Week 12: How To Negotiate With Creditors

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You are reading Week 12 of 52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt & Curb Spending.  Please read the overview here to learn more about the series & get your FREE financial planner.  If you just joined us, please start with week 1.

One option I mentioned last week when talking about how to avoid bankruptcy, was you may need to know how to negotiate with creditors. As your debt is piling up, you have to find a stopping point at which you can reverse the problem. Sometimes that means sitting down with pen and paper and a telephone to go the old fashioned route of calling the people you owe and figuring out a solution with them.

How To Negotiate With Creditors:

Be brutally honest. When you call a creditor to attempt a negotiation you have to be honest.  No lying to say you might be able to come up with more money next month. Make it very clear where you are currently financially, and that improvement may take time. Tell them what you can do, instead of focusing on what you can’t do.

Being honest with a creditor is what they need.  They need to know what to expect. Don’t promise on something you know you can’t deliver.

Make it a win-win situation.  Being willing to compromise (if your budget allows), can create a better chance for negotiations. Approaching a creditor and working with them to create a new payment amount, lower interest rates or even settle an account for a percentage of what is owed can all be great ways to get out of debt and avoid bankruptcy, foreclosure or repossession.  The creditor gets some money and you

Be prepared with honest numbers. Seriously look at what you can afford to do. If that is only $25 a month, tell your creditor that. Take the time to prep before you call by looking at your account history. Look at the total balance, current and past interest rates, how old the account is, and then look at your finances. While you always want to offer more payment, go with the lower amount you are certain of. You can always pay more than promised.

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Week 11: 6 Tips on How To Avoid Bankruptcy

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You are reading Week 11 of 52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt & Curb Spending.  Please read the overview here to learn more about the series & get your FREE financial planner.  If you just joined us, please start with week 1.

As I talked about last week, there are some instances when it can seem you have no other choice but bankruptcy. This week I am going to share some tips with you on how to avoid bankruptcy. We will look at these suggestions in depth at various points this year, but this week we will focus on the basics.   You want begin considering these options now to get your finances back on track and get out of debt this year.

How To Avoid Bankruptcy

Get honest with your creditors. When you are behind on payments (in default), it’s time to get honest with your creditors. Start calling and talking to them. Tell them you want to avoid bankruptcy.   While a mortgage, car payment and select credit cards might be unwaivering without an attorney of other 3rd party being involved, there are many creditors who are willing to suspend your account and negotiate lower payments for you.

Instead of letting the fees continue to pile up, focus on how you can negotiate a functional payment with them. Ask for an extension, lower payments, lower interest rates, suspend accounts or any negotiation they are willing to offer to keep your account from going to collections or court for repayment.

If you’re account is current, they are less likely to help you by reducing payments or interest rates.  Now, I’m not saying stop paying on accounts, so you can negotiate a deal.  I’m suggesting you focus your efforts on accounts that are already in default & keep paying the minimum payment on accounts that are current.

No amount is too small to offer. Your meager twenty five dollars a month may not seem like an option to offer, but when it comes to creditors no amount is too small to offer. While they will ask for more, and likely you will be charged interest for being late, there is truly no amount too small to offer. Most creditors would rather have you paying something than nothing at all. Taking you to court or sending you to collections costs them money they don’t want to spend. Offer even a small monthly payment.

Seriously change your spending habits. Yes, sometimes you just don’t have the income to make even the basics happen. That is understandable. Yet, some people are struggling because they still haven’t given up their wants to pay for their needs. Take time to really get honest and evaluate your income and expenses to remove things you don’t need. Some things can be a temporary change while others could be a permanent change. The important thing is to get honest about your situation and step up to make the big changes required to avoid bankruptcy.

Sell your possessions.  I know, I know.  We’ve been here before.  If you’ve previously resisted the idea of selling your stuff, now is a good time to reconsider.  Maybe you have an addiction to the jewelry store down the street.  Maybe you got a bit too excited about all those new TV’s and gadgets at Best Buy. Maybe you couldn’t help but purchase a just few more items every time the new Pottery Barn catalog was delivered to your door.

Stop and think about it.  Do you really need a flat screen in every room of your house if you might not even have a house to put them in soon?  Should you really be walking around with flawless diamond earrings and a Tennis bracelet if you might lose your car?  You don’t necessarily have to have super expensive items to sell, any amount of money you can make will help.  I’m just trying to put a little perspective into the situation.

Consider Debt Settlement.  Talk with a reputable financial adviser or credit counselor about the possibility of debt settlement.  Don’t just pick a number of a debt settlement company out of the phone book. They are there to help themselves, not you.  Get a trusted 3rd party involved to help look out for your best interest.  There will be fees, but you won’t take as big of a hit on your credit as with bankruptcy.

Ask for help.  Borrowing money from friends and family is usually not a good idea.  BUT if it’s that or bankruptcy, it could be a good option.  Determine how much money you need borrow to avoid bankruptcy.  Then work out an official repayment plan to start paying back the money you borrowed immediately.  This loan should be added to your monthly budget.  Do not use this as a “get out of jail free card” and continue raking up more debt.

It isn’t easy to avoid bankruptcy once you reach the point of collections, foreclosure and repossession, but it can happen. To avoid bankruptcy you really have to get honest, swallow your pride, ask for help and work hard. Focus on getting rid of debt by first being honest with yourself about what created it and how you can fix it.

Week 11 Challenge:

If you haven’t updated your debt spreadsheet since week 1, you need to do that now. How does your current debt compare to t10 weeks ago?  Have you made any progress or have your debts increased?  Note what accounts are in default and how much money you would need to avoid bankruptcy.  Look over the tips above.  Is there anything you haven’t tried?  Instead of using one of these tips, combine them.  Put all these tips plus anything else you can think of in your arsenal to avoid debt.

Start calling creditors (call one company per day or set aside a day and get it all over with at once), schedule a meeting with an adviser, get items listed on Craigslist and/or call your parents for help.  Do something TODAY, anything to help start the process and avoid bankruptcy.

How To Avoid Bankruptcy

Disclosure:  I am not a financial adviser nor do I have formal financial training.  All articles are for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as financial advice or consultation.  Please consult your account and/or financial adviser before making changes to your finances.  All situations are different, so please consult a professional to determine your individual needs.

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Week 10: Is Bankruptcy Ever a Good Choice?

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If you are in debt, at some point you may have asked yourself the question, is bankruptcy ever a good choice?

I hope to be brutally honest this year in our dealings with getting rid of debt. I want to give you quality information and tips on how to get yourself out of debt, but that also includes the nasty B word – bankruptcy.  It’s a tough decision to make – whether you should simply choose bankruptcy to solve your financial problems.

Is Bankruptcy Ever A Good Choice?

While I wish that nobody ever would face the very thought of bankruptcy, it is a reality that must be dealt with. I know someone that filed for bankruptcy.  I was shocked to say the least, but sometimes people feel it’s their best option.

Sometimes when individuals get too far in over their heads, they struggle to find any other reasonable way to pay back their debt without this method. We are going to look at a couple specific things that may mean you should entertain the idea of bankruptcy.

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Week 9: 8 Ideas for Finding Alternative Sources of Income NOW

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You are reading Week 9 of 52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt & Curb Spending.  Please read the overview here to learn more about the series & get your FREE financial planner.  If you just joined us, please start with week 1.

As we continue in our series to help you become debt free, we have to look at ways to begin finding alternative sources of income. Reality is, you can scrimp and pinch and scrape every luxury from your budget, but still fall short at the end of the month. One of the biggest complaints from those who are working diligently to pay off debt is that it is just so tough to find more money these days. With unemployment rates still high and jobs not readily available, it can be very discouraging. We want to give you some ideas that will hopefully help you create even just a few hundred dollars a month to pay on your debt.

Finding Alternative Sources of Income:

1. Part time night and weekend jobs. The first place to look is to start applying for a second job. For some families this would mean a stay at home parent might need to go back into the work force. For other families it means one parent would take on another part time job during their off hours. This can be tough not only to juggle, but it can be tough to even find. Give yourself a few weeks, or even a few months to try to locate a second job, but don’t give up when that doesn’t pan out.

This can be anything from working in the service industry in the evenings, working retail during the holiday’s or simply asking for overtime at your current job (if available).

2. Small home businesses. There is a whole world of income available in things like direct sales, small home craft businesses, in home bakeries or even babysitting. Take a look at options and your skill set. Take a leap toward a small home business that can be run around your regular work schedule to provide a few extra hundred dollars per month.

Consider becoming a consultant to sell Pampered Chef or Thirty-One bags.  Start pet sitting, dog walking or a lawn service.  These small jobs can often be done “on the side” with your income dependent on the time you have to devote to your new job.

 

3. Share you skills: What are you good at?  What can you teach someone else?  Do you play the piano, speak fluent French, know how to crochet or woodwork?  Hire out your skills through a site such as Craigslist.  Meet at a local library or other area and charge a fee to teach someone a new skill.

4. Sell crafts and other homemade items.  There is a wonderful website, Etsy.com, for selling your artwork, jewelry, woodwork, handmade clothing and more.  I have personally purchased high quality items at a reasonable price from this website.  Tip:  to maximize profit, pick something to sell with a relatively low time-to-profit ratio.

5. Work as a Virtual Assistant.  If you want a full or part time job, consider working as a virtual assistant (VA) for an online business. You work from home, so this can be ideal for a stay at home mom looking to make extra money while the kids are at school.   VA jobs can vary but they can include writing articles, finding deals (such as here on The Coupon Challenge), creating and photographing crafts or recipes or managing social media.  If you are computer savvy or have a background in graphic design, you can also offer these services.

6. Ghostwriting. Write articles, blog posts or books anonymously.  There is a site Fiverr.com to sell your services.  This site has the option for selling more than your writing skills.  Graphics, programming and videos are a few of the many other services you can sell on Fiverr.

7. Surveys and Mystery Shopping.   Okay, this will not usually yield a large amount of income.  However, you can earn a little bit of money here and there just by completing survey’s from the comfort of your own home.

8. Sell items online or at flea markets. Yard sales are famous for making quick money. While you can simply clean out your closets, junk drawer and garage to create a local front yard sale, you can also take that further for even more money. Break down individual items to sell online on sites like eBay or Craigslist. You can also set up booths for a small fee at local flea markets for an easier local sales venue.

Sometimes these simple methods are just what you need. Other times finding alternative sources of income means you find yourself being forced to truly think outside the box. The important thing to remember is you should never give up. Keep your focus on getting out of debt!

Week 9 Challenge:

Think about your skills and how much time you could realistically invest into making more money.  If any of the 8 ideas above sound like something you could do, start researching more on that specific topic now.  If not, start brainstorming other ways to make money.  Think outside the box to generate more income and pay off debt faster.

Finding Alternative Sources of Income


Disclosure:  I am not a financial adviser nor do I have formal financial training.  All articles are for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as financial advice or consultation.  Please consult your account and/or financial adviser before making changes to your finances.  All situations are different, so please consult a professional to determine your individual needs.

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Week 8: Making Wise Budget Choices

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You are reading Week 8 of 52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt & Curb Spending.  Please read the overview here to learn more about the series & get your FREE financial planner.  If you just joined us, please start with week 1.

We have already talked at length this year about creating a functional family budget. This week we want to look a bit more at making wise budget choices. You have created a budget, but sometimes you need to look a bit closer at what you are allowing into your budget that could be adjusted to pay down debt or to increase your savings account. This is not to condemn your financial choices, but to remind you that sometimes you need to look at the big picture for the most success. Sacrifices now can result in a debt free life later.

Making Wise Budget Choices:

Look beyond immediate benefit to the big picture. As you look again at your budget, you need to look at the big picture and not just immediate gratification.  I know, you REALLY need a night out.  That new iPhone would be awesome.  Don’t look at right now, look at how much better that dinner will taste once you save up and can pay in cash.

Focus on getting caught up, so you are no longer in default on accounts. This should be one of the key focus in your budgeting. Yes you need to account for rent, insurance, food, transportation and savings – but those optional things like a morning coffee or a lunch out with friends should be shelved until you are no longer in default on credit accounts. The longer you stay in default, the larger the fees and your balance will become.

While paying off a small balance this month may be rewarding, it would be better to put that money toward a debt you are in default with instead. Say you are $200 behind on payments to credit card A, but credit card B has a balance of only $200. You want that zero balance, but reality is getting the zero balance on credit card B would actually cost you more in interest and penalties. Look at the big picture and focus on getting caught up, so you are not in default before you focus on paying off debt.

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Week 7: 3 Ideas to Make the Step to Downsize

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You are reading Week 7 of 52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt & Curb Spending.  Please read the overview here to learn more about the series & get your FREE financial planner.  If you just joined us, please start with week 1.

Whether you are able to already make payments toward debt or are working away at finding new income to pay more toward debt;  you may be ready to downsize. When you chose to make the step to downsize, it may be as simple as selling your old car to a neighborhood teen looking for their first car.  It could be as large as selling your home and putting the equity into a smaller home with lower payments. There are multiple ways to downsize, and I hope to give you some ideas on how to make that happen.

3 Ideas to Make the Step to Downsize:

Sell extra vehicles. Most families have more than one vehicle. While it can be a necessity in some situations,  the second car is often just a waste of garage space.  Carpooling, scheduling errands and using public transportation are all options for most people. If not, then this isn’t your way to downsize.

However, before you make that ultimate decision – take a good look at your true need versus your wants. Being left with only one vehicle in your household may free up not only extra money from a sale that will pay off debt, but the insurance, maintenance and gas costs that you also have in your budget.

You can also choose to downsize to a cheaper vehicle.  Do you really need that new car?  Could you trade-in your current vehicle and get a pre-owned vehicle for half the monthly cost?

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Week 6: 5 Tips to Change The Way You View Money

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As difficult as it may be, if you are working to get rid of debt, you must Change The Way You View Money. Our upbringing, peers and life experiences all shape who we are and how we view money. As you look honestly at your current debt, you must also accept that your view of money could be the problem.

1. Accept that your income is not guaranteed. While most of us have a secure job that we feel good about, reality is that no job is guaranteed forever. We have to look at our paycheck as not just income for the moment, but a plan for the future as well. Begin looking at each paycheck as an opportunity to plan for your future as well as pay your current bills. Don’t fall victim to the, “well I’ll get paid next week” trap of spending money you don’t have on hand. Remember that not all income is guaranteed to continue.

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Week 5: Finding Income When You Have None

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Sometimes, you have to sit down and accept that your income is just not sufficient to meet your needs. If you are working on getting rid of debt, then it is time to start finding income when you have none. If you’ve made goals, created a budget and attempted to make a plan to pay off debt but find yourself falling short on income, it is time to focus on making big changes. This week we are going to look at basic options for finding income when you have none.

Finding Income When You Have None:

Eliminate wants. Let’s face it, our society is spoiled. Everything from specialty coffee drinks to unlimited data plans on our phones are seemingly common place and considered must haves. When you are looking at debt and simply have no income to pay toward it, you must focus on what are true needs. Food, shelter and clothing on your back are your only true needs. Your obligations to your creditors are next in line.

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Week 4: What Debt Should We Pay Off First?

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You are reading Week 4 of 52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt & Curb Spending.  Please read the overview here to learn more about the series & get your FREE financial planner.  If you just joined us, please start with week 1.

We talked last week about making a debt payment plan.  This week we are going to focus on determining what debt you should pay off first.  We will also discuss 2 different methods – debt avalanche and debt snowball.  This is one of the most important questions to ask as you begin changing your financial strategy.  You really want to make the most of your money, and these tips will help you to do that.

So, What Debt Should We Pay Off First?

There are often debates about whether you should begin paying more toward your lowest account balance (debt snowball) or the balance with the highest interest rate (debt avalanche).  While both are great options, it can easily depend upon the individual income availability to go toward debt relief.

Pay anything that is in arrears first.  This should always be your first focus when getting rid of debt.  If you have any account that is currently behind on payments paying it first should be your goal.  That includes things like utilities, mortgage, car payments and any credit card or lender.  Get caught up on any outstanding accounts before you focus on paying more toward paying off debt.

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Week 3: Making a Debt Repayment Plan

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You are reading Week 3 of 52 Weeks to Eliminate Debt & Curb Spending.  Please read the overview here to learn more about the series & get your FREE financial planner.  If you just joined us, please start with week 1.

Now that you have set out your goals and created a budget, it is time sit down and begin Making A Debt Repayment Plan. This means you will be taking time to look at individual debt to determine which to focus on paying off first. It can also include looking at things like settlements, negotiations and closing accounts.

BEFORE you start trying to pay off debt, you need to establish a $1,000 emergency fund.  We talked about this last week when you set up your budget.  If you have $200 left per month after all your “must pay” expenses, that money goes directly into a savings account.  Once you get $1,000 saved up, you can move on to repaying debt.  Remember this $1,000 is for emergencies, not because you want a new iPad.  Focus on your debt relief goals.  You can do it!  The new iPad will come later.

MAKING A DEBT REPAYMENT PLAN

1. Get honest about what you can afford. This is the tough part. You really have to get honest with yourself and accept that you may be living outside your means. Look at your budget and start slashing items that are optional until you have created budget monies to get you caught up and start paying down debt.

If you have slashed optional items and still have no spare money, you maybe looking at a deeper financial need of more income. That is something we will deal with in future weeks, but you can begin now honestly evaluating your current job and income situation.

2. Focus on getting current first. While you want to immediately focus on paying off at least one debt, for your own credit score and financial security in the future, it is most important to get caught up on any outstanding debt you have incurred. If you are behind on payments, this is the time to work double time to get caught up.

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