6 Ways to Get Out of Debt for Good
By Lauren Taylor
It’s time to put your big boy (or big girl) pants on and get out of debt. Ignoring debt doesn’t make it go away. Trust me, my husband tried. Luckily for me, however, he was able to get out of it all by himself. But not everyone is as good at adulting as my Finance Director hubby, so here are 6 ways you can start getting out of debt today:
1. DIY Debt Management
Like my incredible husband (I don’t know why I’m sucking up, he doesn’t even read these), you too can get out of debt all by your lonesome. It’s the simplest & cheapest option, and works best for improving your credit. If you can manage to make minimum payments on your debts without continuing to increase them, start with that. You can do it manually or use the many tools there are online to help you out. You'll be able to figure out a repayment strategy, and create a plan that you can track to over time. Services link to your debt accounts to make this dramatically easier and increase your success compared to trying to do it all manually.
2. Debt Consolidation
If you have home equity and good credit, take out a home equity consolidation loan to pay off credit card debt. It will simplify your finances by consolidating many debts into one and may dramatically reduce your interest costs, but it is a little risky. It takes unsecured debt that would be discharged in bankruptcy and transfers it to your house, and it may won’t solve any underlying spending problems you may have. Experts say that most people who take out a consolidation loan will run up unsecured debt within two years, so if you don’t trust your habits, kindly move along to option #3, sweetie.
3. Credit Counseling
Qualified credit counselors offer debt management plans to borrowers who demonstrate that they’ll have a difficult time making payments (low on funds, lost a job, expecting a child, etc.). Qualified borrowers generally receive forgiveness of some fees and lower rates.
4. Debt Settlement
Debt settlement is the process of settling with your creditors for amounts less than the full value of the debt, making it easier to pay off the remainder. But this may strongly damage your credit. Usually a third-party firm manages the process and negotiates on your behalf. In order to be successful, most settlement firms will tell you to stop making any payments so the debt will be moved to collections or sold to firms like them who are more willing to negotiate. That’s because there can be exorbitant hidden fees charged before the service is even delivered, so be wary of these guys.
5. Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
A Chapter 13 is a 'reorganization' for those who want to repay their debts over 3-5 years, but the bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven years. Ouchy.
6. Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Chapter 7 gives you a chance to discharge all types of unsecured debts (like credit cards) and start again. You can keep some of your property, but some debts (taxes, student loans, child support) will not be discharged. This kind of bankruptcy shows on your credit file for 10 years. Double ouchy.
So, there are your options. There are pros and cons to all of them, so you should consider the long-term ramifications (the ouchies) before deciding to jump in and choose what’s truly best for you.