The services provided by credit counseling services are nothing consumers can't do by themselves. "You could do it, but it's an involved process," says Kyle Winkfield, partner with financial firm O'Dell, Winkfield, Roseman and Shipp in the District of Columbia. The benefit of using an agency is that they have experience in negotiating debt payments and disputing incorrect information on credit reports. Paying an expert to do these tasks not only saves a person time, but can minimize the stress of having to navigate unfamiliar territory. "If you find a good one, they are worth more than they charge," Winkfield says.
You'd make the minimum payments on all debts, and pay as much extra as possible toward the $1,000 credit card balance. Once that was paid off, the new "minimum" payment for the card with the $3,000 balance would be $400 (the original $300 minimum plus the $100 minimum you used to make on the card you paid off). Extra cash would also go to repay that card. Finally, once both of those were paid off, you'd focus all your attention on the personal loan. The new "minimum" payment would be $650 ($300 + $250 + $100).
The first way is to earn some extra cash. If you are in a commission-based job then this means that you need to make more sales, which will probably involve having to work more hours. If you are in a salary job and you are limited in the hours that you can work, then you might need to pick up a second job. When my wife and were toward the end of paying off our consumer debt, I was able to get a second job delivering pizzas which gave us the extra income we needed to hit our deadline of 18 months.
Bankruptcy can't solve your problems if you have substantial student loan debt. Student loans aren't dischargeable in bankruptcy except in extreme cases where you can show severe hardship, such as becoming unable to ever work because of total permanent disability. You also can't get rid of mortgage or car loan debt if you hope to keep the assets; you'll need to become current and eventually repay these debts in full to avoid foreclosure or repossession of the vehicle. But for unsecured debt -- which is debt not guaranteed by your assets that you simply promised to repay -- bankruptcy could provide relief.
It couldn’t hurt to talk to a credit counselor, particularly because this is affecting your health. Here’s how to find a counselor through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Depending on your amount of debt and income, it may or may not be the right answer for you. From your question, it’s hard to know whether you should be talking with a bankruptcy attorney, credit counselor or simply someone who can help you with a realistic budget you can stick to. But we hope a counselor, with more information about your specific situation, can offer guidance.
Chapter 13: Yes. Chapter 13 also discharges debts, but many of the nondischargeable debts like recent taxes and past due child support must be paid in full in the Chapter 13 plan. Unsecured debt like credit cards will only be paid in a Chapter 13 plan if you have the income to cover it. Sometimes unsecured creditors receive a portion of their debt and sometimes they receive nothing at all. But even if they’re not paid they’ll be discharged if you complete your plan. To see how this works, visit Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Basics.
For example, a person with three or four credit cards, might owe a combined $20,000 on the cards and be paying something like 24 percent interest. The credit counseling agency representing him could go to a bank and negotiate a loan at half that rate and save quite a bit of money in interest. The loan money would be used to pay off the credit cards, creating a zero balance on each card. Instead of making three or four payments every month, the person would have only one payment.
Debt consolidation loans are a well-known, well-advertised option for consumers who struggle with debt. These credit facilities exist for the express purpose of paying off outstanding unsecured debts and do their job quite well. When you take out a debt consolidation loan, your lender immediately pays off your existing creditors and starts billing you for the balance.
Credit Limitation: This option only works if you have good credit; excellent credit is better. Balance transfer credit cards offer 0% APR on balance transfers when you open the account. An excellent credit score means you qualify for the longest 0% APR introductory period possible. Some cards have promotions that run up to 18 or 24 months. That gives you up to two years to pay off your debt interest-free.
This is the last-ditch solution if your financial situation has become so overwhelming that there doesn’t appear to be a way out. Bankruptcy offers a “fresh start” though with lots of restrictive conditions. You can file for either a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which cancels your debts, or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which sets up a 3-5 year repayment plan to eliminate your debts.
Consolidated credit programs allow you to consolidate debt, regardless of how much debt you have or your credit score. You work with a certified credit consolidation agency to develop a consolidated debt repayment plan that fits your budget. The program freezes your accounts while you’re enrolled, which helps you break your credit habit and learn better ways to budget for everyday expenses.
Eliminate and consolidate medical debt to deal with health care costs that are continuing to escalate and that are really out of control. There are ways to consolidate medical debt using assistance programs that are offered by directly hospitals, medical providers, doctors and counselors. These plans are becoming more common in today’s challenging economy and when also considering the aging population. A health care provider will want to find some type of solution for the patient, as in some cases if they do not work with them it can lead to bad public relations. Learn more on how to eliminate medical debt.
One of the most effective ways to budget to eliminate debt is using the cash envelope system. This is where you place a predetermined amount of money in different envelopes labeled with different spending categories. Anytime you spend within a category, the money must come from the corresponding envelope. When the money is out, it’s all out, and you can’t overspend.
Both are possible solutions to problems with debt. A debt management program is not a loan. It consolidates unsecured debts and tries to lower monthly payments through reductions on interest rates and penalty fees. A debt consolidation loan is actually a loan, with interest charges and monthly payments due. With a debt consolidation loan, you would have to qualify to borrow the amount needed to pay off your debt. The interest rate is normally fixed and, depending on your credit score and history, may need to be secured with collateral like a home or car. Debt consolidation loans usually run 3-5 years.