I recently received a reader question regarding debt consolidation services:
Do you have any recommendations or advice for someone looking to consolidate their debt? I’ve got too much debt right now and I’m struggling to meet my monthly payments.
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Thank you for your question. Several months ago I answered a similar question on Cash Money Life – which debt to get rid of first? I pointed her to Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps. Both of these articles cover the same topics, but the second one is the introduction to a series written by several bloggers.
Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps calls for you to:
- assess your situation
- make the commitment to get out of debt
- get current on all debts
- focus on repaying what you have using the snowball method
As for consolidating your debt, that may or may not be necessary. Most debt consolidators just charge you to do something you can do on your own. I recommend investigating these steps first to see if you can make a plan that will get you out of debt without going to someone else. Here is how to do your own debt consolidation plan.
If you determine you still need a debt consolidation, then there are many options. But be sure to read the small print concerning how much you will be paying – not only per month, but in total interest. Sometimes the debt consolidation loans will lower your payments to an easy payment, but stretch your payments out several years. Also make sure you understand which fees you are paying them. Here are more reasons you should not pay for debt consolidation.
Personal loans may be another option to paying a debt consolidator. You can always try talking to your creditors to try and lower your payments or the interest rates you pay, or you can look into taking a personal loan through your bank, or from a peer to peer lending company such as Prosper, Lending Club, or Loanio. These companies allow borrowers to borrow money from other individuals at rates that are generally lower than the rates they can get from a bank. Again, read the terms and conditions, and do what is best for your situation.
Without details, it is tough to give anyone real advice, but the principles outlined in the articles I linked to may be helpful. Just remember, the most important thing for you to do is change your current lifestyle to get away from adding more debt – and focus on repaying the debt you have now.
Good luck, Shawn.