Debt Management Tips

Personal Debt Management Tips

While Americans enjoy what seems to be a bulletproof economy, at least for now, personal debt continues to rise.

The vast majority of our economy (around 70%) is made up of consumer spending. For now rising oil prices and a declining housing market have yet to slow our economy.

Consumer spending has continued to overshadow these other potential issues for our economy. But it is not without a price! That price is the massive amounts of debt carried by the consumer.

Sooner or later, if you are carrying a lot of personal debt, you will need to tackle it. The best time to do this is when the economy is still doing reasonably well.

And of course the longer you wait to do it, the bigger the sacrifice it will take. Using your personal debt burden will not only improve your financial health, but he can go a long way with improving your mental health as well.

There are several simple steps you can take that will quickly start to tip the scales in your favor. Many people think that increasing their income is the only way to truly get out of debt.

And although increasing your income will certainly go a long way towards getting rid of your debt, it is far from the only way to get the job done. For most of us, having a healthy financial life requires us to live within our means.

In recent years the banks and financial institutions have made it easy for us to live outside our means. They have been more than eager to extend credit to people without concern for their ability to pay it back.

And unfortunately for many of those people, one late payment on any credit account is now resulting in higher interest rates on all their debt.

The good news is, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Apply some of the following steps into your personal financial life, and you can quickly have a brighter future.

Stop Unnecessary Spending

Stop Unnecessary SpendingIn order to reduce your debt you need to lower the balances.

It’s a lot easier to hit a stationary target than one that keeps moving.

Stop the bleeding now, no unnecessary tapping into available credit.

Your balances will go down a lot faster if they stay where they are right now.

Remember there is a big difference between what you need and what you want!

Cut into Those Balances

Now that those balances become a stationary target, it’s time to start paying them down.

If you’re able to get over time at you job, take it. Consider working a part-time job.

Maybe a few nights a week, or even over the weekends.

Apply any extra income you make directly to the debt. Cash in your Cd’s or money market accounts at the bank.

The interest you are earning on this money is likely inconsequential compared to the interest being paid on your debt. I wouldn’t recommend using your entire savings towards your debt.

It’s always good to have some cash sources available in the event of an emergency. But only keep as much as you need, apply the rest directly to your debt.

If you can, take a loan on your 401(k). This way you’ll be paying the money back to yourself.

There are also other ways to get cash quick. In Alabama, for example, you can use this recommended service to apply for a payday loan online or in a store near your location. It’s fast and easy, but you have to remember to pay the loan back on time in order to save your credit.

Reduce Your Spending

Take a good look at where your money is going. Do you eat out a lot? If so, prepare these meals at home.

Do you have the premium cable package? Drop it down to a cheaper package. Take a good look at all your utilities such as cell phones, Internet service etc..

Trim some of the extra fat you don’t really need. Remember the old adage, a penny saved is a penny earned.

Prepare a Monthly Budget

The proof is in the pudding! Sit down and prepare a monthly budget, see where all your money is going.

You probably don’t realize how much money you’re wasting. When you get it all down on paper, you’ll be amazed at all the opportunities there are to save money.

Many families have a hard time realizing just how their money is spent until they can visualize it on paper.

You’d be amazed at how far a little sacrifice can go towards getting you out of debt. Work out your budget together as a family.

Make Your Purchases in Cash

By paying in cash you will not only realize exactly how your money is being spent, but also stop paying interest on your purchases as well.

Paying with credit all the time is deceiving, you’re spending money but still have cash in your pocket. When you run out of money, time to stop buying.

Adjust Your Withholding

If you get a big tax return every year, you probably are having too much money withheld from your check each week.

Adjust the withholding accordingly. The federal government does not pay you interest on your money all year long.

That extra money each week can be applied directly to your debt.

Check Your Insurance

Verify that you are not over insured. It’s not necessary to carry $1 million in life insurance when you only need $250,000.

See if you can get better rates by combining your automobile, homeowners, life and other policies to one company.

Shop the rates on all your policies to see if you can get better ones.

Garage Sale

Sell off any household items that you don’t any longer use or need. If you’re laying out monthly fees for a storage unit get rid of it. Time to get lean and mean.

Part of having a sound financial life is learning to live within your means. As you utilize these steps to get out of debt you’ll come to realize it’s not that hard to live within your means.

Many people are under the impression they have to sacrifice an awful lot in order to get out of debt.

The truth is for most of us, a little bit of sacrifice along with some trimming of the fat is all it takes to brighten up the financial future.

It will take desire and discipline to accomplish your financial goals, but when you do finally eliminate all of your personal debt you will find that it was worth every step you took.

Re: Question about old debt

Write to the credit bureaus – each of the big three and ask them to remove it in 2 months. Document everything and make them sign for your written request.

The collection agency can not start the clock again. The Fair Debt Collection practice does stop that. They have to deal with the original date.

Ive appreciated so much of the advice Ive read alabamayls.org for the past few months. So thanks to all of you! Now my question…

I recently received a collection letter in the mail for an unpaid balance I owe to Book of the Month club,which is supposedly from 2004! So Im wondering why they have waited 4 years to pursue this and if I should be concerned about it affecting my credit report.

They are offering a payoff amount and its only about $40. I’m tryin to get my credit cleaned up so Id hate for something this small to affect that.. its just the fact that its from 2004 that is making me wonder a bit. Can anyone shed any light on why this would come up now? I am a member of the book club currently and in good standing,which also makes me wonder why they didnt mention any of this when I signed up 2 yrs ago. hmm?

I would call the club’s CS AND ask them. Don’t send anything to them untill you get a response about this. If you’ve been a member all this time, under the same member number, something’s fishy…. Err ‘Phishy’…!

Question about old debt

I’ve received a letter from a lawyer about an old debt; I can’t remember if I made a payment less than four years ago (the statue of limitations) or not. I looked at my credit reports and it’s not on any of them. Does that mean I’m in the clear? If I get sued, I’ll have to file for bankruptcy.

It’s been 4 years since they contacted you about thsi debt? And it’s not on your credit report. i don’t think this creditor has a chance in hell in collecting money from you. How much is the amount for? Also, what was the loan for? If you have a bank account that you have used for years, you can ask the bank for check records dating back that far I believe. They keep records of all that. They may even have the wrong person…

I am not sure if you are in the clear or not. Some other people in this group seem to have much more experience than I do and will be able to help you with that. I am sorry I cannot give you any advise.

If you don’ t mind me asking: is there really a statute of limitations on debt? If yes, can you (or anyone else for that matter) please tell me about it or refer me to some resource where I can read about my rights as a debtor.

Thank you and best of luck getting rid of your old debt. You should be able to call the company that the lawyer is saying you owe and have them send you something in writing that states you owe no money as of this date. They will tell you verbally, but insist in a nice way that you need it in writing to cya. Then send a copy of this to the lawyer registered mail so you have proof that you sent it.

There is a statute of limitations on old debt. It is different for each state. Ask an attorney or someone in your particular state for the most up to date information.

Yes. There truly is a statute of limitations on debts. It is one reason the even bankruptcy is not reported after 10 years on your credit report.

It is also why so many creditors sell off debts. They are trying to collect anything at all on them. In reality, the debt ALWAYS starts at the original creditor, not collection agency #4’s efforts to collect it, and they all know it. They just hope you don’t.

Re: My mom said I am insane to marry him because of debt

My advice would be pay 6000.00 towards your cc debt. Then transfer your balance to 0% and save on interest….Pay down your debt first before buying other things. You’ll be glad you did…

I think id be quite concerned about marrying someone who is so deeply in debt and easily willing to dive into more debt. He owes 16,000, and wants a big wedding? I understand the desire to spend less on the heating since thats a necessity and would help. I really am not sure how you should spend the tax return but I would most definitely put off the wedding. Why dont you both make a serious commitment to paying down the debt? This way your start your marriage on a good note, prove to yourselves and your families that you can do this. Making decisions together financially is a huge part of a good marriage. If you guys dont see eye to eye on this its going to be a long and rough road.

I also wondered about this. Reminds me of a caller to the Dave R show, her husband wants a house, and he wants it now, but they (Mainly HE) owes so much and she’s from a poorer family and knows how NOT to spend on things.

This is turning out to be she is not a ‘wife’ but is a Mommy. She said he does go to POUT and whine mode if he doesn’t get his way, and this to me is abhorrent. Be very careful with this. Court house wedding or not, he should be happy as heck to find a love with you and not give a darn about how big a wedding is. I know many a huge wedding *I* served in as bride’s maid, entertainer, and attendee, and all but ONE ended in less than 3 years by divorce.

He should get out of this debt, or if it was his wife drumming all that up, petition HER for payment too, then you guys can have something to Play House with.

My mom said I am insane to marry him because of debt

marriageHi all,

wow where to even start….I hope I don’t confuse you all by this…

My fiance and I have been together for just over 2 yrs now. he wants to get married in Oct of ’09, to me it don’t matter cuz I am not going anywhere. He has 16,000 in cc debt due to a bad divorce. My mom said I am insane to marry him with so much debt and we should wait til it is paid down or off.

He just got done doing taxes and is receiving about 6,000, but the only problem is that we also want to get an outdoor woodburner (cost is about 8000) to help on heating costs. with the price of propane it was 1500 for us this year to heat and its only going to get worse so he thinks getting a woodburner will help out (we can get free and very cheap wood). I know it will but would really like to get rid of the cc debt.

Now one advantage of us actually getting married next year would be that we can file married and we would get more in eic cuz I have 2 kids right now that he will be able to claim, but it will also put us behind on paying more off on cc debt cuz we will need money to pay for the wedding (he wants a nice wedding cuz his last was in the courthouse).

we have a chance to transfer to a 0% for a year cc and our bank told us to do it. I didn’t tell her about the 6,000 from taxes we are getting back. should I pay off 2 of the cc’s and then transfer the others or is it best to transfer all of them and then pay a sum on it that way? does anyone know any idea what kind of savings will I have made doing either of the 2 ways or won’t it matter either way? this will all be done in the next week as we will have the 6000 by then, that is if he decides to pay on them or purchase the woodburner.

I am up in the air on what to do. I want to save as much as we can in all directions, but I am really getting stressed out since I am the one that takes care of all the bills. Any advice is greatly appreciated and will give me lots to think over and see what our best route will be. thanks so much in advance!

Re: Good idea here

I work for SSI program so I do sympathize with you-they penalize you if you have anything of value and of course, COAs do nearly match our current inflation rate.
Why not try a Habitat Reuse center, they have all sorts of building materials that they have xtras of. A good majority of the house materials are donated NEW, for the Habitat home program.

On the other hand, you could always try to earn ‘undocumented’ earnings. I know of a few who keep a step ahead of SSI, about that.

I did go to that for a window, but what I brought home was so bad, no screen, wrong type… nuthin’ like what we actually needed and we would up having to buy a new window. Flooring is in VERY high demand and if you’re not at their center when it’s there, with a car or some way to get it home, you’re out of luck.

When I go to our local one, it is like no one helps you, and when you have a vision problem, that is not a good thing.

My buddy who is a contractor can get the materials and such at cost, but it is the actual saving up for the initial outlay. Short of cutting a hole in my mattress and stashing any cash there, I hate that because too easy for other things o come take it away… a big bill, some other thing like yesterday with the window crack’d and all…

While I do appreciate SSI and what it DOES do, I wish they’d fix that limit. that is from years ago and with everyone shouting that ‘one is only 2 paychecks away from homelessness!’ and ‘but you should have 6 months’ expenses saved up!!!’… back then, $3,000.00 would have been fine. Now people are incredulous that I live on a grand a month :-\ because the monthly income out here is about $2,200-2,500.00. I am very fortunate to own my home, but I guess I’m in hopes of a better savings limit. We’re all trying to live debt-free, but when one isn’t allowed to save over a certain amount, it’s pretty tough to do. I even had to apply for a loan online.

I also do try to earn a little “sumthin’-sumthin’ ” on the side, but it’s never very much. My P/T job is reliable and also fun so I am mostly ‘legal’ (!)

Good idea here

I have one for you all…

I’m in Part time work and receive SSI for blindness of premature birth.

My income is roughly $15,500 a year from work and $3,072.00 from SSI.

When I get a little money ahead, something comes along: I had had hopes of knocking off one whole debt with my tax break, but the dog’s boosters are due, and while cleaning the windows today, I found one pane is cracked top to bottom in the roommate’s room. About $120.00 (I’m guessing until tomorrow when I can call the glaziers shop) to fix.

Bang goes that hope of one less debt, but at least I will not incur MORE debt by just paying the needs here.

My situation is: I am only ‘allowed’ to have $3,000.00 in savings or cash etc, under SSI.

So it begs the question:

When I get this ‘frakking’ debt gone and want to get new floors in my house, is it better to get a bunch saved up and purchase a gift card or something for the floor fixings? To do my whole house as wished (Generic ‘pergo’ and tiles) it will be around $6,000-8,000.00. If I try to save that much, SSI would take away my benefits.

[Note that outside of the actual money I receive from them, I am also under the Medi-Cal system. Losing medical would pretty much kill me off with my health issues, so I have to be somewhat cagey about getting the floors without saving “too much” or getting a stupid credit card or something later.]

The other alternative would be to pay off the signature-closed-end-loan to my credit union and apply for another one when I am free of my debts. At 11% or less interest, it’s one way to pay the floor fixings and installer off in one go and pay them pack on the terms the FCU set. I’d thought of doing one room at a time, but I always fear getting mismatches and ‘discontinued’ (Having to go with another style/colour/whatever). I had had hopes of getting this all done in one go and not live in a shambles for the rest of my life.

What would you do if in my place?

One more down Debt death!

A $180.00 bill will be gone on friday!! YAAAAAAAYYYY!!! I will be using my ESP ($600.00) from the IRS to pay off Penny’s soonest of all

  • Next is Penny’s, 3 months projected to death freeing up $100+
  • LOC at Downey 6 months projected till death freeing up $80.00 what I usually pay
  • K-designs (GEMoney) 15 months projected until death freeing up $82.00
  • My kinecta closed end loan 20 months projected… Freeing up $200.00 minimum/Month
  • Target 20 months till gone, freeing up minimum $60.00
    Kinecta Credit card 30 months…. if not sooner

They may work out more quickly than I have here, getting a few more hours at work and also done a couple of music gigs for money too. I’ll be having a sale here too to de-clutter and raise a few bucks as well.

Once my tax return has been received I plan to put a $1,000 on my very large BankAmerica account which is currently at 15.99% and growing. I am currently signed up for a free online personal finance course so that I can develop a budget. Never having done one, I am making baby steps, and hopefully will be out of debt before I retire.

I would be interested in the website for the free online personal finance course if you are willing to share it with the blog.

Sure, It’s www.daveramsey.com. You may start by watching this video:

Does Debt Consolidation/Debt Settlement Even Work?

Came across a site offering this, does it even work? Trying to get out of debt but there are so many scams out there I don’t know what’s what. Thanks in advance.

My husband & I contacted a debt relief company last week. I did a background check on them & they have been with the BB for 5 years. Here is a small background of our situation:

We owed a whopping $90,000.00 in unsecured debt. We did a lot of home improvements, especially our driveway, it was nothing but pebbles. We redid the main bathroom, etc., etc. Then we took a bunch of vacations to Europe throughout the years. So needless to say we were drowning in debt. I got low interest rates, consolidated loans & we were still drowning. The CC companies kept raising the minimum payments higher & higher.

We signed on the dotted line. I have never felt so relieved. No more interest, stress, just pure relief. They told us to keep one CC for emergencies & believe it or not we had a card with a ZERO balance.

Granted you have to pay them a fee… but what we were paying in interest fees, this fee doesn’t hold a candle to what I would be paying for years to come.

It was a pleasure to sit down the other day & cut up all my CC cards into little shreds… Yippie, we are headed to be debt free for the rest of our lives. The process takes between two to three years.

So what happens today, our washing machine bit the dust. But since we didn’t have to pay our CC’s this month we could pay cash. What a great feeling.

Also, answering your question – It works as long as you change your behaviors moving forward….Congratulations on attacking the debt and good luck!!!

Help DIY Negotiate Special Repayments

I teach part time and was not given a class load until after July 2012 when the fiscal year ends. I just called American Express who’s charging me 30% on 2 credit cards.

I’ve done credit counseling before, and apparently, I could have done the same thing on my own. I was out of debt once, and I’m back in it. So I want to try to do it myself.

Amex essentially told me “good luck and see what you can do,” they won’t make any “special” arrangements at all.

Any tips that worked when you called a credit card company directly to make special arrang—Éments so you can continue to make monthly payments?

Thank you in advance.

Just wanted to say I have Amex and they are the worst to deal with. They wouldnt negotiate with me either. Very nasty people. They sent me to collections. The collection agency reps called and told me how stupid i was and ill never have a good job or a house because my credit is bad. They told me Amex is not like other credit cards and wont help you or settle. I hope things work out better for you. I had the Optima card by the way. The one where you DON’T have to pay the balance in full at end of each month.

I’m in the same boat you’re in. Fortunately, I’ve been given classes each semester but none of these companies seem to understand the concept of part time teachers or “seasonal” work. In my case, I’m essentially unemployed in four months of the year. And unemployment (since they deduct for any work you do) makes it undesirable to find other employment.

I am in the middle of a DIY myself, and thought I’d share my experiences, because I’ve been surprised by what has happened …

A year ago I went into foreclosure (and got behind on cc’s and loans). With the attorney’s fees added on, I could only catch up by making payments in installments. My mortgage company set me up on a forbearance plan for 12 months, and now I only have this month’s and next month’s payments and I’m done!

Also last year, I paid lots of “stupid taxes” by way of payday loans … So things were a mess by the end of the year. It was all my own doing – nothing catastrophic took place that caused my debt, just my own overspending. CCCS would not be helpful for my situation, so I decided to do it myself …

I feel very fortunate to have found this blog, as I’ve said many times, because it’s given me invaluable information and support … and Dave Ramsey. So I dug in and got started … I set up my spreadsheet and started with the first step – getting current.

Fast forward a few months – I spent lots of time on the phone negotiating with creditors. I can see why people turn over this process to settlement companies, because it definitely is time-consuming and stressful. I was behind in almost everything.

But here’s the thing … creditors did work with me, and in many cases were even sympathetic on the phone, and spoke to me in a manner I can only describe as fairly gentle. Odd. That had not been my experience in the past.

I think this is the reason: I paid my mortgage on time for the last 10 months, extra $400 per month and all. I have made good on all my payment arrangements with my creditors these past months. When they set something up for me that lowered my interest rate and allowed me to catch up, I followed through as I’d promised.

Recently, Wells Fargo offered me a deal to split up my balance ($2000) into 12 payments, at 11% interest (down from 24%). AND they said when I’d finished that, they’d reopen my credit card account. Very odd, considering my FICO score is in the tank. Now before you caution me about reopening my account, let me say I have no intention of doing so. It’s just that what seems a gesture of good faith surprised me. Again, if I’m reading things right, I think it’s because I’ve been making good on all the arrangements I set up.

Even my credit union, where I have been chronically one month behind for the last year on my loan, is now very friendly and warm (really odd) when I go to make my payments … they sign my receipts with a little smiley face.

I know it might seem like phony friendliness – but I am pretty cynical about stuff like this, and I do believe it’s been genuine.

So, I think the surprising lesson I learned is that if you can get some good faith established by setting up payment plans and then establish a history of following through with them … I think the other creditors will follow suit, and cut you a break.

I still have a good amount of debt to pay off, and am almost current on everything. And I believe if I continue to follow through with the arrangements I have going, it will make a lot of difference, because my payments got lowered.

Perhaps others in this group have had this same experience. I never did before (but I’ve never had this much debt before), and it’s giving me hope that I can keep going, and maybe even one day be debt free …

Thanks to everyone for your invaluable information and advice.

To all who’ve replied so far, thank you.

  1. Amex is the hardest to deal with, I’m going to call the other creditors. My biggest debt is with JP Chase. Others have good experience with them?
  2. I could keep pointing back to how good I’ve been paying, with an occasional late payment (exceptions vs. rules)

I owe $23,000 to Chase and I called them last week telling them I lost my job (didn’t volunteer further details — why didn’t I think of this before as a strategy to lower the interest rate. They didn’t ask for verification of job loss). My interest rate was 30%.

Learnings:

  1. Confirmed that multiple calls talking to different people in the same company can give you different answers. I found this out by “accident.”
  2. There are some nice people on the “other side,” who’d truly work with you. I was constantly asking “What would you do since you know the ramifications of the options” from the bank’s side.

My monthly payment of $820 was reduced to almost half. Yippee!

No luck with Amex, but success with JP Morgan. I’m gearing to use the same technique for the other high interest cards.

Thank you all for your positive financial energy!