If there’s one thing we’ve learned after our many, many year in the debt collection business – it’s how you can get out of debt.
While everyone’s situations are different, there are lots of steps you can take that can make paying off your debts, or avoiding them in the first place, a lot easier.
Before we get into divulging our expert secrets, just keep in mind that getting out of debt isn’t simple, it won’t happen overnight, but changing some small habits, can make a big difference.
So, if you’re looking to get out of debt, stop what you’re doing and read the 9 tips we always tell our friends and family when they ask us for advice.
Expert tips to make getting out of debt easier
1. Acknowledge that you have a problem
You might have heard the saying “the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem” – and while this is usually in reference to a substance abuse problem, it is actually relevant here too.
It’s human nature to want to bury our heads and ignore the problem. It’s silly, it’s illogical, but it helps us save face. But it can also cause anxiety and stress, and make a problem feel worse than it actually is – and if left long enough – it can actually make a manageable problem a lot more difficult to manage.
So, if you find yourself struggling to make ends meet, keep up with payments, or you feel stressed and anxious when anything to do with your finances comes up – it’s probably time to admit that there may be a problem.
2. Understand the extent of your problem
It’s one thing to admit we have a problem, it’s another to understand the extent of it. When we’re younger, a lot of us make silly financial decisions, without understanding the repercussions of those decisions. Whether it’s getting a credit card and only paying off the minimum amount without realising how long it will take to pay it, or it’s getting a large loan without understanding all the terms and conditions around the loan type.
Now, that you’ve acknowledged the problem, you’ve got to lay it out for you to understand the extent of it.
Make a list of all of your expenses, your debts – including credit cards; personal, home, student, and car loans; bills; and monthly living expenses.
For all of your loans and credit cards, it’s important to get the interest rate percentage information as well as the loan type – is it a variable or fixed interest rate – as this can impact whether you are penalised for paying it off early. This will also help to prioritise the debts in terms of which ones should be tackled first.
Understanding the debt, you have as well as your monthly costs will put you in a good position for one of the upcoming tips!
3. Stop spending
Ok, when we say stop spending, we don’t mean it entirely literally – only to an extent.
You see, you need to get a hold of your finances and stop any unnecessary spending. When you lay out your debts, have a think about if there is anything you’re doing that is contributing to those debts further – for example, do you have a credit card that you’re using to buy unnecessary things? Or perhaps one that you’re using in lieu of using money that is in your bank account?
You essentially want to stop buying things and spending money on the things that are not necessities as soon as possible. So, if it doesn’t help to keep you alive and working – like food, utilities, and transport – stop spending money on it.
4. Make a budget
Ok, this is where the real fun begins. You’ve already done a bit of the leg work by understanding the debt position you’re in and where your money is currently going.
Now, it’s time to make that money work better for you. It’s budget time.
There are lots of different ways you can budget – it can simple or in-depth, it can be super strict or a little bit lenient, our only advice is to make sure it’s realistic. You want to be serious about your budget and make it so that you use your money in a clever way and also pay those debts off faster, but sometimes, if you go too strict, you can be tempting fate and end up increasing the temptation to spend.
One thing you can try, is a two or three phase budget plan. Where you start off super strict – using the bare bones budget approach, and then after a few months, introducing a little more money back into your personal budget for things like entertainment or something you’ve been wanting to buy.
With a bare bones budget, the aim is to get your expenses as low as possible – so cutting out the extras like impulse shopping, ordering food, buying lunch each day, eating out, streaming services, and getting Ubers and taxis when you don’t really need them. These sorts of budgets are meant to be temporary, to help you kickstart your financial goals, whether it is saving for something, or paying off debts.
After a few months, or when you’re close to financial goal, you can start introducing a little more spending money back in. Often, people find that they lose the urge to spend money unnecessarily after a bare bones budget because they realise just how unnecessary some things they were paying for before were.
5. Set up automation of payments
One of the many beautiful things about technology is how easy it is to manage and make payments. Back in the day, people used to have to go to the bank or the post office to pay bills. Now, with the click of a button on your phone, you can set up a payment that will automatically come out when it’s due to be paid.
So, once you have a budget in place and understand your expenses, why not automate what you can? Your utility bills like gas, electricity, phone, and internet are usually all able to be set up to be direct debited from your account.
You don’t have to automate everything, but if you can, and you know roughly how much it is going to be, you may as well. It takes you out of the equation, which means less pressure to remember to make the payment, and less temptation to spend the money if it’s just sitting in your account.
6. Prioritise the debts that are interest bearing
If you have multiple debts, it’s a good idea to understand how much interest you are charged each month. You might find that you have some debts with either no interest or a very low interest rate. The higher the interest rate of a debt, the higher the priority it is to pay it.
You’ll find that most debts do have an interest rate of sorts, with a lot of them being quite similar, which leads us to the next step.
7. Consolidate your loans
If you have multiple loans, either with the same lender, or multiple lenders, you may be able to speak to one of them to see if you can get a lower interest rate if you consolidate your debts into one.
When you consolidate your debts, all of your loans and debt is in one or fewer places, which means that while the amount to pay may seem large, it’s actually going to make your money work better for.
Perhaps various small debts made them seem manageable, but each one has its own interest rate, payment date and amount, which makes it hard to keep track of. Now, you can make your payments in one place (or fewer places), and you may have a lower interest rate to match.
8. Talk to a debt collector
This might be an intimidating step, but if you’re struggling to make payments, or you have creditors and debt collectors on your back – consider talking to them.
They have the same goal as you – to get the loan paid and they often have solutions, methods and advice that can help you. It might also help to reduce the pressure you’re feeling from them because if they understand your plans when it comes to paying off the debts you own, it may help your case being escalated.
9. Find ways to make extra income
This tip might seem difficult, because let’s face it, we all want more money, but we all feel like we don’t have any spare time. But there are ways to make extra income.
You could consider a casual job, where you might work on weekends, or ones where you can make your own hours – like food delivery and driving services.
Perhaps you have some skills that might be of value to someone, like editing, writing, bookkeeping, dog walking.
Or perhaps you might have things around the home that you’re not using – whether it’s clothes, appliances, books, or furniture. You can sell many things using Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree. Just make sure you’re not selling the things you really need or that hold sentimental value to you for the sake of a quick buck.
These are just some of the ways you can make paying debt easier. Now, let’s talk about how to avoid debt as much as possible.
Tips to help you avoid unnecessary debt
Now, there’s a high chance that at some point in your life, you will have debts to pay. However, there are debts that are manageable, and those that are out of control. So, to help you avoid the latter, take note of the following
· Don’t Spend Beyond Your Means
Credit card companies and Buy Now Pay Later loans like AfterPay, ZipPay and Klarna can make it very easy to rack up debt very fast. And sometimes, there can be a bit of a high when it comes to shopping and making purchases.
Our advice is, if it isn’t a necessity, and you don’t have the money to pay for it now, then don’t buy it – you can’t afford it. It might sound basic but spending money you don’t have is a recipe for disaster.
· Do credit checks
If you have a business that offers services and/or goods where your customers and clients are not obliged to pay upfront, then you need to be careful about who you take on as a customer/client.
Having contracts and clear-cut trading terms will protect you to an extent, but you also have the option to check out your potential customer’s backgrounds. One way you can do this is by having a credit check run on them. This should highlight their payment history background and show you whether there are any red flags that may indicate getting into business with them may not be the best decision.
· Don’t be afraid to work with debt collectors
Debt collectors do get a bit of a bad name – we get it – but we can actually be very helpful when it comes to managing debt for your business.
If you have delinquent clients or customers, you can always enlist the help of a debt recovery agency to collect those debts. It will save you time and resources and has a higher chance of recovery as we often have different resources, experience, and skills at our disposal.
Some people avoid using debt collectors because they are worried about their reputation, however, a professional debt collector works hard to treat everyone respectfully and ensuring that your reputation and their own is intact in every transaction.
Often, a debt collection service can show that you are a serious business who takes your offering seriously.
If you have a small to medium sized business and are looking for someone to help you recover outstanding debts in Australia, why not talk to us here at JMA? We have over 50 years of experience up our sleeves. Our years of experience, knowledge and professionalism is second to none when it comes to debt collection agencies.
Give us a call on1300 664 223 to discuss your options today.