IB.1.3 Strategies to Pay Off Debt

"Rather go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt." - Benjamin Franklin

Debt Consolidation

Debt consolidation is a strategy to combine multiple debts into a single loan or payment, often with a lower interest rate, making it easier to manage and pay off. Here’s a step-by-step guide to debt consolidation:


Step 1: Assess Your Debt Situation
  • Gather Information: List all your debts, including balances, interest rates, and minimum monthly payments.
  • Calculate Totals: Determine the total amount of debt you owe.
Step 2: Review Your Credit Score
  • Check Your Score: Obtain your credit report and credit score from a reputable source.
  • Understand Your Standing: A good credit score can qualify you for better consolidation loan terms.
Step 3: Research Consolidation Options
  • Types of Loans: Look into different types of debt consolidation options:
    • Personal Loans: Unsecured loans from banks, credit unions, or online lenders.
    • Balance Transfer Credit Cards: Credit cards offering 0% APR for an introductory period.
    • Home Equity Loans or HELOCs: Loans using your home as collateral.
    • Debt Management Plans (DMPs): Plans through credit counseling agencies.
Step 4: Compare Lenders and Offers
  • Shop Around: Compare interest rates, fees, and terms from various lenders.
  • Prequalification: Prequalify with multiple lenders to see potential offers without impacting your credit score.
Step 5: Choose the Best Option
  • Evaluate: Select the consolidation option with the best terms that fits your financial situation.
  • Read the Fine Print: Understand all terms and conditions, including any fees or penalties.
Step 6: Apply for the Loan or Program
  • Gather Documents: Prepare necessary documents like proof of income, identification, and details of your debts.
  • Submit Application: Complete the application process for your chosen consolidation method.
Step 7: Pay Off Existing Debts
  • Disbursement: Once approved, use the funds from the consolidation loan to pay off your existing debts.
  • Balance Transfer: For balance transfer credit cards, transfer the balances of your high-interest credit cards.
Step 8: Create a Repayment Plan
  • New Payment: Make a budget that includes the new consolidated loan payment.
  • Automate Payments: Set up automatic payments to ensure you never miss a due date.
Step 9: Avoid New Debt
  • Financial Discipline: Resist the temptation to accumulate new debt while paying off the consolidated loan.
  • Emergency Fund: Build an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses.
Step 10: Monitor Your Progress
  • Track Payments: Keep track of your payments and remaining balance.
  • Adjust as Needed: Adjust your budget and repayment plan as necessary to stay on track.

Example Scenario

  1. Assess Debts:

    • Credit Card 1: $3,000 balance, 18% interest rate
    • Credit Card 2: $5,000 balance, 20% interest rate
    • Personal Loan: $7,000 balance, 15% interest rate
  2. Review Credit Score:

    • Credit score: 700
  3. Research Options:

    • Personal loan with 10% interest rate
    • Balance transfer credit card with 0% APR for 12 months and 3% transfer fee
    • Home equity loan with 6% interest rate
  4. Compare Offers:

    • Personal loan: 10% interest, no origination fee
    • Balance transfer card: 0% APR for 12 months, 3% transfer fee ($450 total)
  5. Choose Best Option:

    • Personal loan chosen for its stability and manageable interest rate.
  6. Apply for Loan:

    • Submit application with income proof, credit report, and debt details.
    • Loan approved for $15,000 at 10% interest.
  7. Pay Off Debts:

    • Use loan funds to pay off Credit Card 1, Credit Card 2, and Personal Loan.
  8. Create Repayment Plan:

    • New loan payment: $275 per month for 5 years.
    • Adjust budget to accommodate this payment.
  9. Avoid New Debt:

    • Use cash or debit for new purchases.
    • Build an emergency fund of $1,000 initially, then grow to 3-6 months of expenses.
  10. Monitor Progress:

    • Regularly check loan balance and payment status.
    • Adjust budget if needed to ensure timely payments.

Debt consolidation simplifies your debt management, potentially lowers your interest rate, and helps you pay off your debt more efficiently.