You’ve probably heard all kinds of stories about debt consolidation. Some of them portray it as the simplest and best way out of debt. Others paint a disturbing picture of escalating debt that leads inevitably to financial disaster.
The reality, of course, lies somewhere in-between. Debt consolidation may or may not be the best way for you to get out of debt. It all depends on a wide range of factors: not just how much you owe, but how much you earn and what kind of debts you’re thinking about consolidating, as well as your attitude to debt and to money in general.
There are, however, a few ‘dos and don’ts’ that should apply to just about anyone.
Do talk to a professional debt adviser if you’re thinking about taking out a debt consolidation loan. You need someone who can help you explore your options, so make sure you talk to a company that doesn’t just provide consolidation loans. Maybe all you need is some advice on budgeting more effectively, so you can handle your debts yourself.
Do think carefully about the repayment term for your debt consolidation loan, if you take one. In general, the longer the repayment term, the lower your monthly payments will be, but the more you’ll pay in total, as your debt will spend longer accruing interest.
Do find out whether you’d be better off with a debt consolidation loan or a debt consolidation mortgage. A mortgage might give you a lower APR (Annual Percentage Rate) and more time to repay the debt, but you’d be putting your home at risk.
Don’t keep on struggling if you really can’t afford your debt repayments. If it’s obvious you need help, ask for it – a debt adviser should be able to help you decide whether you need a professional debt solution, and if so, which one.
Don’t assume that the right solution for someone else is the right one for you. Just because debt consolidation worked (or didn’t work!) for someone you know doesn’t mean it will (or won’t!) work for you.
Don’t keep on using your credit cards, store cards and/or overdraft facility once you’ve taken out a debt consolidation loan. This is a real danger of consolidation – if you run up fresh debts, ‘replacing’ the ones you’ve just paid off with the consolidation loan, you’ll be in a much worse situation than you were before you took the loan out, as you’ll have to make payments to it every month as well as to your new debts! It might be a good idea to keep one credit card for emergencies, but you should never consolidate your debts without sitting down and thinking about how those debts got so high in the first place. Are there any mistakes you could avoid from now on? Is there anything about your habits you need to change?
You can read more about debt consolidation here, including advice on staying out of debt & much more.