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Alternatives to Bankruptcy: Debt Solutions Explained

Alternatives to Bankruptcy: Debt Solutions Explained

Debt is a big problem all over the world. In the UK, the average debt per adult currently standing at a massive £29,210. In the US, the average household with debt carries $15,762 in credit card debt and $130,922 in total debt. Rising debt, plus a drop in income and savings, means 2016 is a rather uncertain one when it comes to our finances.

If you’re in serious debt then a debt solution could be the way out. For some people, bankruptcy isn’t the preferred option because this route can cause long-term problems, such as issues accessing credit, losing property and getting work.

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Of course, seeking out a debt solution requires a lot of consideration, so always take debt advice before you do anything. This guide outlines some of the common alternatives to bankruptcy and aims to help you work out which is the best option for you.

1. Debt Management Plan

A debt management plan is an informal repayment agreement between you and your creditors. You will agree a monthly sum and pay it back. Typically, a debt management company will manage such a plan for you. Find out more about debt management plans on this government website.

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2. Individual Voluntary Arrangement

An individual voluntary arrangement, or IVA, is a formal agreement between you and your creditors. This means it is approved by the court. With an IVA, you would agree to pay off your debts over a set period of time. An IVA needs to be set up by a lawyer or an accountant.

3. Debt Relief Order

Debt relief orders are designed for people on low income with relatively low levels of debt (typically, less than £20,000). Under a debt relief order, your debt repayments and interest are frozen for 12 months. After this time, if your financial situation hasn’t changed, your debts are written off.

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4. Trust Deed

Available to residents of Scotland, a trust deed is similar to an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (explained below). It’s effectively a formal repayment agreement between you and your creditors. A Scottish trust deed would see you transfer some or all of your assets (cash, property) to a trustee who would manage them for your creditors. You would pay a single monthly payment to the trustee. Find out more about trust deeds from Trust Deed Scotland.

5. Write-off

If you are in real dire straits and cannot afford to make any payments towards your debts whatsoever, one option is to try and get them written off. To do this, you would have to formally ask your creditors if they would be prepared to do it. Obviously, it is highly unlikely that they would. You can find a template letter for requesting a write-off for your debts.

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6. Last Resort – Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy should be regarded as a final option. Bankruptcy sees an official receiver take control of your assets. Note that these assets could be sold to pay your creditors. You will also have to follow certain bankruptcy restrictions and details of your bankruptcy will be made publicly available. Remember that bankruptcy could affect your employment and access to credit.

Keeping On Top of Things Day-to-Day

With the possibility of the Bank of England raising interest rates later this year, families and individuals need to prepare themselves to properly manage their finances. We’ve added some simple ways you can keep on top of your money.

  • Assess whether you’re paying for anything you’re simply not using (Netflix, etc).
  • Start signing up for loyalty and reward programs to get vouchers and deals.
  • Sell anything you no longer use.
  • When going to the supermarket, write a shopping list and stick to it.
  • Avoid fast food – it’s expensive.
  • Head to charity shops for bargains.

Falling into debt is not a situation anyone wants to find themselves in. But, know that it need not be the end of the world. With a number of debt solutions available, there’s every possibility you’ll find something that changes your financial situation for the better.

Featured photo credit: Wipe your debt via thealertinvestor.com

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Last Updated on March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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