5 Ways to Reduce Your Debt Payments

Consumer debt levels are at all-time highs. In 2018, overall consumer debt reached $13.3 trillion while unpaid revolving debt surpassed $4.1 trillion. Mortgage debt reached new highs of $9.4 trillion. Both auto loans and auto payments notched new records, and there is a looming $1.37 trillion student loan debt crisis.   

Properly managing your debt level is one of the keys to financial success. Whether you are a multi-million dollar professional or a blue-collar worker, successful debt management is your path to financial freedom. If you are struggling to maintain or reduce your debt, you can get your debt payments back to a manageable level.

01
Negotiate With Creditors

Obtain a copy of your most recent credit report and billing statements to come up with a list of all your creditors and lenders, in addition to the balances owed. Then, figure out how much you're able to pay each. Call each creditor and let them know you're willing to pay the debt. But when you do, make sure that you have already calculated a payment that works within your budget.

Your credit card issuer may offer a hardship plan that will lower your payments or interest rate for a period of time.

If the customer service rep says no, don't fight or argue; simply ask to speak to a supervisor and ask again. Make sure to get any agreement in writing, preferably on company letterhead, before making a payment.

02
Consolidate

Combining your debt with debt consolidation or a home equity loan can give you a lower monthly payment. Average the interest rates on your current debt and look for a loan that has a lower interest rate than your current average.

If you qualify for the loan, you can use it to pay off your existing debts, then focus on making a single monthly payment on the loan. Debt consolidation loans aren't the only option for consolidating debt. Consider also a personal loan, home equity loan, or cash-out refinance.

Be careful about getting a loan that simply lowers your payments by extending the repayment period. You'll likely end up paying more interest over time than you would otherwise.

03
Transfer Balances

If you have a good credit score, you can often get a balance transfer credit card with a lower interest rate than your other credit cards. Sometimes you can even get an extremely low introductory interest rate (as little as 0% in some cases) and use the introductory period to make interest-free payments on your debt.

You can use CreditCard.com's balance transfer calculator to calculate how much you'll save by transferring your balances. Please keep in mind that employing this strategy typically incurs a transfer fee. If this is the case, this may decrease the amount of interest savings that you were anticipating. 

04
Sign Up for Credit Counseling

Consumer credit counselors are sometimes better skilled at negotiating lower interest rates and payments from your creditors. Enrolling in a credit counselor's debt management plan, or DMP will allow you to get lower monthly payments making it easier to pay off your debt. Credit counselors can also help you make a budget and teach much-needed money management skills.

When you're choosing a credit counselor, make sure you choose a reputable one (hint: they're usually non-profit). Be careful not to confuse them with debt settlement companies who offer to lower your debt, but often make your credit score worse during the negotiating stage.  

05
File Bankruptcy

There are times when the debt you owe is just too much to pay, even with lower payments. In this case, you might consider filing bankruptcy. The 2005 bankruptcy law prevents people from abusing bankruptcy by requiring an income-debt comparison and consumer credit counseling before you can file bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy will allow you to completely wipe out certain debts while Chapter 13 bankruptcy will create a payment plan.