Perhaps you’re on the brink of entering this predicament. Perhaps you’re already months behind on some of your payments. There are a few steps you can take to dig out. First, write out all of your debts, including payments, balances owed, and interest rates. Include your mortgage or rent and every utility bill – cell phones, gym memberships, cable TV, car insurance, everything. Take inventory of everything you pay out.
With everything listed, prioritize which liabilities are the most important. Obviously, mortgage would earn the top spot on your list. Next would likely be your utility bills. Water, electric, and gas are absolute necessities.
After utilities, any car loan you might have would be pretty important, although you can look to reduce this expense. For example, you can sell your car and purchase a less expensive one. Hopefully, the new car will also be fuel efficient and less costly to insure.
Once you’ve budgeted for life’s top priorities, it’s time to start cutting the fat. See if there is anything you can cancel without penalty. Gym memberships, cable television subscriptions, magazine subscriptions, and even cell phones are not categorized as bare essentials. You can get television over the air for free. You can work out at home. You can go to the library or browse the bookstores to read magazines. You can get a pre-paid cell phone plan that doesn’t require a monthly commitment. Remember, once your financial affairs are straightened out, you can always re-subscribe.
This brings us to your credit cards. It is always important to pay all of your debt on time. However, if you are truly overextended, this may not be possible. If you know that you need to miss a payment on at least one or two cards, you should be proactive with your creditors.
Call each of your creditors and honestly explain your financial situation. Let them know that you will likely miss your next payment. Don’t make weak excuses. If you have a true hardship, you might find that your creditors might be willing to work with you. After all, it is in their best interest to do so.
If you’re already behind, many creditors will arrange a payment plan to help you to catch up. Let them know that you are sincere in your sentiment to bring your account current. Tell them how much you might be able to afford every month. Inform your creditors that you fully intend to catch up. Before you do, however, make sure you know exactly how much you can afford and stick to that number.
Unfortunately, it becomes a game of hardball. Either they have to accept a lower payment, or they accept no payment at all. If they agree to a lower payment, make sure you get the terms of the payment plan in writing. Some companies might charge you interest or penalties “in arrears. ” This means that they’ll tack on the missed interest payment at the end of your loan, although this mostly applies to installment loans like car loans and mortgages.
If your situation is particularly dire, some creditors might allow you to skip a monthly payment or two, although this is rare. If they do offer it for you, be sure to get it in writing. You do not want to rely on the word of a customer service rep who might be working in a call center overseas.
Whether looking to request a payment plan, reduced payment, or a skipped payment, be persistent. If you don’t get the answer you’re looking for, call again. Most credit card companies are so large that you will never speak with the same person twice. Just because they all work for the same company doesn’t mean they all know what’s going on with your account. Call center workers have varying degrees of experience and responsibility. You just might get a different answer.
While you’re looking to negotiate with your creditors, keep an eye on your credit scores. You want to be able to minimize the damage to your credit. In fact, if you have a little time before you have to miss a payment, get a copy of your credit report to see what your credit picture looks like. If your score is a little low, look into ways to increase your score in the quickest amount of time. Then, you might be able to secure a debt relief loan to consolidate your debts.
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