How to Take Control of Your Financial Situation?
Are you having trouble paying your bills? Receiving dunning notices from creditors? Are your accounts being turned over to debt collectors? Are you worried about losing your home or your car?
You’re not alone. Many people face financial crises at some time in their lives. Whether the crisis is caused by personal or family illness, the loss of a job, or simple overspending, it can seem overwhelming. But often, it can be overcome. The fact is that your financial situation doesn’t have to go from bad to worse.
If you or someone you know is in financial hot water, consider these options: realistic budgeting, credit counseling from a reputable organization, debt consolidation, or bankruptcy. How do you know which will work best for you? It depends on your level of debt, your level of discipline, and your prospects for the future.
Developing a Budget
The first step toward taking control of your financial situation is to do a realistic assessment of how much money you take in and how much money you spend. Start by listing your income from all sources. Then, list your "fixed" expenses — those that are the same each month — like mortgage payments or rent, car payments, and insurance premiums. Next, list the expenses that vary — like entertainment, recreation, and clothing. Writing down all your expenses, even those that seem insignificant, is a helpful way to track your spending patterns, identify necessary expenses, and prioritize the rest. The goal is to make sure you can make ends meet on the basics: housing, food, health care, insurance, and education.
Your public library and bookstores have information about budgeting and money management techniques. In addition, computer software programs can be useful tools for developing and maintaining a budget, balancing your checkbook, and creating plans to save money and pay down your debt.
Contacting Your Creditors
Contact your creditors immediately if you’re having trouble making ends meet. Tell them why it’s difficult for you, and try to work out a modified payment plan that reduces your payments to a more manageable level. Don’t wait until your accounts have been turned over to a debt collector. At that point, your creditors have given up on you.
Dealing with Debt Collectors
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is the federal law that dictates how and when a debt collector may contact you. A debt collector may not call you before 8 a.m., after 9 p.m., or while you’re at work if the collector knows that your employer doesn’t approve of the calls. Collectors may not harass you, lie, or use unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. And they must honor a written request from you to stop further contact.
If you’re not disciplined enough to create a workable budget and stick to it, can’t work out a repayment plan with your creditors, or can’t keep track of mounting bills, consider contacting a credit counseling organization. Many credit counseling organizations are nonprofit and work with you to solve your financial problems. But be aware that just because an organization says it’s "nonprofit," there’s no guarantee that its services are free, affordable, or even legitimate. In fact, some credit counseling organizations charge high fees, which may be hidden, or pressure consumers to make large "voluntary" contributions that can cause more debt.
Most credit counselors offer services through local offices, the Internet, or on the telephone. If possible, find an organization that offers in-person counseling. Many universities, military bases, credit unions, housing authorities, and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service operate nonprofit credit counseling programs. Your financial institution, local consumer protection agency, and friends and family also may be good sources of information and referrals.
Reputable credit counseling organizations can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and offer free educational materials and workshops. Their counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors discuss your entire financial situation with you, and help you develop a personalized plan to solve your money problems. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions.
Free Debt Consolidation Quote
On hearing the word free, many people immediately close their ears to what comes next and jump on the offer made. When you are searching for a way to get out of a lot of debt, it pays to avoid your old habits and look deeper into a matter when the word free is uttered. One way to go about this is to find out exactly what is free in the offer. Those opting for debt counselling services, for example, should keep in mind that no service is ever free. Instead, it is some of the aspects of the process that are free. One example is the idea of the free debt consolidation quote.
These quotes often come about in the process of consumer debt counseling. One of the first steps in this process is research, and a quick look on the Internet will demonstrate that there are plenty of companies offering free quotes. Because of the abundance, it is advisable to apply for a few of these to make sure that you can find the best deal. Remember that if the search is registered and forwarded to your credit card that you might recieve a mark on your credit history, so you will want to apply to discrete companies and possibly limit the number you apply for if you have a poor credit history.
IN order to receive the quote you will need to fill in forms that clarify certain information, including your personal contact infromation such as phone number and address as well as the amounts of your outstanding debts and who the money is owed to. Once this information has been submitted, the company with whom you applied will assess the application and determine if you should be contacted for a discussion. SOme companies will use this opportunity to pitch a hard sell as to why you should use their particular loan; remember that you are still in the decision making process and that there is no obligation to use the company at this time. The free quote should give you an idea of which of the comapnies you short listed will fit in with the plans you have for your financial future.
As far as free debt consolidation goes, there are a number of source available. THere are many non-profit debt counseling operations that have websites where they make their information available to the public. Many of these sites will offer sound advice on avoiding shady lenders who offer great deals on loans as well as pointing out options beyond taking out a consolidation loan. Remember to check the website to see if there are any advertisments, especially from financial institutions who are using the organization to further their own profits. When free advice is also sponsored by a certain company, it is a pretty safe bet that the person checking the advice is being led towards a specific goal that is in the best interest of the sponsor rather than the client.
The Internet is a great tool for exploring the free aspect of debt reduction, as there are many different sites available both for quotes and for advice. Remember that shopping carefully is the key, and that you should compare as many companies as you can. Further, avoid any companies that claim to offer a free loan, because these in fact are never free.