10 Debt Management Tips
January is a good month to review your finances. An old year has now passed and you’re just months away from your tax deadline. Hopefully, you don’t owe the government money — perhaps you’ll even enjoy a sizable return.
You may have little control on some things in your life, but one area where you can gain the upper hand is your debt. If your debt increased over the past year, you’ll want to put the brakes on those costs immediately. The following are 10 debt management tips to help you get everything under control:
1. Stop using credit – If you’re running balances every month on your credit card, then you’ll only go deeper into debt by charging more. Resolve not to use your credit card until your debt has been paid off. Thereafter, pay off your balances monthly.
2. Talk with your creditors — Contact your credit card issuer(s) and ask to have your interest rate(s) lowered. If a creditor balks, find a new credit card that offers a free balance transfer and a lower interest rate. Transfer your balances from a high interest credit card to a low interest credit card.
3. Use the snowball method — You can tackle your debt, but you’ll need to do this one debt at a time. Check out Dave Ramsey who espouses the snowball plan as a way of reducing your debt faster.
4. Don’t borrow money — It is tough to get a loan when the economy is flat, but it isn’t impossible. Beware of personal loan offers that allow you to use those funds to take a trip, buy a boat or pay for something else that you do not need. Save it first and then pay for it with cash.
5. Make a budget – Say, “budget” to some people and they react as if you used a four-letter word. Okay, use the word “plan” instead to help you track and plan your expenses. Find out how much you bring in, what you spend and insist that you’ll have something left over each month instead of sinking deeper into debt.
6. Get some help – If your debt is too big to handle by yourself, seek help from a credit counselor. Not every person who calls himself a counselor is qualified to help you. Check out the FTC’s Choosing a Credit Counselor website for more information.
7. Change your services — Your monthly costs may be weighted down by your utility services. One way you can save money is by combining services. Use one company for your Internet connection, television and phone. Lose your landline if you have a cell phone and don’t need it.
8. Sell something — Is there something of value that you own that can be sold and the monies used to pay down your debt? That family heirloom has been gathering dust in your closet. Would someone else put it to good use and pay you good money for it? Selling gold today can yield surprisingly high dividends by the way. Frugal Mom tells you how to sell it on eBay!
9. Take a second job — If you can find a new job that pays more, then take it. Barring that, consider taking on a second job to bring in more money. Limit your hours to what you can reasonably handle; use the monies earned from that job to pay down your debt.
10. Be in agreement — If you’re married, make sure that you and your spouse are in full agreement on how to handle your debt. If you’re not, your best efforts will be quickly undermined. Enlist each other for battle — you’re in a war and debt is your enemy — not each other! Check out SmartMoney on how to work things out.
Creating good spending habits will help you tackle your debt too and avoid financial challenges later on. It may take months, even years to win the debt battle, but it is war that must be waged if you want to maintain control in your life.