I got a question about how to manage debt as a single parent or a single mother. For me, this is a pretty hot topic, especially in my life. Managing debt has been something I’ve been dealing with for the last 20 years mostly because of student loans.
Over the years, I’ve had student loan debt, I’ve had car notes, I’ve had mortgages, and, of course, I’ve had rent. I’ve also had credit cards. My debt got so bad that I had to file bankruptcy 10 years ago to get rid of debt incurred by my ex. It has been an interesting money and debt journey for me to say the least. Despite the challenges, I believe it is possible to manage your debt when you’re well equipped to understand the basics of money management.
First, let me say that debt is not necessarily a bad thing. When used correctly it helps you get the things that you want in life; a house, a car, and an education.
But when you’re in credit card and personal loan debt, aka consumer debt, this is where the issues begin. Any debt that is not making you money or adding value to your life, with a plan to repay, only adds stress.
Yes, we all know debt is stressful and can make you feel chronically anxious. Even the Bible says to be in debt is like a prison or slavery.
So how do you manage your debt?
Here four strategies I can share with you based on what I have done in the past and what I’m doing to pay down debt. The main thing to remember is that all debt repayment is negotiable. You can negotiate your debt, you can manage your debt, you can consolidate your debt, you can do whatever you need to do in order to repay the debt or make it go away.
The first thing to do is to face the fact that you have debt. Face it because hiding will only add stress and anxiety to your life but it will not make it disappear. The debt will always be there lurking in the background of your mind until you get rid of it. It will hang like a dark cloud over your life until you face it and beat it into submission. Find out exactly how much you owe then make a list of each item and enter the dollar amount.
The second thing you want to do is to fully document your debt. When you list your debt, it empowers you and makes you feel that you have some control. When you document the debt, write the name of the company, the amount you owe, the due date, and the interest rate if applicable.
You’ve heard other financial experts and gurus tell you to document your debt as well. It is really important, especially from a single parent perspective, that you are fully aware of what your debts are. Why? Because that debt is going to subtract from your income. You need to be aware of how much has to go out to pay this debt compared to how much goes out for your regular expenses.
The third strategy is to see if you can get the debt amount reduced. Sometimes a debtor will reduce the amount that you owe, and that will lower your payment. Many people think everything has to be paid in full right this minute. But that is a fallacy. You do not have to pay it in full right now. If you have medical bills, you can call the hospital and ask for a new payment plan. Do the same with your student loans. If you want to renegotiate it, if you need to put it in forbearance, if you need a deferment, request it.
A creditor will also allow you to make a full payment after you have re-negotiated the debt if you have happened to have the money on hand. This full payment could come from a windfall, whether it’s from a tax refund, selling unwanted jewelry, or a family member who’s willing to help you out with that debt. You can re-negotiate for lower payment amount and pay in full or you can request a new payment plan.
Call or email the creditor and began to make arrangements for debt ASAP!
The final strategy is to pay down the debt as much as possible and to request that your credit report be updated with a new amount. Ask that the late payments be deleted if possible because you’ve re-negotiated the debt so you can hopefully get a clean slate. I did this recently with a student loan. I called to request a new payment plan and was taken through the steps of setting up this new payment plan request. I arranged to make a payment that I could comfortably afford. Later, I uploaded the paperwork that I needed to submit and now I’m waiting for the approval.
So it’s possible to completely re-negotiate as for lower payments and move on with your life. Of course, you do not add any more debt to your life because it’s just more money you have to pay out which could be used for savings, investing, or use for your daily, weekly, or monthly expenses.
The less debt you have, the more freedom you have. And the sooner you can begin to accumulate more wealth is always better than having money rolling out of your life.
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