You don’t want debt to be a stumbling block that trips you up. When you’re using money that could otherwise go into your investment account to pay interest accumulating on old debts, it’s time to take a hard look at your spending plan. And if you’re wondering what spending plan that might be, it’s probably time to put one together.

Why taking control of your debt is important?

When you construct a spending plan, sometimes called a budget, you divide up your income so that it covers your regular expenses – both essential and nonessential – always including some for your emergency fund and, ideally, some for your investment account. Some people use what they spent last year as a starting point – though last year’s spending may be what got you into debt. 

Taking a rational and mindful approach to managing your debt can significantly improve your situation and provide the means to keep it from happening again.

Debt management is a helpful tool for getting rid of debt. Numerous methods, such as the debt snowball method or working with a credit-counseling agency, are available to manage your debt. Debt management is a strategy that uses budgeting and financial planning to help you get control of your debt. The main aim is to use these strategies to support you in reducing your current debt and working toward its total elimination. 

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In a debt management plan, you and your creditors agree to pay a predetermined amount each month. Your financial capacity determines your monthly payment. Therefore, making a single regular monthly payment gives you more financial control. 

While it’s possible to slide slowly into debt, you’re more likely to face severe problems due to illness, an accident, or unemployment. 

What are three simple ideas to manage your debt more effectively?

  • Get Qualified Assistance 

If you owe more than you can comfortably repay with your current income, an informal spending plan may not be enough to solve the problem.

Rather than risk losing your home or your car, having your electricity and telephone turned off, or your insurance canceled, be proactive. Ask your creditors to change the terms of your loans. They may agree to add the amount you’re behind to the end of the loan, reduce your monthly payment, or both. It will extend the payback period and cost you more in finance charges over the long term, but it may keep you from drowning in debt.

You may also seek professional help from an accredited credit counselor, who will help you change how you spend and create a repayment plan. Check with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling for a not-for-profit center near you.

When choosing a credit counselor, ask how they will work with you and how your collaboration may affect your credit report. Ask, too, whether there is a charge for the assistance. Payment arrangements vary from center to center.

  • Don’t get detoured

You may have to take radical action if you can’t pay your credit card bills in full each month, even with a spending plan in place. Consumer debt can create significant problems, even if you meet your other obligations on time.

A word to the wise

Debit cards can be handier than cash, but using them is so painless that it’s easy to overspend. It’s smart to decline overdraft protection or you could end up owing major finance charges.

Try substituting cash when you shop. Though there’s no guarantee that you won’t overdraw your bank account, especially if you have a line of credit that gives you overdraft protection, you’ll know you’ve spent too much the next time you visit the ATM.

Give up all but one of your credit cards and use the one left only for emergencies. While using a credit card is an excellent way to build a strong credit history, it’s also one of the easiest ways to end up with a poor one. Once your finances are under control, you may be confident enough to return to plastic. But you may also find you can live without it most of the time. Avoid buying on impulse. You may lose out on a good deal or two, but you’ll strike a major blow against finance charges.

  • Use Automatic payments

If part of your debt problem results from not paying on time, you may want to consider automatic bill payment arrangements that help you avoid hefty late fees. For example, many utilities, telephone, and cable companies make it easy to sign up, and they debit your linked bank account each month. Some credit card issuers also offer automatic payment plans but may only give you the choice of paying as little as the minimum balance or as much as the entire bill. Of course, there must be money in your account, or enough overdraft protection, for the debit to go through. But you can time automatic payments to coincide with the direct deposit of your paycheck — also usually a good idea.

How to pay off debt faster?

If one of your goals is to reduce your debt or save on the cost of borrowing, paying off your debt more quickly could give you a head start. Make an effort to reduce your debt each month. To pay off debt faster, you may want to consider these steps.

Determine how much you have to pay. Make a list of every debt you need to pay, including the creditor, total amount of the debt, monthly payment, interest rate, and due date.

Managing Debt

Keep on track of your spending. If you’re determined to stick to your spending plan, it helps to keep careful track of where your money goes. Get into the habit of writing down what you spend and where you spend it. Then, using those notes, your bank statement, and your credit card bills once a month, analyze where your money went. You may find you’ve underestimated some essential costs and overestimated others. But since a spending plan is an evolving document, not a set of rules, you can always adjust it if necessary. Of course, following a plan doesn’t guarantee you’ll stay out of debt. But it does mean you’re less likely to be taken by financial surprise if you follow the guidelines you’ve set for yourself.

Figure out the maximum you can pay every month. You’ll probably need to pay more than the minimum balance on your credit card statements each month to reduce your debt significantly.

Consolidate your debt. If you have multiple high-interest loans, you may consider debt consolidation or combining all of your debts into a single loan. With one monthly payment, which is frequently much less than the sum of all of your previous monthly payments, you might be able to pay off your debt.

Pick your debt-reduction strategy. The most popular strategies are to pay off balances with the highest interest rates first or to pay off the lowest balances first.

What are strategies for paying down debt?

In general, three debt repayment methods can assist people in more effectively reducing or eliminating their debt.

  • The first action plan is to make extra monthly payments on the loan with the highest interest rate until it is paid off while only making the minimum payments required by the other loans. Once this debt is eliminated, you move to your next highest interest rate debt, paying more than the minimum.
  • Another quick way to get rid of debt fast is by using the “debt snowball” approach. Pay the smallest debt as fast as possible. Pay minimums on all other debt. When that debt is settled, pick a new one and pay all the extra money. Repeat this procedure until each debt is fully repaid.

The method with the highest interest rate may be the best option if you’re motivated to save the most money while still paying off your debts. On the other hand, you might want to think about the snowball method if you get motivated by making quick progress.

Debt can occasionally be beneficial for improving your credit score or achieving goals (like buying a house) that would be challenging to do without a loan. But having a lot of additional debt can hurt your credit score and lead to interest charges you don’t want to pay.

How To Manage And Reduce Your Debt? by Inna Rosputnia

Wishing you a great week!

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