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10 Recession-Proof Debt Consolidation Tips

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10 Recession-Proof Debt Consolidation Tips

The journey to paying down your debt can be challenging in the best of times. It can be even more complicated when you’re balancing the effects of a global recession.

Many Americans are facing immediate financial uncertainty from losing their jobs or being underemployed. The economic repercussions of this pandemic recession will be felt for years to come. Although becoming debt-free might not be your top priority during this difficult phase, you should still take steps to maximize your money.

Here are some debt consolidation tips to help recession-proof your finances.

1. Ask Your Creditors to Lower Your Interest Rates

The first on this list of debt consolidation tips is asking your creditors to lower your interest rates. Many borrowers don’t realize they can contact their existing credit card providers at any time to request a lower interest rate.

This often-overlooked tactic is a quick and easy way to reduce your debt burden, and it may result in a permanent or temporary (e.g. 12 months) interest rate reduction.

Creditors are more likely to say “yes” if you have a history of on-time payments or if your credit score has recently increased. Even if that’s not the case, the worst thing your creditor can do is say “no.”

If you aren’t successful in lowering your interest rate, don’t hesitate to ask again after a few months or after receiving lower offers from competitors. Credit card providers can issue reductions at their discretion, but it’s up to you to initiate the request.

2. Pause Low-Interest Loans to Tackle High-Interest Debt

High-interest loans and credit cards can prevent you from climbing out of debt. Although you’re hard at work making payments, interest charges are continuously accruing. This interest can quickly eat away at your monthly payment instead of chipping away at the principal balance.

To help make some headway in repaying your debt, see if you can pause payments on your lower interest loans. Then, devote those funds to your higher-interest debt. This lets you eliminate your balance faster and save you from unnecessary interest charges.

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Options for loan deferment vary by lender. In some cases, lenders might offer an interest-free deferment. Other lenders might continue charging interest on your loan during deferment.

Contact your lender to determine if deferment is available and for how long. Even a pause of two to three months can help you put a noticeable dent in your high-interest debt.

3. Consider Using a Balance Transfer Credit Card

You can quickly reduce your overall interest by taking advantage of low or 0% APR balance transfer credit cards. By transferring your existing balance from a higher interest card, you can save money and pay down your balance quicker.

A low-interest rate or promotional offer, however, might come with an additional cost in the form of a balance transfer fee.

For example, a creditor might offer 18 months of 0% APR when transferring a balance from another card. This perk typically comes with a 3-5% balance transfer fee that’s calculated based on the transfer amount. In this scenario, you could tack on up to $300 to $500 in transfer fees if you transfer an existing $10,000 balance to a new card. You’ll need to weigh your potential savings versus the transfer fee to determine if this is a good debt consolidation strategy.

Additionally, your new card might have transfer limits or a short introductory period before a higher interest rate kicks in on any remaining balance. Be sure to read the fine print and stick to your repayment strategy, so it doesn’t end up costing you more in the end.

4. Refinance With a Lower Interest Rate

Whether it’s your mortgage, student loans, auto, or other consumer debt, you might find a lower interest rate by refinancing your loan. Refinancing is one of the most helpful debt consolidation tips you should know.

Refinancing replaces your existing loan with a new loan—usually with a lower interest rate or better terms. You might qualify for a better rate than when you originally took out the loan if your credit score has since improved or if consumer loan rates have dropped.

Mortgage and student loan refinancing rates are at record lows since this pandemic began, which is a small silver lining in otherwise tragic health and economic crisis.

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The bottom line is if you can find a lower interest rate for any of your loans, take action. Remember, there might be associated refinancing fees or closing costs depending on the type of loan and lender.

5. Ask About Loan Modification

In some cases, you can benefit from modifying an existing loan instead of refinancing it into a new loan—particularly if you need immediate relief due to financial hardship.

Depending on the type of loan, the refinancing process can take months, as is the case with some mortgage refinancing options. Loan modifications, however, can be processed in a short period.

Loan modification can make your payment more manageable by reducing your interest rate or lowering your monthly payment. It can also extend your loan terms, which typically costs you more money in the long-run.

Contact your lender to explore loan modification opportunities. Always make sure you fully understand the terms and structure of your modified loan before moving forward.

6. Shop Around for the Best Loan Consolidation Quotes

If you have high-interest debt, you may be able to consolidate multiple balances into one low-interest loan. This can save you on interest fees, but it can also streamline your payments into one due date, which can prevent missed or late payments.

It’s best to grab quotes from at least three lenders any time you’re consolidating or refinancing your debt. By comparing multiple offers, you’re getting the best current rate since lenders are competing for your business. I recommend shopping around for all types of loans, especially for better student loan rates.

Student loan debt, totaling more than $1.64 trillion in both federal and private student loans, surpasses all other forms of debt in the U.S. apart from housing debt.[1] Because of this, there are plenty of opportunities to refinance or consolidate your student loans.

If you already have private student loans, you should be shopping around for better interest rates at least once per year. Lowering your interest rate is the priority, but also compare origination fees, repayment terms, and any available cashback offers to pay down your debt further.

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If you have federal student loans, the decision gets more complicated. Depending on your financial situation and career goals, it might be more advantageous to keep your existing federal student loans due to their various protections (e.g. deferment and forbearance), flexible income-driven repayment plans, and available forgiveness programs.

7. Work on Improving Your Credit Score

Before consolidating a large amount of debt, take steps to improve your credit score. The higher your credit score, the better interest rates you’ll be offered.

Common ways to improve your credit score include:

  • Disputing any errors or outdated information on your credit report
  • Paying off smaller credit cards and keeping your loan balances low
  • Refraining from applying for new credit accounts in a short period
  • Keeping revolving credit accounts active

These actions can help lower your credit utilization rate while maintaining your credit history length. Both are important factors in determining your credit score.

8. Cancel Any Small Credit Cards After You Consolidate Debt

Another often overlooked debt consolidation tip is canceling small credit cards. If you use a debt management program or a debt consolidation loan, you might be required to close certain credit card accounts as part of the agreement. This gives the lender more confidence that you won’t run up new balances and increases the likelihood that you’ll repay the debt.

Even if you choose a different method of consolidation, it’s a good idea to cancel your smaller or newer credit cards by choice—or cut them up—to discourage you from using them.

9. Run a Credit Check to See If You Forgot About Any Debt

With endless opportunities to borrow money, payments can slip through the cracks. Check your credit report periodically to ensure you haven’t forgotten about a small loan or debt.

For example, you may find that a medical bill has been sent to collections without ever physically receiving a notice because it was sent to a previous or incorrect address. Perhaps you simply forgot about a loan that has an old email on file. You could be in default without realizing it.

You’re entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each of the major credit reporting companies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—every 12 months.

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By keeping an eye on your credit report, you can head off any surprises and actively resolve any financial issues that arise.

10. Sign Up for a Budget-Tracking Service

An often overlooked debt consolidation tip is signing up for a budget tracking service. It’s easy to become detached from your money when you’re swiping your credit card instead of paying with cash. This psychological separation leads to overspending and more debt.

Free and paid budgeting tools can help you reconnect with your finances and keep you accountable along your journey. Platforms, like Mint or You Need A Budget (YNAB), can help track your expenses and give you a big picture view of your finances.

There are many free and paid budgeting tools out there, so find one that matches your financial needs and goals.

Debt Consolidation Efforts Won’t Solve All of Your Problems

Although these debt consolidation tips can help you save on interest and streamline your debt payoff strategy, it’s only one piece of the financial puzzle. If you’re spending more than you’re earning, you’ll continue to get trapped in the debt cycle.

Start by setting a realistic budget, which might include significant lifestyle changes. You might need to trim down some of your expenses or find a way to bring in additional income. By relying less on credit to make ends meet, you’ll reduce the likelihood of repeating the debt cycle.

More Tips for Better Financial Management

Featured photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Travis Hornsby

Founder & CFA, Student Loan Planner

10 Recession-Proof Debt Consolidation Tips What Is a Good Credit Score (And How to Get One)

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Last Updated on January 5, 2022

33 Painless Ways to Save Money Now

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33 Painless Ways to Save Money Now

In a difficult economy, most of us are looking for ways to put more money in our pockets, but we don’t want to feel like misers. We don’t want to drastically alter our lifestyles either. We want it fast and we want it easy. Small savings can add up and big savings can feel like winning the lottery, just without all of the taxes.

Some easy ways to save money:

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  1. Online rebate sites. Many online sites offer cash back rebates and online coupons as well. MrRebates and Ebates are two I like, but there are many others.
  2. Sign up for customer rewards. Many of your favorite stores offer customer rewards on products you already buy. Take advantage.
  3. Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs. The extra cost up front is worth the energy savings later on.
  4. Turn off power strips and electronic devices when not in use.
  5. Buy a programmable thermostat. Set it to lower the heat or raise the AC when you’re not home.
  6. Make coffee at home. Those lattes and caramel macchiatos add up to quite a bit of dough over the year.
  7. Switch banks. Shop around for better interest rates, lower fees and better customer perks. Don’t forget to look for free online banking and ease of depositing and withdrawing money.
  8. Clip coupons: Saving a couple dollars here and there can start to add up. As long as you’re going to buy the products anyway, why not save money?
  9. Pack your lunch. Bring your lunch to work with you a few days a week, rather than buy it.
  10. Eat at home. We’re busier than ever, but cooking meals at home is healthier and much cheaper than take-out or going out. Plus, with all of the freezer and pre-made options, it’s almost as fast as drive-thru.
  11. Have leftovers night. Save your leftovers from a few meals and have a “leftover dinner.” It’s a free meal!
  12. Buy store brands: Many generic or store brands are actually just as good as name brands and considerably cheaper.
  13. Ditch bottled water. Drink tap water if it’s good quality, buy a filter if it’s not. Get 
      a reusable water bottle and refill it.
    • Avoid vending machines: The items are usually over-priced.
    • Take in a matinee. Afternoon movie showings are cheaper than evening times.
    • Re-examine your cable bill. Cancel extra cable or satellite channels you don’t watch. Watch the “on demand” movie purchases too.
    • Use online bill pay. Most banks offer free online bill paying. Save on stamps and checks, and avoid late fees by automating bill payment.
    • Buy frequently used items in bulk. You get a lower per item price and eliminate extra trips to the store later on.
    • Fully utilize the library. Borrowing books is much cheaper than buying them, but in addition to books, most local libraries now lend movies and games.
    • Cancel magazine/newspaper subscriptions: Re-evaluate your subscriptions. Cancel those you don’t read and consider reading some of the other publications online.
    • Get rid of your land-line. Do you really need a land-line anymore if everyone in the family has a cell phone? Alternatively, look into using VOIP or getting a cheaper plan.
    • Better fuel efficiency. Check the air pressure in your tires, keep up with proper auto maintenance, and slow down. Driving even 5MPH slower will result in better fuel mileage.
    • Increase your deductibles. Increasing the insurance deductibles on your homeowners and auto insurance policies lowers premiums significantly. Just make sure you choose a deductible that you can afford should an emergency happen.
    • Choose lunch over dinner. If you do want to dine out occasionally, go at lunchtime rather than dinnertime. Lunch prices are usually cheaper.
    • Buy used:  Whether it’s something small like a vintage dress or a video game or something big like a car or furniture, consider buying it used. You can often get “nearly new” for a fraction of the cost.
    • Stick to the list. Make a list before you go shopping and don’t buy anything that’s not on the list unless it’s a once in a lifetime, killer deal.
    • Tame the impulse. Use a self-enforced waiting period whenever you’re tempted to make an unplanned purchase. Wait for a week and see if you still want the item.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask to have fees waived, ask for a discount, ask for a lower interest rate on your credit card.
    • Repair rather than replace. You can find directions on how to fix almost anything on the internet. Do your homework, and then bring out your inner handyman.
    • Trade with your neighbors. Borrow tools or equipment that you use infrequently and swap things like babysitting with your neighbors.
    • Swap online. Use sites like PaperBack Swap to trade books, music, and movies with others online. Also, look for local community sites like Freecycle where people give away items they no longer need.
    • Cut back on the meat. Try eating a one or two meatless meals every week or cut back on the meat portions. Meat is usually the most expensive part of the meal.
    • Comparison shop: Get in the habit of checking prices before you buy. See if you can get a better price at another store or look online.

    Remember that saving money is not about being cheap or stingy; it’s about putting money into your bank account rather than giving it to someone else. There are many ways to save money, some you’ve never thought of, and some that won’t appeal or apply to you. Just pick a few of the ideas that sound doable and watch the savings add up. Save big, save small, but save wherever you can.

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    Featured photo credit: Damir Spanic via unsplash.com

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