How To Consolidate Debt Successfully

When your personal finances hover on the brink, doing something drastic like swearing you’ll never eat out again or let go of your Netflix subscription may be your first instinct.

These tactics may be useful; however, according to financial experts paying off debt needs a more comprehensive plan. Debt consolidation is a popular strategy that involves accumulating multiple debts into a single loan or credit card at a lower interest rate. From a psychological standpoint, debt consolidation can be empowering as it feels manageable.

Is Debt Consolidation for Everyone?

If you’ve got high-interest debts such as credit cards, then consolidation is your best bet. People whose income and expenses won’t let them solve their debt problems through consolidation or credit counseling should consider filing for bankruptcy. Consolidating debt is only the starting point of a lengthy process, and here are four keys to making it work.

Ensure Your Budget Is Realistic

A basic budget accommodates money for debt payments, contributions to retirement savings, and an emergency fund, but that isn’t enough when consolidating. Successful budgeters refrain from adding debt by factoring in infrequent expenses, like car registration fees, as well as times of the year when expenditure runs high, like during the holidays.

Don’t Use Your Cards

While you pay off your debt, the cardinal rule of consolidation entails avoiding using credit cards. Methods such as cutting up your cards, locking them away, or freezing them in ice may seem extreme, but experts say they can be effective. Such tactics referred to as “commitment devices” can help people achieve long-term goals.

Compare Consolidation Products

Balance transfer cards allow you to shift over debts from other cards while charging zero interest for a limited period. The best balance transfer cards offer a period between 15 and 21 months, after which a double-digit interest rate becomes effective. A majority of cards charge balance transfer fees and demand good credit scores and high incomes to be eligible.

Get Support for Your Goal

Although debt might appear to be a shameful topic, getting support from your peers can be a strong motivator and can hold you accountable. Stay on track with reaching your goals by reaching out to a close family member or online forums and debt support groups. Online lenders may also offer apps or tailored recommendations as a source of motivation for borrowers.