Looking for different ways other than filing for bankruptcy? Bankruptcy may be the last thing you want to end up doing so why not try something else. Well luckily, there are plenty of alternatives to choose from and learn about.
One bankruptcy alternative that you can look into is debt settlement. It can be a great option for you to move forward if your debt becomes unmanageable to continue paying. There are many similarities between debt settlement and bankruptcy.
So, what is debt settlement? Debt settlement is when an individual is able to negotiate to lower your debt less than what you originally owe. That way a portion of what you were supposed to pay back will be forgiven. For example, if you owe in debt $100,000, debt settlement is able to negotiate the amount down to $50,000. Though how does the process of debt settlement look like?
When going through the process of debt settlement, most of the time you use a debt settlement company to guide you through the experience. Keep in mind when looking for a debt settlement company, always do your research before to make sure it is the right one for you. Now getting into the process, debt settlement companies are the link you need for what you owe in debt and the creditor. The debt settlement company will make you an escrow bank account for where all the funds will be collected. From there they will put together all the payments into one for the creditors. They will become your primary contact and negotiate for you to lower your debt. From there you will decide to either accept/decline your settlement and new monthly payment plan. Once accepted you will start sending payments to the creditors till you finding paying off your debt.
Sounds pretty good, though we also have to consider some of the negative impacts it may bring. Such as, how debt settlement can damage your credit score depending on your situation. Sadly, most of the time it will have a negative effect on your credit score throughout the process. So it’s a good idea to consider the pros and cons, depending on your situation.
You also have to think about the cost and fees of debt settlement. Debt settlement companies often charge fees based on the enrolled debt or the saved amount. You should also consider the FTC's guidance and look up whether your attorney general has specific insights for debt settlement in your state. These are just a few things you should think about before looking into debt settlement.
You can also consider another alternative called debt management. Debt management is when you collaborate with a company such as credit counseling or debt consolidation to help manage the debts you owe. Debt management isn’t a company that will lend you more loans or settles your debt. What debt management does is help lower your interest rates when paying through the company. For instance, debt management will try to negotiate the debt interest rate down (22% to 7%). As well as, be able to waive certain fees. This will help you to use that money towards the monthly payment that you owe. Which will allow you to pay off your debts faster. So how is the process like to apply for debt management?
When meeting with a debt management counselor, the agency will look through all your debts. From there they will determine and estimate the amount it will take to pay off your debts with a certain time frame. Typically it is about three to five years long. That is when a monthly payment will be created for you depending on how much debt you need to pay off. Then you will start making those payments towards the company and they will pay your creditors instead. So no need to worry about paying every month since they will be paying for you. After a couple of years, you have paid it all off. Though don’t be fooled just yet because there are also some cons you have to remember.
The thing that credit counseling companies and non/profit debt management agencies are great at doing is making it seem so simple to do. Although you need to make sure you are getting the full picture when thinking about using debt management. Something you should definitely know is the service/maintains fees you will have to be paying for. So not only you will be paying off your debts through the monthly plan but also the added fees for using the companies/agencies. Adding those additional fees may not be saving you any money when paying off your debts. Not only that but you must close all your credit cards because they want to make sure you don’t owe more in debt over time. Understand the credit score impact. Many people also compare debt settlement to debt management. Besides that, depending on your situation this can still be a good option to move forward with.
An alternative you can consider is using a debt payoff planner. Such as the Savvy Debt Payoff Planner for this option. It is an app on iOS and Android where you can get out of debt faster. The Savvy debt payoff planner has a zero-based budget and will encourage you throughout the process. It will show how your debt freedom date moves closer and your debt decreases in real-time. It is also super simple to use. You are able to add your bank accounts, credit cards, and loans that you are paying off. As well as automate a budget and a payoff planner for you to use to help reduce expenses.
What is different about the Savvy Debt Payoff Planner is their own savvy method, compared to the snowball or avalanche method to pay off your debt. So, let’s go over each one of the snowball, avalanche, and savvy methods to get a better understanding of it and compare.
The snowball method is when you start by listing all your debts from smallest to largest. Then from there, you start paying off your smallest debt first and make your way to the largest. This is one of the more common methods much use because of how motivating it can be. When you start seeing your debts being paid off it can become encouraging to keep on going until the end.
The avalanche method is when you list your largest interest to your smallest interest debt. Then you start off with the minimum payment on all your debts. Though once you start paying them off you use those funds towards paying off the highest interest debt. From there you will keep on going with the same routine until you have paid off all your debts.
The savvy method uses both snowball and avalanche methods combine. Using the savvy method will help encourage you as you pay off your small debts. Though it will also gain some of the interest savings by adding the avalanche method. This will help you keep a lookout on your interest rate while also getting psychological benefits from seeing your debts being paid off.
If this aligns with your financial situation, then maybe this could be your option to use to help pay off your debts.
You can also look into a debt consolidation loan as another alternative for you. Basically, a debt consolidation loan is a loan that combines all your debt into one. Since it is just one loan now, you will only have to deal with one payment. For example, let’s say someone has 5 credit cards and $10,000 owed each, so $50,000 and let’s say payment is $500 per month. So your average interest rate is 18%. What Debt consolidation can do is; $50,000 loan - $475 per month and the interest rate are down to 15% now.
That way you aren’t as stress paying different loans back and lose track. Getting a debt consolidation loan also may lower your interest rate as we see in the example. Although to get a debt consolidation, it does depend on your credit and how much you want to combine your debt. One thing to mention is to not worry about your credit score/report. It won’t hurt it! A debt consolidation loan can become more manageable for you to use if this aligns more with what you are looking for.
Now even though it is not the most common alternative, mortgage refinancing could be a good idea. How mortgage refinancing works is when the homeowner acquires a new mortgage loan and replaces their previous one. For instance, let’s say the mortgage is $500,000 worth and $300,000 owed → You have $200,000 in equity. Then you refinance your mortgage for $400,000 and get $100,000 in cash. It is nice because now you have more funds and also save more on your mortgage interest. Though here is the problem → $400,000 loan now, so your monthly payment is higher. Also, let’s say you had 20 years left on a 30-year loan. Now, with $400,000 loan, you are back to a 30-year loan. Definitely doesn’t sound fun, but it could still be of use as an alternative.
An alternative you can do is to also ask for help from your family and/or friends. Sometimes in certain financial situations, this might be an option you should consider. Most of your family and friends don’t ever want to see you financially struggle. So it never hurts to ask to borrow money as a loan or to even donate to you. The worst thing to happen is if they say no. From there you can move on to the next friend or family member who you are close with that may help you out. Just remember that it never hurts to ask.
Increasing your income can be another option for you to do. You can increase your incoming by picking up a second job to make some extra income on the side. Such as working at a retail store or your local restaurant. You can do this by doing some research online or going around town to see who is hiring. Keep in mind, if you are looking for a second job, find one that you can also earn tips from. If you have a car, you can also look into working for companies like Uber, Lift, and DoorDash. What is nice about doing that is it is on your own schedule and time. So whenever you are free you can go around town picking people up or dropping off someone’s meal. It is also a great way to earn more tips on the side.
Freelancing is also another option you can look into. Such as using Upwork to find small job opportunities to do for others. Such as re-writing articles, proofreading an essay, or doing a few sketches for someone. Again, it is nice to look into this if you are on your own schedule.
You should also look into decreasing your expenses you may not even use or have better offers. Check for any subscriptions you may have. Such as Netflix, Hulu, HBOMax, STARZ, and Apple TV to see if you are really using all of it. If you aren’t using those subscriptions, delete them and only stick with one subscription for now.
You can also decrease your expenses by not going out as much to eat, like take-out food. Instead, cook at home, it will save you money over time. If you love coffee, maybe stick with at-home coffee instead of going to Starbucks in the morning every day. You will save a ton of money by not spending your money at takeout places. It might be hard at first but worth the sacrifice.
You should also look into your cell phone service provider and see if you are getting the best offer. In fact, look into other providers as well and see which one is more beneficial for you financially. Such as T-Mobile vs AT&T and Verizon ($40 deduction per month and unlimited GB vs 2 Gb). Just cutting back these few expenses can make a big difference financially for your future.
I would generally not recommend this option, but what can happen if you have debt and stop paying? Well, nothing good and it will just get worse. Doing nothing will cause creditors to possibly sue you for unpaid debt. They will sue you when they think they can start collecting the debt. Such as your property, amount of debt you still owe, state laws on garnishment, and statutes of limitation.
If you are being sued there are a few things you can try and do before going to court. For instance, you can try and settle your debt on your own. Though you also have to remember you can still be sued in debt settlement programs. If you are, in court most judges will be lenient depending on your case with a valid reason. Though it is always a good idea to try and resolve the issue before heading into court.
Worst comes to worst. If a judge goes against you a few things may happen. The debt collector can attempt four different ways. For example, Wage garnishment of a paycheck, Levy/garnishment of a bank account, Lien on property or assets – Home mortgage, and Continue normal collection practices. This is why you should never get to this point of “doing nothing” because that will become the biggest mistake of your life.