How to Reduce your Debt in 5 Easy Steps

By: Chileshe Mwape


If you have incurred substantial personal debt, consider these options: budgeting, debt consolidation, credit counselling from a reputable organization and working with your creditors. You will need to choose a debt reduction method that will work best for you? The method you use will depend on your level of debt, how much spare money you have, your level of discipline, and how quickly you want to get out of debt.

1. REALISTIC BUDGETING

The first step towards taking control of your financial situation is to do a realistic assessment of your income and expenditure. Work out how much you earn (your total income) and write this figure down. Then total your expenses. This is how much you spend each month for rent, fuel, food, clothing, heating, water, electricity and other bills. The difference between your total income and your total expenses is the amount of money available to pay your creditors or lenders.

Decide if there are any monthly expenses that you can reduce or live without. Focus on lowering your expenses so that you can increase your income. You'll be amazed at how many things you can do without.

a) Debt Reduction Methods

Choose a debt reduction method that fits your situation and gives the maximum benefit. You could choose to focus on repaying debts that are most important to your credit rating or to maintaining your family's safety. Or you can start by paying off those debts with the highest interest rate thus reducing the total spent on interest charges and increasing the amount available to pay off debt.

Alternatively, you could focus on paying off bills with the lowest balances. Then the money used for those payments can go to pay off other debts.

If your credit payments (excluding mortgages) exceed 15-20% of your take home pay, you can work with creditors to set up monthly instalments that are more in line with your income.

b) Credit Cards

Transfer your credit card debts (balance) to a card offering an introductory 0% interest rate for balance transfers. Make sure you keep up the repayments and then just before your 0% introductory offer is up, apply for another 0% card, transfer the balance over before you starting paying interest Ė and repeat. With a good credit record, you could do this for years, moving your debt from one card to another until itís paid off.

3. DEBT CONSOLIDATION

This is when you use a new loan to pay off multiple debts. Your monthly payment will be lower because repayment is spread out over a longer period of time. This will usually eliminate the hassle of having multiple creditors, multiple bills, and multiple payments to make. It's very important not to take out any additional loans until your consolidation loan has been repaid. Borrowing against your home is a cheap way to raise money, but itís risky. If you canít make the payments - or if your payments are late - you could lose your home.

However, you could replace expensive debts with a cheaper personal loan (unsecured loan). Before taking on new debts, you might want to check out your credit history.

4. CREDIT COUNSELING

Some people are not disciplined enough to create a workable budget and stick to it. If you canít work out a repayment plan with your creditors and you canít keep track of mounting bills, consider contacting a credit counselling organization or a financial advisor. In the UK you can use free debt counselling services such as the Consumer Credit Counselling, the National Debtline and the Citizens Advice Bureau. Similar services are available in the US.

5. CONTACTING YOUR CREDITORS

A creditor is a company or person to whom you owe money. Many people struggling financially ignore debts and fear contacting their creditors. This reaction will damage your credit record. Creditors or lenders may take action against you in an effort to get payment. If you're finding it hard to get your bills paid, be the one to contact creditors. They will be more willing to work with you. Work out arrangements that satisfy you both. Explain to each lender that you aim to repay each debt in full over time, but that they must accept reduced repayments for now. Decide how much you can pay them each month and set up a debt repayment plan.

Conclusion
If youíre serious about reducing your debt you should stop spending on your credit cards and stop taking out new loans. To increase your income, consider finding a second job or a lodger. Claim every state benefit that you qualify for and work on cutting down your expenses. Sell stuff that you donít need on eBay or at Car Boot fairs. Put enough money aside for emergencies, but use the bulk of your savings to pay off debt. Debts usually cost you far more in interest than you gain on your savings. Also, if you have a fairly good credit record, you should transfer your debts to cheaper lenders. Finally, shop around for better deals for services and products that you use.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute financial advice. If you require such advice, you should seek appropriate professional guidance.

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Copyright © 2005. Chileshe Mwape writes for Debt Consolidation Loans UK: www.best-debt-consolidation-loan.co.uk/. Visit our site to consolidate debts and apply for a loan online. This article may be reprinted as long as all the above links are active and clickable.

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