Out of Debt, Step-by-Step

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Out of Debt, Step-by-Step

Out of Debt

You have too much debt. It isn’t really a question, more of a statement. You want to get out of debt but don’t know how to get there. Debt Free America has come up with a step-by-step guide to help you.

Step 1: Figure Out Your Total Debt – You’re not going to want to hear this, but it’s probably worse than you think. A lot of people tend to stop paying very close attention to their debts when they know they’re unable to pay them. Finance charges, interest rates, and other slowly accumulating charges can exacerbate your debt situation. But, you need to know exactly where you are if you’re going to make a realistic plan. It’s going to suck, but get together all the most recent statements from all of your debts. Once you’ve done gathered up everything you need, you’ll need to determine the following:

  • Total Amount of Unsecured Debt – Unsecured debt included unpaid medical bills, credit cards, store cards, gas cards, and payday loans.
  • What Do You Owe Each Month – Add together all the minimum payments on debts less than six months over due.
  • How High are Your Interest Rates – Getting the interest rate lowered on your debts is part of debt consolidation. It’s not a bad idea to know the highest interest rate you’re paying, and what the average is for all your interest rates.
  • Is Anything in Collections – If a debt is in collection, then it cannot be consolidated with your other bills. Collections will need to be moved into settlement programs. It’s good to know which accounts are in collections because it will help narrow down the right solution for your particular situation.

Step 2: Check Your Credit Report and Your Credit Score – In America, if you have a high enough credit score, you can do practically anything. Yes, odds are good if you’re looking at how to get out of debt, your credit has already taken some dings and you don’t have a great score. If you do have a high score then you can look into simple solution debt consolidation plans, or even use things like credit card balance transfers to move most of your debt to a low interest card or take out a personal consolidation loan. But, if you’re here, then these aren’t likely viable or realistic options for you. Don’t feel bad, though, those aren’t viable options for the majority of Americans. In order to get the interest rates you want, you first have to raise your credit score.

Credit monitoring services are ideal for checking and keeping up to date on your credit situation. We recommend them because your credit score, and your credit report, changes every month. If there’s any incorrect information on your credit report, costing you valuable points, then you’ll want to get that information removed ASAP.

Step 3: Figure Our Your Assets – Assets aren’t just about the money you have in the bank. Your belongings have value as well. In our society, the more stuff we have the better we seem to hold ourselves in a higher regard. Yeah, this is just stupid. If you have some stuff you don’t need that you can get rid of to decrease your debt, maybe it’s time to put on your grown-up britches and get rid of whatever you don’t need. If not…well, hey, there’s always bankruptcy where your assets will likely be liquidated anyway. Stuff is stuff, you can’t take it with you. If selling a few collectibles or downgrading your car will help take a chunk out of your debt, you really should do so.

Step 4: Figure Out Your Options – Okay, you’ve added up your total debt (and hopefully aren’t on the cold floor, crying in the fetal position), you’ve checked your credit report and scores, and you’ve figured out your assets. Now what? Well, now it’s time to take a look at your options and determine which is best for your situation:

  • Credit Card Balance Transfer – This is the option for those with big, but still manageable debt. Here, you transfer all of your existing debt to a credit card with low balance transfer annual percentage rate (APR). All your debts go into one place, with one payment. This way you don’t have multiple debts, with varying degrees of interest rates. You will need an exceptional credit score (over 750) to qualify for a card with a high enough balance and a good enough APR to make it worth it. Once you’ve done this it becomes about maintaining a lifestyle where you don’t accumulate any new debt.
  • Personal Debt Consolidation Loan – Here, you take out an unsecured loan. The money is used to pay off your debts. Doing this completely eliminated your other debts and leaves you only with the unsecured loan to pay off. Once again, you’re going to need a relatively high credit score in order to receive a low APR. The loan also has to be large enough to cover all of your debts.
  • Debt Management – An assisted form of debt consolidation. With debt management, you consolidate through a third party that negotiates and works on your behalf with your creditors. This is an option even with bad credit or too much debt to be managed with a loan or credit transfer. The one caveat to debt management is none of your debts can be more than six months past due.
  • Debt Settlement – If you don’t want to file bankruptcy, this is typically the last ditch effort. In debt settlement, you’re settling your debts for less than half of what they’re worth. While this is a good option for getting you to the point of being debt free, it will also destroy your credit for a few years. This can be a blessing in disguise, as it will prevent you from doing any unnecessary spending for a while.

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