DAYTON – Whether owing a friend $5 or a university $50,000, individuals likely have experienced the stress of being indebted to someone or something.
Debt related to loans is common these days. College students often expect to graduate in debt. People go into the house or car buying process knowing they’ll be owing money for years. So, how do people balance it? Debt is a part of today’s modern society, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed smartly and efficiently.
Those who find themselves in debt they’re struggling to manage can turn to credit counseling, debt relief or debt consolidation for help. Credit counseling focuses on a variety of resources (budgeting, educational programs, counseling, debt management plan) to help individuals resolve their money problems. Debt relief or settlement companies say they can renegotiate debt so individuals don’t owe as much by reaching out to creditors to lower a balance, interest rates or fees. Debt consolidation companies offer loans to pay off debts all at once.
However, shady companies in these industries can put individuals even further in debt. Be wary if the company charges fees before debts are settled or guarantees to make debt go away. Some may claim to improve credit scores or tell people to stop paying their debts and communicating with their creditors.
Better Business Bureau offers tips to assist with managing or avoiding debt:
• Know your debt. Keep track of how much you owe and to whom.
• Leave your emotions at the door. Don’t be tempted to spend more while evaluating your debt, remind yourself of all your debt responsibilities
• Don’t go deeper in debt by continuing to use credit cards. Put your credit cards away and pay with cash or a debit card.
• Set up a budget. Total up regular monthly expenses and develop a plan detailing how much you can pay, ensuring income exceeds expenses each month.
• Make extra payments when you can. Use unexpected cash, such as a gift, raise or tax refund, to make extra payments.
• Look for ways to save. For instance, skip daily coffee runs, use coupons or pack your lunch. Use the extra money to pay your debt or build your savings.
• Prioritize debt repayments. Review outstanding credit card balances and interest rates. Tackle high-interest rate balances first by paying more than the minimum payment monthly until the balance is paid. Consider transferring high-interest balances to a lower interest rate credit card.
• Work with creditors and ask them to reduce interest rates or create new payment schedules.
• Before you settle on a solution, make sure you’ve researched all your options.
BBB can also be a resource for finding trustworthy firms to help with debt. Visit bbb.org or call 937-222-5825 or 800-776-5301 for lists of BBB Accredited Businesses that can help or Business Profiles on ones you’re considering.