The Walking Debt – A Guide to Eliminating your Debt

If you’re like me, then every Sunday night you’re glued to the TV watching AMC’s The Walking Dead, hoping your favorite character isn’t the next to be killed off. The show focuses around a group of survivors constantly stressing over how they are going to overcome a growing zombie threat known as walkers. The stress of having crippling debt can give you a similar sensation as being surrounded by a bunch undead zombies. These zombies are known as debt collectors and they’re hungry for your flesh…. okay, maybe just your income.

As of October 2015, the average US household had $16,140 in debt. That’s a pretty outstanding number! This is mainly because most consumers are in a state of debt denial. They know they have debt but they are not treating debt like a priority and continue to spend their money on unneeded luxuries. The result: their debt continues to grow and grow like a zombie horde.

Two of the biggest debt factors can be linked to poor money management and medical bills. Sometimes we make mistakes and pay for things when we don’t have the money to do so (something you should stop doing once you realize it.) Other times it might not be intentional. No one plans on getting sick or taking a trip to the ER. Although you may feel like you’re surrounded, debt doesn’t have to last forever. In this article I’ll supply you with the correct planning, ammunition, and faith to take on your walking debt!

Step 1: Locate and List All of Your Debt

Debt Survival Guide

Let’s begin with creating a debt survival plan. Like I said before, the creditors you owe are your enemies. They’re the zombies that are trying to do your bank account harm. Before we go and attack them we need to asses the situation. Much like a real apocalyptic invasion, we would never want to go out blind shooting in every direction. By that method you’ll do more harm than good. Ask yourself: “How many accounts are there? What are the balances? What are the APRs? (interest.)”

If you’re having trouble figuring this out then you may want to take a look at your credit report. Credit reports will generally report all of your debt, which will give you a bird’s eye view of every account that needs to be paid off and eliminated. You can get a free credit report each year by visiting annualcreditreport.com. This report won’t give you your score, but it will show you all of the accounts you’re looking to pay off.

After you get the report, find out exactly how much debt you are in and don’t forget to include the interest rates. List your debt and come up with a number you need to hit. If you are having trouble reading a credit report, you can always contact a credit expert and have them go over your report with you.

Step 2: Create a Monthly Budget & Payoff Plan

Okay, so we’ve located all of the threats. Next we have to devise a plan of attack! Create a budget to find out exactly how much money we will have to put towards your debt. Calculate your budget by listing your expenses. Make sure you list EVERYTHING from your mortgage payment to your morning coffee purchase. Start with your necessary expenses and work your way down. The top of your list should include loans and bills that need to be paid (mortgages, auto loans, utilities, etc.)

Now that you have your list of expenses, study it. See all those expenses at the bottom of the list that you don’t need? (yeah I’m looking at you Netflix.) Take all of those expenses and cut them out of your life. You know how in every zombie movie or show there’s always that group of bumbling idiots that slow everyone down? Well that’s those unneeded expenses like Netflix and Starbucks. It’s time to get serious and right now is not the time for fun. All of those expenses you cut just became more ammunition to put towards defeating your debt.

If you’re looking to really get serious consider selling some of your bigger toys. Things like classic cars, jet skis, boats, and motorcycles can be sold for large amounts of cash that will take a huge chunk out of your debt.

After you’ve figured out your budget, set goals for yourself and stick by them. Never decrease the amount you’re paying towards your debt. If you stick to your budget and goals this should come as no problem. You can attain even more help with the use of apps like mint.com, ReadyForZero, and DebtPayoff. These apps make it easy to set payoff goals and stick to them.

Step 3: Do Your Research

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The last step in planning before we spring our attack. Let’s research your accounts and look for anything that might benefit us even further. Many consumers are left in the dark when it comes to cheaper options to paying off debt.

Credit Card Debt

If credit card debt is your main concern, then look into applying for 0% balance transfer cards. 0% balance transfer cards can be your secret weapon when attacking your accounts. Like their name, these cards carry 0% interest for a certain period of time and will transfer your balances from an account to the new card. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can pay off your debt when not paying interest.

Medical Debt

Medical bills is one of the largest causes of debt. Recently the credit bureaus had decided that medical debt would weigh less on your credit report and wouldn’t report until 6 months past due. In the past, insurance companies would take extended periods of time to pay off the debt, which would hit the consumer’s credit report and drop their score. If you do have medical debt, make sure you keep in contact with your insurance company and straighten out all of the payment arrangements. If you are unable to pay your bills on time  then let the creditor know so you can work something out.

Student Loan Debt

Currently student loan debt is at an all time high of $1.2 trillion! Putting it well beyond credit card debt which sits at $884.8 billion. If you have a large amount of student loan debt, then you may want to consider student loan consolidation or look into student loan forgiveness programs. If student loans are the majority of your debt, check out my article Game of Loans – A Guide to Defeating Student Loan Interest.

Step 4: Attacking Your Debt

You’ve located and listed the accounts, you’ve prepared a plan of attack, and you’ve researched your enemy’s weaknesses. Now let’s get out there and attack that lingering horde of debt!

When it comes to paying off the debt there are 2 methods you can go by. One is called snowballing and the other avalanching.

Snowballing happens when you go after your smallest accounts first and work your way up the chain. The feeling of accomplishment when paying off these accounts will fuel you to keep going until you take down the big one.

Avalanching happens when you attack the largest account with the most interest first and work your way down. This method will actually save you the most money in the long run because you’ll be eliminating those high-interest rates first.

Regardless of which method you choose, allocate the money you were putting towards eliminated accounts to your next payment. The more your accounts start to fall off, the quicker you’ll see your debt drop off. Always remember to pay on time so you’re not hit with any late fees. Sign-up for auto payments if you’re the kind of person that might forget your payment dates.

Step 5: Put Extra Income Towards your Debt

A few times during the year you may come into some extra income. Treat this extra income as added ammunition in your battle against debt. Your tax refunds are your debt clearing grenades, job raises are your anti-debt rounds, and freelance or side job pay is the unstoppable tank you drive to clear a path through interest.

Putting all of your extra income towards your debt can be a game changer and should see your debt deplete in record time.

Step 6: Reward Yourself (Without Spending)

You’re reaching your debt goals and every time your knock off an account you should be rewarded. Now this doesn’t mean go out and splurge on some of those unneeded expenses you’ve had in the past (that would defeat the purpose of this entire campaign.) Try to find ways to reward yourself with little or no expense. Take time from your nightly routine to watch your favorite show or movie, make your favorite meal or dessert. Perhaps buy yourself a coffee (just one!) Don’t spend over $5-10 on a small reward.

Step 7:  Congratulations You’re Debt Free!

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You stuck to your plan, you attacked your debt, and now you’ve come out victorious and debt free. Your a debt-zombie slaying machine and Rick Grimes has got nothing on you! Now you can safely maintain your debt from here on out.

This is where you and me part ways. I had an abundance of fun coaching you through your debt battle and I hope my zombie/debt analogies weren’t too much for you. Before I go just remember: Don’t spend your money on unneeded expenses and make sure you can always pay off what you charge. Stay focused on what is important and use our Credit Blog to help you along your way. You can do it! I believe in you! Godspeed!

Need Help?

If you still need help with controlling your debt and/or improving your credit, fill out the form below and get a free credit consultation from a credit expert at Better Qualified.


Build Credit With Holiday Spending

Holiday Shiopping

It’s never too early to start planning your holiday spending budget. In 2014 average shoppers around the country were on pace to spend a whopping $861 on holiday gifts alone. With an expense that large, shouldn’t you get something back in return? (aside from the joyous feeling of gift giving of course!)

Truth of the matter is, if done correctly the holidays are a fantastic time to help build your credit and increase your score. Sure you can apply for layaway at Wal-Mart, bust out your Discover Card, or even put some of your spending on your hefty store cards (it’s about the only time you use them anyway,) but these methods can sometimes hurt your score, especially if you start to rack up your balance. So what are the best methods to build your credit during the holiday season? We recommend secured cards and a Fingerhut account.

Building Credit With Secured Credit Cards

Secured Credit Cards have all of the benefits of a regular credit card without most of the risks. A Secured Credit Card works just like a regular credit card. You use the card to make purchases and pay them off each month. They’re accepted everywhere credit cards are, the only difference between the two is secured cards are backed by the consumer. That means you decide how much of a credit limit you want by putting your own money into it. Once you close the card out in the future, your money will be returned to you.

Secured cards were created solely for building credit. Most cards don’t require you to have a good credit score (or a credit score at all for that matter.) Just like any credit account, you will have to pay on time each month, and if maxed out, it will bring down your score. Make it your priority to try and stay under 30% of your credit limit and pay off your balance at the end of the month.

Secured credit cards hold benefits over regular credit cards. When getting approved for a regular credit card or a loan, your credit score will always drop. This is because the creditor is unsure of how you will use your new line of credit. A few months of on-time payments will see your score bounce back to normal or even increase. Since the consumer is the backer of secured cards, there won’t be an initial decline in score, meaning your score won’t suffer for months while you struggle to bring it back to normal. Regular credit cards will also create a hard inquiry on your credit report, bringing your score down a few points regardless of being approved. Most secured cards will not create a hard inquiry and scores won’t be dropped. Better Qualified has a page of recommended secured cards for you to choose from

After making holiday purchases on your secured cards, always be sure to:

  • Pay your balance off or down to 30% or lower
  • Always pay on time
  • Never max out your card

Spend and Build

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If you’re looking to incorporate building your credit score into your holiday spending this year, then now is the time to start. Another recommendation to help build your credit this holiday season is the Fingerhut Credit Account.

Fingerhut has been around for 60 plus years as a catalog retailer. Fingerhut now sells its thousands of products online to its members. With Fingerhut you’ll be able to find all of those name brands available at Wal-Mart, Amazon, and Target. Using a Fingerhut Credit Account to do your holiday shopping will be the most beneficial to your credit in the long run.

Fingerhut makes it easy to do your holiday shopping on their site, all while building your credit up.

What is a Charge-Off?

what is a charge off

Although the term “charge-off” sounds good, in reality, charge offs are devastating to your credit report and score. Having an account report in charge off status can bring your score down hundreds of points and may even put that account into collections.

What is a Charge-Off?

charge off question

An account can get changed into charge off status once a consumer is late 6 months or more. The creditor assumes the debt will not be paid and “charges off” the account. At this time, the entire balance becomes due and the account may be purchased by a 3rd party collector.

How Do I Handle a Charge-Off?

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Charge-offs can be considered a serious derogatory account and may hinder you from getting future credit. If you have a charge-off on your credit report, the first thing you should do it contact the original creditor. The charge-off will still need to be paid so try to negotiate with them for a payment you can afford. Creditors will usually be willing to make a settlement for less than the amount owed. However, making a settlement can cause the derogatory account information to remain on your credit report for years to come. Your best option is to see if the creditor is willing to do a pay for deletion.

Send a Pay for Deletion Request Letter

Charge off Letter

Ask the creditor if you can do a pay for deletion. You may have to pay more than the average settlement amount, but your account will get removed from your credit report, which will increase your score and be beneficial to you in the long term (use this guide to create a pay for deletion letter here.) If the creditor agrees to a pay for deletion, make sure you get the agreement in writing so you can take it to the credit bureaus to ensure the account gets removed.

If the creditor refuses to budge on a pay for deletion, see if you can get them to change the status to “closed” rather than charge-off, as that will also affect your score. Make sure you satisfy the debt regardless of the outcome. If the debt remains unpaid, your account could fall victim to a collection account, or even worse, a judgment.

Removing the Account

If the account remains on your credit report after the debt is settled, you will want to dispute your account. Disputing your account with the bureaus can get your account removed much sooner than its 7 year lifespan. You can dispute your account online with the bureau’s website, by mail or by calling a credit repair company like Better Qualified.

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click on the link below for your free credit consultation with a credit analyst.

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