Getting Out of Debt
HAVING TROUBLE PAYING your bills? Getting nasty notices from creditors? Are your accounts being turned over to debt collectors? You know the kind of distress debt causes in your own life. It leads to marital difficulties, anxiety about possessing things we don't need and often don't want, and the most important of all is the stress of paying it back.
You're not alone. Many people face a financial crisis some time in their lives. But often, it can be overcome. No matter how much you're in the red; it's never too late to take control of your finances.
The Bible has much to say about the issue of debt.
The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender (Proverbs 22:7).
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another (Romans 13:8).
Debt is the symptom of overspending and under saving. Debt is borrowing from future income to buy what we cannot afford today. If you can't afford it now, what makes us think we can pay for it later, when the money we make later will be needed then. If you're in debt, then you're a slave. Debt is a method to make banks wealthy, not you. You must be willing to change your lifestyle.
The way to get out of debt is by changing your spending habits. You need to cut out habits that make you spend more. It's amazing how much money is spent a few dollars here and a few dollars there. For Christians, debts are moral as well as legal obligations and they must be honorably met no matter the circumstances. It will require planning, discipline, sacrifice, and singleness of purpose, but debt can be overcome.
Don't Attack Your Debt Problem Alone
If you're married, be sure to consult with your spouse. Few areas will so quickly affect a couple's relationship as a financial plan that limits their spending freedom because it brings mutually conflicting goals into the open. If you can't reach a meeting of the minds on what your priorities should be, perhaps the marriage relationship itself needs some work.
And be sure to pray. Ask God for His guidance. Owing money does not represent God's will for us. If you have decided that it is time to get out of debt, I guarantee God will show you the way.
The Next Step
The next step toward taking control of your financial situation is to do a realistic assessment of how much money you take in and how much money you spend. Start by listing your income from all sources. Then, list your "fixed" expenses - those that are the same each month - like mortgage payments or rent, car payments, and insurance premiums. Next, list the expenses that vary - like entertainment, recreation, and clothing. Writing down all your expenses, even those that seem insignificant, is a helpful way to track your spending patterns, identify necessary expenses, and prioritize the rest. The goal is to make sure you can make ends meet on the basics: housing, food, health care, insurance, and education. The more categories you have, the better idea you'll have of where all the money's going and, consequently, the more ideas you'll get on where you can save. Remember that the sooner you pay off your debt; the less it will cost you in the long run.
If you're not disciplined enough to create a workable budget and stick to it, can't work out a repayment plan with your creditors, or can't keep track of mounting bills, consider contacting a credit counseling organization. Many credit counseling organizations are nonprofit and work with you to solve your financial problems.
You may be able to lower your cost of credit by consolidating your debt through a second mortgage or a home equity line of credit. Remember that these loans require you to put up your home as collateral. 78 percent of the time, after someone consolidates his credit card debt, the debt grows back. Why? Because debt consolidation seems like an easy way out, but if the spending isn't curbed, then the debts will continue to grow.
If you're thinking about getting help to stabilize your financial situation, do some homework first. Find out what services a business provides and what it costs, and don't rely on verbal promises. Get everything in writing, and read your contracts carefully.
Now you must decide not to borrow anything for any reason until everything you owe has been paid. Getting out of debt is a long-term project, but working towards that final debt-free goal can be satisfying, and certainly a worthy goal. And when that goal is finally reached, you will feel a sense of real financial freedom. Unfortunately, when it comes to debt; there's no such thing as a quick fix.
For further reading:
• All About Credit Reports
Since your credit report influences whether you are able to buy a home and get a job, it is extremely important to understand your credit rating.
• Choosing a Credit Card
Tips on choosing a credit card that's right for you. Find out about grace periods, finance charges, fees, credit limits, and liability.