MANILA - Do you think you are carrying too much debt? If your bills are piling up, and you are also getting calls from creditors, you should be alarmed.
Having too much debt can be stressful. While overcoming your debt problem may not be easy, especially if you are relying on a limited income, it can be done. You will need discipline and sacrifice and we have charted a road map for you below.
Here are seven debt-defying steps to set you on your way to financial freedom:
1. Know how much debt you have. When you are struggling with too much debt, you may forget how much you really owe and the details of the debt you’ve accumulated. List down all your debt, the interest rates of each, and the minimum monthly payments required. This information is essential to help you make a workable debt strategy. It also allows you to better track the payments you have to make, and know your real debt situation—which may be much better or much worse than you realize it is.
2. Choose your debt pruning strategy. It is necessary to have a good and realistic battle plan that you can implement. First, identify which debt you should pay off first—the one with the highest interest rate or the one with the lowest balance (you will save more if you retire the debt that charges the highest interest rate.) What works for one person may not work for another, so weigh your options. Once you’ve decided, make additional payments on this debt until it is totally wiped out.
3. Find ways to make additional payments. Study your income and spending patterns to find where you can get the additional money that can go toward debt servicing. This might mean either cutting back on your usual expenses, or finding new sources of income. You’ll have to make some sacrifices—bring down your entertainment budget, eat at restaurants less often, or maybe even postpone that planned vacation. New income sources can come from taking on a part-time job or selling off some stuff you’re not using.
4. Find lower interest rates. Check the interest rates you are paying on your debt. Consider taking out a lower-priced loan from other sources—possibly the bank, or even your office cooperative—to shave off the debt with the highest interest rate. Another option is to negotiate the interest rate with the lender, which you can do by writing a letter to your bank or lender. It won’t hurt to try.
5. Set realistic targets and deadlines. Let’s say you owe P100,000 on a salary of P25,000 a month. Don’t target paying off the P100,000 in four months—you can’t live on zero income and you will only set yourself up for failure. Study your needs and your cash flow to know what is realistic before you set a deadline. Giving yourself a deadline helps define your goal, which allows you to create a strategy and gives you motivation.
6. Don’t take on new debt when you’re managing existing debt. When you are struggling with debt, the worst thing you could do is to borrow some more. This will only push you deeper into the hole you’re in. Work with your creditor and explore other ways for you to manage your debt, as most of them will be more than happy to assist you. For example, they can convert your balance into a friendlier installment scheme that will make it easier for you to be up to date with your payments.
7. Reward yourself. Keep yourself motivated during this time by rewarding yourself once you’ve reached milestones—reaching the halfway mark, wiping out the largest debt, etc. After all, getting over your debt problem is a great achievement that is worth celebrating. It goes without saying, of course, that your choice of reward for yourself should not plunge you deeper into the debt hole. Try declaring a “do nothing” day or spending the day with a friend who makes you laugh the hardest, As the saying goes, the best things in life are free.
Conquering debt requires both a financial and a psychological strategy. Remember that short-term sacrifices could yield long-term benefits, and what can be a better reward than to gain financial independence and freedom from creditors? With discipline, commitment, and good planning, you can overcome your debt woes.
Grow Your Money is an editorial partnership between ABS-CBNnews.com and Citi Philippines to promote financial education and provide helpful information to Filipinos on how to better manage their personal finances.
Visit www.citibank.com.ph for more information.