If you’re in debt and ready to get out of the red, you want to repay the money you owe as quickly as possible. You realized that the longer you carry balances, the more interest accrues on your debts — and the more money those loans and credit cards will eventually cost you.
Before you start frantically Googling “get out of debt quick,” take a deep breath and a step back. You need to educate yourself about your options before diving head-first into anything. Doing your research will help you determine the right solution for your unique situation.
When it comes to debt relief services, there are unfortunately very many predatory companies and organizations out there who don’t hesitate to take advantage of innocent customers. It’s deeply troubling that someone would conspire to purposefully take advantage of individuals who are in debt, yet it’s all too common.
That’s why a lot of people take great pains to seek out reputable companies to work with, and that’s especially true for people looking into debt consolidation for the first time.
One way people try to narrow down their search is by looking for non-profit organizations who do debt consolidation. It stands to reason that non-profit organizations would be more trustworthy when it comes to debt consolidation. After all, by definition they don’t have the same profit motive as other lenders, which means they should be able to raise their customers’ needs above their own money-making goals.
However, as we’ll see below, that is not always the case.
So you have organized your debts, linked all your accounts, and set up a monthly payment plan. What are your next steps? As a service to our most active and motivated users, ReadyForZero is launching ReadyForZero Insights, a dashboard of data to help you further understand and take action on your debt.
» Get Your Insights
Is your plan working out for you?
The plan performance view is a way of tracking your actual payments compared to your payoff plan. A green check mark means you’ve paid according to plan that month, while a grayed out circle means that you didn’t. Hover your mouse pointer over the month to see exact numbers. This can give you a quick way to see how you’ve been doing. Your goal here should be to stay green all the way throughout.
What does this tell you? When paying down your debt, we see that staying consistent month over month is more effective than paying a large chunk once and then going back to paying minimum (or even worse, not at all). This also helps to improve your credit score. If your plan is too high to meet it on a monthly basis, we recommend you lower your goal to something you can meet every month, as a way of staying motivated and effective.
Review a Detailed ReadyForZero Monthly Plan Breakdown Anytime
We’ve also added an easy way to see your overall plan broken down by account, suggested monthly account payment (based on your total monthly plan), next due date, and when the account will be paid off. Adjust your plan at anytime to see how it impacts the suggested payments and your individual pay off dates.
What is it about credit card debt that makes it so much worse than other types of debt? I mean, all debt has moments of being tough to deal with…but none quite like the feelings that credit card debt can bring on. Besides being expensive (and often coming with unnecessary feelings of shame), credit card debt can be so darn stressful.
Other types of common debt, such as student loan debt, auto loans, and mortgages, all come with an end date. While it’s not exactly fun to be locked into the typically long repayment periods (especially with student loans and mortgages), at least you know for sure they’re going to be paid off as long as you stay the course. Not so with credit card debt.
Think about it, with an installment loan, as long as you pay the minimum on time every month, you’re guaranteed to pay the loan off. But if you do the same and make minimum payments on your credit cards, you could be facing endless years of debt. Not exactly intuitive, is it? So what are you supposed to do to pay off your credit cards? Many experts say you should consolidate them.
Had you asked me what my net worth was a few years ago I’d have answered with my checking account balance. I had no clue anything other than the number on my paycheck should be factored into my financial worth. Once I obtained student loans and my first credit card, well… more numbers came into play and I soon realized I had some financial revamping to do.
So using tools like Mint and ReadyForZero, I gathered all my numbers and began organizing all my figures. Believe it or not, it was the first time I’d really lined up my expenses with my spending. Additionally, it was the first time that I’d combined my student loan debt with my earnings. The red (liabilities) and the black (assets) were finally all together in one place. All together but not equal, that is. The end result was a whole lot more red than I was prepared for. Ultimately, I had a negative net worth. But wait, I thought, I pay my bills each month! I feel in control of my finances! What’s the deal with this net worth, anyway?
Student loan consolidation isn’t a one size fits all kind of deal. This, I discovered when I first started looking into the options out there (and trust me, you’ll see there are a lot of options). What I quickly learned was that as with any other type of loan, consolidation terms change depending on the company and if/how you match their financial criteria. While this broadens your set of options considerably it can also make the process pretty overwhelming.
Total Debt Paid Off: $9,154
Accounts paid off: 2
Months using ReadyForZero: 3
“The debt payoff is the biggest thing. That’s going to take many years. The second thing is to start saving for retirement. When you’re young, you just don’t realize how quick life goes; and before you know it you’ve got retirement only 20 years away. So that is another priority to not only pay on the debt, but also get some retirement money in the bank.”
When I was in college, I had a pretty hectic schedule. Working two jobs and an internship while taking a full load of classes left me feeling like a barely functional human being. I was about as stressed as someone could be. One day I was studying for an exam when my classmate said she hoped our next class would get out early so she could get home to her sick son.
“You have a kid?!” I asked.
She laughed and said yes, that she had a one year old at home and that she took night classes so her husband could watch him while she was at school. I couldn’t even wrap my head around what her schedule must be like. I could barely take care of myself at the time – how on earth was she managing to maintain an equally busy class load and take care of a child?
To say I was impressed would be quite the understatement. Since that day, I’ve had a newfound appreciation for working moms and moms going to school – which is why I’m so excited to share this success profile with you today.
The other day as I crowd surfed the Sunday evening chaos at Trader Joe’s, I came to an obvious conclusion: pumpkin is everywhere. In cookies. In cereal. In beer. In cheese. In ravioli. In… pumpkin. Everywhere. The marketing around the squash would have me believe it’s a figurehead of national importance.
I finished up my shopping trip (all the while dodging samples and weaving through pyramids of fall-flavored items) and slowly made my way up to the front of the line. There, the employee at the register scanned my less than fall-festive basket of broccoli and cookie butter (remain in awe of my healthy balance!) before putting a hand up in invitation for a high five.
“Wait, but why?” I asked.
He replied, “We have 62 different pumpkin products at this store. You’re the first customer I’ve checked without a single one.”
As a holder of student loan debt myself, my interest is always piqued when I see an opportunity to ease the burden of student loan debt. That being said, I’ll be the first to admit that I was a bit skeptical when I first heard about student loan consolidation. My reaction upon first learning about student loan consolidation roller coastered from, “You mean you can bundle all your student loans into one loan… with a lowered interest rate?! Who wouldn’t want in on that?” to “All right, all right… what’s the catch here?” Needless to say, I covered the gamut of emotion.
After years of hearing about the unforgiving nature of student loan debt (no bankruptcy, fewer options for forgiveness, etc), an opportunity to lower monthly payments (and potentially lower interest rates) seemed almost too good to be true. But after researching and reviewing the opportunities available, I started to understand more about the various options and also more about who specifically can benefit. Importantly, I learned that student loan consolidation can be a great option for some. But it’s not for everyone.
With that in mind, what is student loan consolidation and who can benefit from consolidating their student loans?
Setting goals is something I’m stellar at. I picture how great my life would be if I achieved x, y, or z, feel instantly elated at the thought, maybe even write it down and plaster it somewhere visible, and then promptly get distracted by something else.
I said I was great at setting goals – not necessarily at achieving every single one of them.
The thing is, I want that first spark of elation to last all the way to the finish line, but it never does. Goals, after all, take discipline – discipline to adhere to a path lined with alternative choices, distractions, and stumbling blocks.
So what can you do to stay disciplined on the path to reaching your financial goals? Here are a few helpful hints.