If you’ve committed to paying down your debt and making your way toward financial freedom, congratulations! You’re one giant step closer to achieving your goal. As you embark on your journey, keep an eye out for these missteps and mistakes. Steering clear of potential pitfalls and making good decisions for yourself will help you build up your financial health and build back your financial wealth.
1. Relying on quick-fix solutions
While it can be tempting to outsource your financial problems to a debt relief service promising fast results, be wary of companies that guarantee a quick-fix to your debt or even the removal of negative information from your credit report that might be accurate. Debt relief scams and credit repair scams often target cash-strapped people with high credit card debt.
On the flip side, there are countless credit counseling and debt settlement companies that are both legitimate and helpful, but it’s important to put in the work to make sure the organization you turn to is reputable. Start by consulting your local consumer protection agency and investigating any complaints about the company you’re considering. Then make sure you understand the services offered, the costs, and the length of time it’ll take to get results (and remember that debt doesn’t go away overnight).
2. Forgetting to negotiate
You may be surprised to learn that creditors may be willing to not only work with you to make a repayment plan that’s manageable, but that they may even reduce the amount you owe to a number that’s less than the original sum. This tends to be the case particularly if you have debt that’s more than 90 days overdue. This kind of debt settlement definitely demands a certain degree of persistence and persuasion, so be ready to build a strong case for your financial hardship and to make several phone calls.
3. Failing to make a debt repayment plan
Debt can be overwhelming, but creating a strong and strategic debt repayment plan can both give you more control over your situation and help you stick to your goals. Alongside documenting your debt and reaching out to creditors, this largely means prioritizing the debt you’ll pay down first, second, third, etc. There are several tried-and-tested approaches to successfully paying down debt (e.g. the avalanche method and snowball method), so find the one that makes the most financial sense for you and then build a budget that accounts for both your regular expenses and savings goals, monthly minimum debt repayments, and anything extra you plan to put toward chipping away at what you owe.
4. Adding new debt
Think twice before adding new debt to existing accounts in the red or opening new accounts to help pay down your debt. It goes without saying that the former will make it more difficult to balance your books, and the latter can also have a negative impact on your credit score. That’s because new accounts demand an “inquiry” into your credit report, which can dock your score, and can affect the overall length of your credit history, which is a calculation made up of the average length of all your accounts held.
5. Closing paid-down accounts
Once you pay down certain kinds of debt, like credit card debt, it might seem like it makes sense to close the account and remove the temptation to rack up more debt. Hold tight though. Closing these kinds of accounts also shrinks your available credit limit, which can affect your credit utilization rate. This is one of the factors that goes into calculating your credit score. So if you can stay disciplined and leave the account open without overspending, it’ll prove beneficial for the way lenders view your financial situation.
6. Giving up on saving
It’s easy to let everything else fall to the wayside when paying off debt, but don’t forego the financial resilience that savings can offer you. Even putting a tiny amount aside every month in an effort to build up an emergency fund can give you peace of mind that you’ll be able to foot the bill when unexpected expenses pop up. The best part? You won’t have to accrue more debt when a crisis arises.