The most common problem that people have with debt is the fact that it’s much easier to get into it than it is to get out. In the blink of an eye, you can owe thousands, whether it be in student loans, medical bills, credit cards, or some other form of pesky and troublesome debt. If only it were that easy to get out!
The worst part is that, due to debt being a very personal thing, there isn’t always just one solution that will work for everybody. Because of that, you’ll need to figure out for yourself what method of debt relief is best for your situation. There are many options out there that could help, but which debt program is best?
Before you get too overwhelmed with the pressure of figuring out which debt program is best, keep reading to learn more about five different options you could choose to help you get out of debt. After you have taken a look at the available options, you should make a decision based on your personal situation and debt circumstances. So which debt program is best? Well, technically, it’s up to you.
Option #1: Should You Just Do Nothing?
The most surprising and least often considered option is the fact that you don’t have to actually do anything at all. Although we may be a nation full of debt, the beauty of the United States of America is that it is, in fact, a free country. If you’d rather not do anything to solve your financial situation, you don’t have to. Many people end up resorting to this due to lack of information or lack of proper resources.
With that said, choosing to do nothing will likely be a poor decision to make. The longer you let your debt sit, the bigger it’s going to grow. Every payment that you miss could, potentially, add on hundreds of dollars more to the amount that you owe. This could end up affecting your ability to find better housing, employment, or future loans.
The fact is that you should be making more than your minimum payments each month. Unfortunately, just making the minimum payments won’t cut it. That amount likely only covers the interest charges—especially if you’ve already let it sit for a period of time. Choosing to only make the minimum payments will keep you in debt longer, dragging out the suffering you experience because of it. When it comes down to which debt program is best, doing nothing should definitely not be considered.
Option #2: Should You File for Bankruptcy?
Compared to the choice of simply doing nothing, filing for bankruptcy falls on the other side of the spectrum of extremes. Bankruptcy is a drastic solution with many negative consequences. In the past, bankruptcy might have allowed you to walk away with a large amount of your debt forgiven. Now, however, it’s likely that you’ll end up being ordered to follow a long-term repayment program to pay off your debt over time—not even credit cards or medical bills may be safe from this fate.
Regardless of the potential repayment programs, however, filing for bankruptcy will still have negative, long-term effects on your future life. To start, your credit score will be, essentially, ruined for the next seven to ten years. Even after that period of time, however, you may still experience some residual effects for a long time to come. So if you’re trying to determine which debt program is best, bankruptcy is definitely one of the worst.
Option #3: Should You Take Out a Debt Consolidation Loan?
Taking out a debt consolidation loan is a considerably less drastic option to take, compared to filing for bankruptcy. In this process, you would consolidate all of your separate debts into a single, secured loan. This is typically very convenient for people—especially those who have trouble keeping up with several payments every month. With a consolidated loan, you’ll only make a single, easy payment each month that covers all of your debt.
You should be careful when searching for a debt consolidation loan, however, as big companies will likely try to exaggerate the amounts they can save you. Theoretically speaking, it may be true that a debt consolidation loan provider could save you thousands of dollars in a year when it comes to your general debt costs. However, you should always be skeptical of such claims.
The best consolidation loans are secured, which means that they require some form of collateral in the beginning. Having that collateral tied up may not be ideal if you, at some point, are unable to keep making your payments. While unsecured debt consolidation loans can be found out there, they won’t be for the same amount and will, therefore, likely not cover the whole amount of your debt.
In the end, you might not even save that much money with a debt consolidation loan—which seems to be the whole point of getting one in the first place. Your savings will depend almost solely on your credit score, which could be a bit of a dead end for most people who are looking for debt relief, anyway. If you have bad credit, a consolidation loan could actually cost you more money than it saves.
Option #4: Should You Enroll in a Credit Counseling Service?
Choosing to enroll in a credit counseling service could be an even less risky option than taking out a debt consolidation loan. Credit counseling services are often run by nonprofit programs in association with banks or credit card companies.
When you enroll in a credit counseling service, you are matched with a counselor who will negotiate lower interest rates with each of your creditors. When negotiation is complete, you’ll owe a single payment to your counselor each month—a total that often comes out to $50 or less each month.