Debt Discovery: The Ties That Binder
Going shopping isn’t the first thing that should come to mind when you’re shoveling yourself out of debt but that’s exactly what you should do. Take a trip to your local stationary store and buy a three ring binder and some file folders with labels. Then order your credit report online or via snail mail from Equifax, Trans Union, Experian, TRW and/or FreeCreditReport.com and go down your list of payables.
Make sure you actually owe what they say you owe by cross referencing the lists with your bill notices. Match the bill notices to each delinquent account and place them in the folder. Then prioritize what you think you should pay either by collection amount, urgency of debt, or ability to pay. Keep a separate file for what debt counselers call “silly balances,” which include late phone bills, overdue library books, and magazine subscription payments and bank overdraft charges – all of which are usually under $100 and be paid off quickly thus doing wonders in cleaning up your credit really fast. Sounds like a lot of work but it will pay off once you see what your total liability is.
It may even surprise you in that it’s less than you thought. Once you match that number against what your regular monthly expenses are and what your monthly take home pay is, you can make a realistic assessment of how soon you can be debt free. These are the tenets of Glinda Bridgeforth, one of the purveyors of Oprah Winfrey’s “Debt Diet.” Program. According to Bridgeforth, author of the book “Girl Get Your Money Right,” one should almost never refinance to pay down debt. And if you need help getting organized, an adviser or money coach can walk you through this process.