9 Ways to Start Fixing Your Debt — Even If You Can’t Afford the Payments
OK. That vacation cost a little more than expected. And then the car broke down. Now you have debt starting to pile up. Yuck.
Not only that, but you also don’t have any extra income right now to start really tackling that debt. Double ugh.
It’s OK. Believe it or not, there are some simple moves you can make to start reducing your debt — without making a single payment.
Seriously. You can do this.
1. Beef up Your Credit Score
Why would you care about your credit score when you already have too many credit cards?
Because improving your credit score can help you qualify for lower interest rates, and that means you’d pay less to finally eliminate that debt.
To keep a closer eye on your credit, get your credit score and a “credit report card” for free from Credit Sesame. It breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms and shows you how it all affects your score and how to address it.
Because it simplifies everything, you should be able to spot any errors. For instance, if you find an “unpaid” credit card that you know you paid, or a bill in collections you know never existed, you can dispute the incorrect information and probably raise your credit score.
Once you follow Credit Sesame’s tips on how to manage your credit, you should reach out to your credit card companies to see if they’ll lower your interest rate. There’s a good chance you could save a lot of money by paying less interest on that debt.
2. Get a Lower Interest Rate
How much interest are you paying on your debt?
A lot of us are being crushed by credit card interest rates north of 20%. If you’re in that boat, consolidation and refinancing might be worth a look.
A good resource is Fiona, a search engine for financial services, which can help match you with the right personal loan to meet your needs.
Fiona searches the top online lenders to match you with a personalized loan offer in less than 60 seconds. If your credit score is at least 620, its platform can help you borrow up to $100,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 4.99% and terms from 24 to 84 months.
Paying less interest means paying down your debt faster — and for less. It’s a no-brainer.
3. Reduce Your Bills and Get Those Bank Fees Back
Your monthly bills aren’t considered debt.
But that’s still money coming out of your pocket every month. The more you have to pay for your monthly bills, the less you have left over to tackle that debt.
Help is easily available. Download TrueBill, an app that’ll negotiate your bills, cancel unwanted subscriptions and refund your bank fees.
After downloading the app, create an account and link your bank account and/or credit cards. Turn on the bill negotiation and outage protection features. On average, Truebill customers get $12 in credits off their cable bills each month.
The app will also remind you of all those sneaky subscriptions you’ve signed up for through the years, so you can cancel what you don’t use and reclaim your monthly budget.
Signing up and using the service is free, though there are some paid premium services that are totally optional — but could totally be worth it.
Lower bills equals more money each month to pay off debt. Then, just more money.
4. Pay Less for Insurance
You’re probably overpaying for car insurance. And how would you know, really?
Have you shopped around lately? Have you compared rates from the 20 largest auto insurers that do business in your area? That sounds kind of difficult and time-consuming, doesn’t it?
Fortunately, a service called Gabi will do it for you, and you don’t even have to fill out any forms. Simply link your insurance account and provide your driver’s license number, and Gabi will go to work.
Once you link your insurance account to Gabi, it will:
- Scan your existing insurance plan.
- Analyze what coverage you have.
- Compare the major insurers’ rates for that same coverage.
- Help you switch on the spot if it finds you a better rate.
Gabi says it finds an average savings of $720 per year for its customers.
It is a true apples-to-apples comparison at the same coverage levels and deductibles you currently have. Once you sign up, you never have to shop again. Gabi’s software has your policy on file and keeps on monitoring for savings as your life changes.
5. Get Credit-Repair Help
Knowing that you have debt hanging over your head is bad enough. But when your phone keeps blowing up with calls from collection agencies, that stress dial goes way, way up.
But what if you don’t really owe all of that money? Sometimes there are bills that shouldn’t even be on your account. How do you get rid of them? Could you actually pay less than you owe on your other bills? Yes, with the right help.
Don’t battle it out with those aggressive collection agencies on your own. Find a reputable credit repair company like Collection Shield 360.
It can find and dispute errors on your credit report, negotiate with collection agencies and stop those annoying phone calls. It’s free to enroll and it helps protect consumers against debt-collection harassment.
It’s like having a friend who knows karate to help protect you from playground bullies.
6. Bring Your Interest Down to 0%
You know high interest rates make it harder to pay off your debt. That part is simple.
So why not get rid of them — at least for a while?
Getting a new credit card sounds like a bad idea when you already have credit card debt, but if you’re smart about it, this trick can really help you out.
It’s called a balance transfer, and it’s when you take that balance you have sitting on a high-interest credit card and move it over to a different card. The trick is to find a card that offers 0% interest on balance transfers for a decent length of time.
Choosing the right balance transfer card isn’t as easy as it seems, but finding the perfect card can really be a game changer for paying off your debt.
7. Negotiate Your Bills
Remember what your grandma used to say when you wanted a cookie? “Ask nicely!”
It turns out, that’s amazing life advice when it comes to tackling your debt, as well.
Sometimes you can lower your bills, especially crippling medical bills, just by asking to have them reduced. Let your provider know a good reason why you can’t pay what it’s asking. You might get a little relief.
Also keep an eye on late fees and other sneaky charges that are added on to your bill. Those are easy for your debtors to remove if they choose.
It doesn’t hurt to ask, right?
8. Pay a Lot Less for Cell Service
Your cell phone is your buddy. Your must-have tool. Frankly, you don’t know what you’d do without it.
But that giant phone bill is holding you back.
If you’re sick of of paying your cell phone carrier hundreds of dollars each month, look beyond the so-called Big Four and into the discount carrier Twigby.
That’s what Zak Wilson did. He’d been paying Verizon Wireless about $180 a month for two lines. So he tried Twigby. For both phones, he’s now paying $60 a month.
Plus, new Twigby customers get 25% off the first 6 months of service.
A lower cell phone bill means more funds that you can put towards your debt each month. See how easy this is?
9. Get Someone on Your Side
If you’re still looking at your piles of debt and find it overwhelming, don’t feel bad. You’re far from alone, and it can be hard to know where to start.
What you need is someone on your side who can guide you through the process and help you develop a strategy for taking that mountain of debt and whittling it down to a nub.
A debt counselor could be just the thing you need. Debt counseling can help you create a budget, organize your credit accounts and come up with a personalized game plan to help you get free from that debt once and for all.
Tackle Your Debt
Don’t be intimidated by your debt. Take the steps you need to get it under control. These moves could help you get started improving your debt situation before you have to make a single payment.
Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.