Entering the Season of Debt

The holiday season is fast approaching. The end of the year is filled with celebrations, gift giving, overspending, and debt. You’ll want to be prepared as we move into the season of debt! Here are some tips to avoid getting a hulking credit card bill after the shopping season is over.

Entering the Season of Debt

As we move into the holiday season, here are some shopping mistakes to avoid:

  • Don’t be fooled by marketers who have convinced shoppers that Black Friday means the biggest savings. Nerdwallet recently analyzed 27 Black Friday advertisements and found that of those, 25 retailers listed at least one of the products advertised for at the same price it was sold for last year.
  • Take advantage of the credit card perks you aren’t using, such as extended warranty coverage, price protection, and purchase assurance coverage.
  • Setting a budget is the best way you can avoid spending too much. Create a budget and stick to it. You might also find it’s helpful to use cash. Studies have proven using cash means you’re less likely to splurge on the items you do not need.
  • Retailers love to offer their unique credit cards. And they’ll do anything to get you to buy in – such as offering discounts to get you to open an account. While 20% off on your purchase is a good thing, the high-interest rates that often go with those lines of credit are not good. Weigh the pros and cons before you sign up.
  • If you’ve decided to shop late, be wary of overnight shipping costs. If you find yourself in this position, take a look at what retailers offer free shipping. It could save you tons of money in your attempt to have the gifts arrive on time.
  • Utilize price-matching tools that compare items across various retailers. You can download apps that will be able to compare prices from store to store, thus allowing you to get the best price.

Credit Card Debt

Interestingly, credit card debt is only the fourth largest source of debt for consumers overall, behind mortgages, student loans and auto loans. But credit cards are generally carrying the highest interest rate of all debt sources, with an average rate of 15.18%, according to CreditCards.com.

There’s no doubt that debt is one of the most serious problems facing people across the nation. Being in debt is a hard spot to crawl out from. Everything seems to pile up: payments on credit cards, consumer loans, and student loans pile up on top of living expenses like rent and simply putting food on your table.

What Can You Do?

When you’re facing large amounts of debt, the situation can feel pretty hopeless. Any money saved seems to drift away: either by being swallowed up by the unforeseeable (a flat tire, a broken appliance that needs to be replaced – you can’t just go without a refrigerator) or it’s already been “spent” and allocated to paying off something else. Regardless of your perseverance and the makeover you have done on your spending habits, sometimes controlling debt through spending less just doesn’t seem to result in more money. After penny counting for a few months people often become fed up and spend it all in a weekend as a reward for all the good spending habits they’ve acquired. Unfortunately, this still isn’t considered “being wise with your money.”

It makes sense that people often turn to debt consolidation as an alternative. Streamlining debts can help to free yourself from financial burden while lowering costs. But you’ll want to understand just what debt consolidation is so that you can decide if it’s for you. If you’re able to pay off your debts within 6 months to a year, you might just consider being really strict. If you look at your debt and see years and years of potentially impossible saving, then you might consider debt consolidation.

What Debt Consolidation Companies Do

A lot of times willpower is not enough to help debtors out of the hole. It’s important that you analyze your spending habits. Going out to dinner every night for a delicious but extravagant meal will not help you pay down your $33,000 Visa debt. You’re going to need to make some changes. But if you have made those changes and you still are not reaping the rewards of your new debt habits, then you might want to seek the help of an expert.

That’s exactly where a debt consolidation company comes in. These companies are kind of like your best friend that stops you from eating that fourth chocolate chip cookie. Debt consolidation companies are there to “save you from yourself” and help you make the right financial moves before your “inner cookie monster” takes over.

Here’s what a debt consolidation (a.k.a. debt management or credit counseling) does:

  • Closes credit accounts so you cannot use them.
  • Sets up an automated monthly payment based on your budget that gets distributed it to your creditors.
  • In some cases, they can negotiate lower APRs or reduced late fees with your creditors

Considering Debt Consolidation

Debt consolidation can be helpful to anyone: whether you’re considering bankruptcy, or if you are just trying to get a handle on your finances.

What Is Debt Consolidation?

Debt consolidation means that all of your smaller loans get paid off with one large loan. So you essentially get one lump sum to pay off your smaller loans so that you only have one monthly payment rather than several monthly payments. The their behind this is one payment is easier to manage than several. And the main goal is it lower the interest rate and monthly payments while paying off your debt in a quicker amount of time.

Debt Settlement

It’s important to note that debt consolidation is not the same as debt settlement. Debt consolidation allows you to pay your debts in full without causing negative consequences to your credit. Debt settlement is the process of paying off debt to a creditor once a mutually agreed to sum is reached. This sum is usually less than what is owed. Typically, only unsecured debt (for example, credit cards and medical bills), is eligible for debt settlement. Debt settlement is often considered a risky process.

Understanding Secured vs. Unsecured Loans

A secured loan, such as a mortgage or a car loan, means you pledge the property, your home or your car, to secure the repayment of the loan. Here’s an example: you obtain a mortgage loan – the house is security for repayment. If you do not make the home, the mortgage lag lender can take the house back through the process of foreclosure to satisfy the loan.

Unsecured loans differ in that they are based only on your promise to pay. These loans are not secured by property that can be foreclosed on or repossessed to pay back the loan. Credit cards and student loans are technically unsecured loans because there’s nothing that can be directly repossessed if the borrower does not pay the loans back. Unsecured loans have higher interest rates because they carry more risk for the lender.

Debt Consolidation Through Secured Loans

Debt consolidation is a little easier when it comes to secured loans. Because there are physical “securities” that exist for repayment, they are seen as safer for the lender. For example, you can refinance a home, take out a second mortgage, or get a home equity line of credit. Another example is your car loan – the automobile is used as collateral in case you cannot pay back the loan. Assets can also be used as security for a loan. A 401K loan uses your retirement fund as collateral. Life insurance policies can be used if they have cash values. Financing firms can often loan you money against lawsuit claims, lottery winnings, and annuities.

Pros of Consolidating With Secured Loans

Often, secured loans carry lower interest rates than unsecured loans because they are safer for lenders. This fact can help you save your money on interest payments. Lower interest rates tend to make monthly payments lower and thus more affordable. Rarely, but in some cases interest payments are even tax deductible.

Cons of Consolidating With Secured Loans

The biggest con of consolidating with secured loans might seem obvious: when you pledge your assets as collateral and you cannot pay back the loan, you are putting your property at risk of being foreclosed on or repossessed. If you’re unable to pay the loan back, you run the rid of losing your house, car, life insurance, retirement fund, or whatever else you might have used to secure the loan. And certain assets, such as life insurance or retirement funds, may not be available to you if the loan is not paid back before you need to use them.

Debt Consolidation Through Unsecured Loans

Unsecured personal debt consolidation loans used to be quite common, but they are less likely to be available to people seeking them today. Usually this type of loan requires a borrower to have very good credit. A credit card or personal loan debt for consolidation is often given with a no interest, or low interest, introductory rate. Often times this amount balloons after a specified amount of time.

Pros of Consolidating With Unsecured Loans

The biggest benefit to unsecured debt consolidation loan is that no property is placed at risk. Also, an interest rate might balloon to higher than the rate on a secured loan, but it can often be distributed over several different credit card balances, thereby lowering your interest burden and your payment.

Balance Transfer Options

Balance transfer options on no-interest or low-interest credit card offers can be a very useful tool, but they can often be tricky. Check there is no transfer fee in the fine print which negates the savings.  Also, the no-interest or low-interest period is generally limited to a set amount of months. You’ll want to be sure you can pay the debt off during this time. If not, you run the risk of paying a much higher interest rate once the period expires.

Working With a Bankruptcy Attorney to Consolidate Debt

At Resnik Hayes Moradi LLP, we will help you explore all of the debt relief options available to you. Though we specialize in bankruptcy law, we do not suggest bankruptcy as an option if we do not think it is the best option for them. We are committed to helping our clients resolve their debt problems, achieving true debt relief and avoiding potential debt consolidation scams. Contact us for a free consultation.