Reducing Stress by Reducing Debt

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Reducing Stress by Reducing Debt

High stress disturbs your health, daily work habits and peace of mind. And for many, debt is the main culprit increasing heart rates, disturbing sleep and causing panic.

Leaving debt unaddressed long term can cause increased stress, as well as increasing the amount you owe—whether it is for living expenses, phone bills, credit cards or loans.

These five steps provide a direct approach to getting back in control of your finances and, in turn, clearing your mind to calmly focus on other important matters in life.

Take a Good Look at Your Debt

Before you can reduce your debt, you need to know exactly how much you owe. Begin by sorting through the stack of envelopes and invoices you’ve been ignoring.

Get out your bills, and call any creditors whose information you’ve lost. Compare these monthly debts to the income and expenses you are currently maintaining. Seeing specific numbers will enable you to put together a long-term plan that is accurate and achievable.

Start Talking to Creditors

Often, people stuck in a debt cycle take one look at their minimum monthly payment and see an impossible sum—an amount that if added to living expenses becomes totally unaffordable. Before giving up and racking up more debt, get the creditor on the phone.

By talking to creditors, you may be able to negotiate a lower monthly payment or temporary hold on the account. A hold will suspend you from using a card, but this can prevent you from allowing your debt to grow even larger. With loans, you may qualify for a forbearance or deferment period, depending on the circumstances keeping you from making payments.

Reduce Monthly Spending

Continue pursuing your goal of becoming debt-free by reducing your monthly spending with a lifestyle change. Try to maintain this goal for at least six months.

This lifestyle change is more than just a commitment to spending less. Your plan should include a specific area in your life that you spend money on every month. Some examples are canceling a gym or Netflix membership, skipping daily Starbucks trips or renting movies instead of going out. It will be up to you to examine how you are spending your money and choosing one area to live without.

Make a Calendar

Once you’ve negotiated payments to better meet your needs and reduced spending, it’s time to ensure that every month you will pay each creditor—and pay on time. If you qualified for lowered payments, and then miss even one, your regular payments may go back up. Putting all the dates and amounts owed on a calendar that you can see all month long can assist you in remembering to pay and budgeting correctly.

The calendar should include when you get your paychecks and how much paychecks are, to help prevent over-drafting. Sticking to the calendar will also save you from wasting money on late payments or higher interest rates.

Get a Running Start

You can alleviate some of the stress of this plan by getting a running start and immediately eradicating a chunk of the debt.

Be creative in finding the funds for your running start. If you’re lucky enough to own an annuity or structured settlement, you can sell your structured settlement payments. If you are expecting a large tax return refund, use this money. You may even be able to sell items gathering dust in your garage to put even just a few hundred dollars toward debt.

Alanna Ritchie has spent years studying, writing and learning to love the intricacies of the English language. Today, she works as a content writer for Annuity.org, where her primary focus is personal finance.

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