Whether you owe your friend $5 or your university $50,000, you’ve likely experienced the stress of being indebted to someone or something. Debt related to loans is common these days. College students often expect to graduate in debt. People go into the house- or car-buying process knowing they’ll be owing money for years. So, how do you balance it? Debt is a part of today’s modern society, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed smartly and efficiently.
If you find yourself in debt you’re struggling to manage, you can turn to credit counseling, debt relief or debt consolidation for help. Credit counseling focuses on a variety of resources (budgeting, educational programs, counseling, debt management plan) to help you resolve your money problems. Debt relief or settlement companies say they can renegotiate your debt by reaching out to your creditors to lower your balance, interest rates or fees so you don’t owe as much. Debt consolidation companies offer you loans to pay off your debts all at once.
However, shady companies in these industries can put you even further in debt. Be wary if the company charges fees before your debts are settled or guarantees to make debt go away. Some may claim to improve your credit score or tell you to stop paying your debts and communicating with your creditors.
Better Business Bureau offers tips to assist with managing or avoiding debt:
• Know your debt. Keep track of how much you owe and to whom.
• Leave your emotions at the door. Don’t be tempted to spend more while evaluating your debt. Remind yourself of all your debt responsibilities.
• Don’t go deeper in debt by continuing to use credit cards. Put your credit cards away and pay with cash or a debit card.
• Set up a budget. Total up regular monthly expenses and develop a plan detailing how much you can pay, insuring income exceeds expenses each month.
• Make extra payments when you can. Use unexpected cash, such as a gift, raise or tax refund, to make extra payments.
• Look for ways to save. For instance, skip daily coffee runs, use coupons or pack your lunch. Use the extra money to pay your debt or build your savings.
• Prioritize debt repayments. Review outstanding credit card balances and interest rates. Tackle high-interest rate balances first by paying more than the minimum payment monthly until the balance is paid. Consider transferring high-interest balances to a lower interest-rate credit card.
• Work with creditors and ask them to reduce interest rates or create new payment schedules.
• Before you settle on a solution, make sure you’ve researched all your options.
Better Business Bureau can also be a resource for finding trustworthy firms to help with debt. Visit bbb.org or call 800-776-5301 for lists of bureau-accredited businesses that can help or business profiles on ones you’re considering.
The writer is president of the Better Business Bureau of Dayton.