Trying to get out of debt can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know what options are available. Should you try and fix the problems on your own? Should you seek help from a credit counseling agency? The good news is that you can get help, do it on your own or a little bit of both! Here are a few methods to get out of debt, especially after the holiday season.
DIY Methods to Get Out of Debt
If you don’t seek help from a credit counseling agency or other company, you can take a look at your budget and your debts and see what works for you. These are the two most popular methods to get out of debt on your own.
When you use the Debt Snowball Method, you start by paying off the accounts with the smallest balance first. You still make the minimum payments on your other accounts. Once you’ve paid off the smallest balance, you move on to the next smallest, and so on. This is a popular method because you feel successful early on. Once you pay off that first account, you feel accomplished – and you should!
Example: You have a $3,000 car loan, $7,000 on your credit card, and a $10,000 student loan. You start by putting more money into paying off the car loan, while making minimum payments on the other two accounts. Then, when the car loan is paid off, you move onto the credit card, etc.
The Debt Avalanche Method focuses on the interest rates of your debts rather than the actual balance. With this method, you start paying off the account with the highest interest rate first, so that the interest doesn’t continue to accumulate over a longer period of time. While you may not feel quite as successful early on like with the Snowball Method, this method could save you money because you won’t pay as much in interest.
Example: Your car loan from the last example has an interest rate of 5%. Your credit card’s interest rate is 15%, and your student loan is 4%. You start by paying off the credit card, since it has the highest interest rate of 15%. You then move onto the car loan, and then the student loan.
Where You Can Get Help to Pay Off Debt
Financial issues can be overwhelming, and sometimes it’s best to seek professional help. While there are definitely reputable organizations that can help you, you will need to do your research first. There are also companies out there that could cause you more harm than good.
Credit Counseling Agencies
Using nonprofit credit counseling agencies is one of the best methods to get out of debt if you need outside help. They can help you come up with a workable budget, as well as consolidated payments that make it easier for you to pay off debt. These consolidated payments are lower than what you would be paying otherwise, since the credit counseling agency negotiates lower interest rates and fees with your creditors. This is called a debt management program, and ACCC’s debt management program can help clients pay off debt in 5 years or less. This will not hurt your credit score; in fact, your credit score will probably increase by the end of the program!
Debt Settlement Companies – Be Careful!
Debt settlement companies also offer you lower, consolidated monthly payments to pay off your debts. However, these companies are for-profit, and their services can ruin your credit score. This is because the lower payments aren’t just lower interest rates or waived fees. You don’t actually pay off the principal amount you owe. This will negatively impact your credit score, and it stays on your credit report for 7 years. Proceed with caution if you choose to work with these companies.
If you need help getting out of debt, ACCC can help. Call 800-769-3571 to speak to one of our certified credit counselors.