Experiencing serious debt conjures a cocktail of negative emotions like fear, stress, anger, and sadness, affecting our ability to think clearly. This doesn’t even account for the possible traumatic incident that led to debt, such as losing a job or staying in the hospital for an extended period.
You may have moved past your hardship, but the effects of debt remain. As much as you want to be positive and focus on the future, reminders of the past surface everywhere.
While maintaining disciplined spending habits is key to getting on firmer emotional and financial footing, you can do more to overcome your rocky financial past. Let’s look at some tips and advice from successful financial minds and organizations on making an unsavory financial relationship a thing of the past.
It’s Nothing Personal
A day full of collection calls is enough to ruin anyone’s day. That’s because debt collectors are persistent and apathetic. To them, you aren’t paying back the money you spent. They don’t know or necessarily care what landed you in debt. It’s an open-and-shut case from their perspective. So while their tone might feel like a personal attack on you and your situation, try to detach yourself from the interaction and understand that they know nothing about you and are merely doing a job.
However, there’s only so much treatment you should take from debt collectors. Know your rights, and if you feel that a collector is going too far, don’t hesitate to report them to the FTC.
Stop Using Credit Cards
Aside from avoiding racking up further interest and subsequent debt, cutting up your plastic ensures you won’t have to deal with the potential embarrassment of denied charges. Getting used to paying for things with only money you possess will evolve your thoughts about credit usage in the first place, which is a helpful exercise even if irresponsible spending wasn’t the initial culprit.
Seek Out Support Groups
Debt is never easy to cope with, but many people make it infinitely harder by internalizing their burden, due to embarrassment or depression. This is unfortunate as support groups like Debtors Anonymous, Overspenders, Spenders Anonymous and the online forum, I am In Debt Support Group, offer several benefits. These communities allow a debtor to voice their struggle; airing problems, getting thoughts out of the head are huge obstacles.
By discussing financial issues semi-publicly, these financial problems lose their stigma. Instead, they’re known problems to address, and people are holding you accountable. Support groups also remind debtors that their situation, as difficult as it may be, isn’t unique to them. Hearing the perspectives of other debtors can reshape our attitude about our debt by boosting our morale and self-esteem.
Commit to a Plan to Get Out of Debt
With your attitude adjusted, emotional support obtained, credit usage eliminated and financial tips in tow, vow to get out of debt once and for all—you can’t be one foot in one foot out. If your credit is still in good standing, you’ll want to look into a balance transfer card or a debt consolidation loan. If you don’t have good credit, then debt settlement or bankruptcy become viable strategies.
Balance Transfers and Consolidation Loans
If you only have one balance, you can transfer your debt (usually via a three percent transfer fee) to a card with an introductory zero-interest period. You can then use the balance transfer card to pay your balance on the high-interest card. Debt consolidation loans work similarly, except they’re used to consolidate multiple credit balances into one lower-interest-rate payment. Some debt consolidation loans carry a fee but can save you a lot of money on interest, not to mention simplify your payment process.
Note that you can also transfer more than one balance; you just have to pay a fee for each balance you transfer.
Debt Settlement and Bankruptcy
Debt settlement and bankruptcy impact credit scores for seven to 10 years, but they eventually do lead to greener financial pastures. If you’re worried about the stigma of declaring bankruptcy but have a negative perception of debt relief, consider that not all companies are scammers.
An easy way to tell is whether they try to get money from you up front or are transparent in wanting to resolve your situation. It’s also a red flag if the company is calling you. Legitimate companies, for example, Freedom Financial Network—whose CEO Andrew Housser sits on the board of directors for the American Fair Credit Council (AFCC) and has received entrepreneurial recognition—would never be cold calling you.
If your credit limits your options, debt settlement and bankruptcy are much better choices than continuing to fall behind by making minimum payments and dealing with daily creditor calls and mail. But it’s important to remember that every financial situation is unique, and there’s more to beating debt than money. A well-rounded approach to discipline, emotional support, and perspective paired with a debt relief plan will do wonders for your progress and mindset along the way.