This is a safer option to lower your debt costs. While debt settlement forces your lenders to settle your debts for a lower cost, debt consolidation does just what it says: it consolidates your debts into one loan with a lower interest rate. That helps you stop paying high interest. While debt consolidation might not save you as much money, it can keep your credit score intact and is less risky than debt settlement or bankruptcy.
It is difficult, if not impossible to gain control of your finances unless you have a budget. People think it’s too much work … until they get $20,000 in credit card debt and wonder how in the world that happened! Remedy: Develop a realistic budget that addresses financial needs like housing, food, health care, insurance and education, but still creates room to make payments on debt. Put away the credit cards and only pay with cash. That might mean reducing (or eliminating) things like dining out, entertainment, shopping for new clothes, cars or electronics, but if you’re serious about eliminating debt, operating with a budget and paying cash is a great start.
However, there are impacts to your credit that don’t affect your score. While on a Debt Management Plan, a client’s credit report will have a notation that he or she is currently enrolled in a Debt Management Plan. While that notation is active, they will not be granted new credit. Plainly, this is an impact to one’s credit that should be considered. But the notation goes away when the Debt Management Plan is complete, and doesn’t have a lasting impact on one’s credit.
You cannot sign up for new credit cards, nor can you use the ones you have. While it may sound unreasonable to bar you from using credit, the point of your debt management plan is helping you dig your way out. “The last thing you want to be doing is running up more high-interest debt on the side,” said McClary. “You’re not doing yourself any favors in that situation.”
Home equity loans involve borrowing a fixed amount of money based on the equity in your home. As a simplified example, if your home is worth $100,000 and you owe $50,000 on it, you might be able to borrow between $30,000 and $40,000 in equity. Most home equity loan lenders won't allow you to borrow so much that you owe more than 80% to 90% of the value of the home.
Bankruptcy stays on your credit report for a decade, it costs money, and it's emotionally difficult. It's a last resort -- but it is an option you should often turn to before liquidating retirement savings (which is protected during bankruptcy) or before struggling for years to make payments on debt that doesn't go down because all the money goes to interest.
On the plus side, if you pay off a card balance that’s close to the credit limit, you may improve your “utilization ratio”—the ratio that compares your credit limits with the balances you currently have—provided you leave the card open after paying it off. But simply moving balances from one card to another is unlikely to do a whole lot for your scores.
A debt management plan sets up a payment schedule for you to repay your debts, with the goal of helping creditors receive the money owed to them and ultimately improving your financial and credit standing. By voluntary agreement, you deposit funds with your credit counseling agency each month, who sends those funds directly to your creditors. It usually takes 3-5 years to complete payments under a debt management program, after which you may be able to reestablish credit.