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.
Through a nonprofit credit-counseling agency, you can work with a counselor to resolve your financial problems on your own, says Bruce McClary, vice president of public relations and external affairs at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Or you can enter what’s called a debt management plan. Through that plan, you can consolidate your credit card payments and get the cards’ interest rates reduced, making your financial obligations easier to tackle.
According to research, more than half of American consumers (57%) don’t have enough cash to cover an unexpected expense of $500 or more. Remedy: It’s impossible to predict unemployment, car accidents or busted plumbing, which is why every home needs an emergency fund. Experts say put 3-6 months of expenses aside for emergencies. It might take a while to get there if you’re focused on paying off debt, but again, it has to be part of your monthly budget. Set aside at least 5% of your income in an emergency fund, at least until you have three months of expenses covered.
Do yourself a favor, if you were ripped off like me by National Debt Relief, submit a complaint to ConsumerFinance.Gov. My lawyer counseled me on this. When I called from my job, they did not disclose they were a for profit agency, I had to ask them. They did not tell me the percentage that they would take as profit. I did not learn that until about 3 weeks ago when I demanded to know the profit they took. Their answer after a long time of questioning was they took 25% off the original debt for themselves. When I said that I did not know this. Their response was : “it is in page 3 of the contract.” I could not find this information anywhere nor it was said to me. The representative who enrolled me Berlinda C only said ” We take a small fee” but would not specify the amount. So far, they have taken from me $2,500 and my creditors have hardly seen any money. When a settlement is negotiated, they take everything they have taken from my account for themselves and on top of that charge about $60 monthly extra in order to make the payments to the creditors. I find this sum exorbitant. I now closed my account with them because I have realized the rip off that this company is. I have lost $2,500 for their profit.
The big advantage of the debt snowball is scoring quick wins. Science backs up the idea that this is the best approach, because you'll stay more motivated as you see debt balances paid off. But there's an obvious downside: Your smallest debt may not have the highest interest rate. If you're waiting longer to pay off high-interest debt while focusing on lower-rate debts, you'll pay more interest over time.
If debt management doesn’t seem quite right for your situation, there are several other debt relief options. I start with the least drastic option, credit counseling, and end with what most may agree is the most drastic: bankruptcy. Of course, all of these methods have their own pros and cons, and only you can decide whether they are better or worse for your situation.
With debt settlement, your attorney will ask you to stop making payments to your creditors and instead, contribute money on a regular basis to a fund. When the fund reaches a certain level, the attorney will approach creditors and seek an agreement to settle for that amount. If the creditor accepts the agreement, the debt is considered settled. Read more about debt management vs. debt settlement.
Negotiating a debt relief plan. Trying to work with creditors should come first before bankruptcy. Let the lenders know you aren't able to pay your bills and are thinking about filing for bankruptcy protection unless they're willing to work with you. The creditors may allow you to repay a portion of your debt -- either in a lump sum or over time -- and forgive the rest.
There are some downsides though that you have to weigh, our credit scores did drop down to 630-680’s and some creditors list our payments as “late” for some reason. But CareOne said that the late status should change after about 3 months of consistent payments. Some creditors also list that your payments are being made by debt management program which I can assume does not look very good on your credit report.
Find a good credit counselor. Almost all DMPs are administered by consumer credit counseling agencies--so much so, in fact, that the terms "credit counseling" and "debt management" are often used interchangeably. Thoroughly researching the agency is the most important thing to do before deciding to enroll in their debt management program. The FTC has put together a simple guide to help you get started and choose the right plan.
Much of what debt management companies do involves simply contacting your creditors and negotiating alternative repayment plans, hopefully with reduced interest rates and fees. If you are struggling to make payments, you can usually do this yourself. Most creditors will be eager to help you meet your debt obligations because they want to help you avoid bankruptcy, which sucks for them. Talking to your creditors directly isn’t pleasant, and it may not be easy, but it can be done.