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12 Free Resources to Help You Tackle Your Debt
According to NerdWallet.com, “the average household with credit card debt has balances totaling $16,748.” Ouch.
While managing debt is a common way of life for many Americans, it’s not fun to constantly juggle bills and payments.
And without a comprehensive picture of your income and expenses, it’s hard to see where you’re headed in the long-term - or how you can tackle your debt for good.
From debt calculators to financial planning, here are 12 free resources you can use to pay it all back.
1. Debt Coach
Profiled in The New York Times and CNN Money, Debt Coach will analyze your debt no matter where it’s tied up - credit cards, student loans, mortgages, car loans, you name it.
Then the service recommends customized strategies for paying back what you owe, as well as estimates for how long each strategy will take and how it fits with your budget.
If you’re looking for a big-picture solution, this is a great way to go.
2. Student Loan Hero
When the free debt management tool Ready for Zero was bought out in 2016, its users had to start looking elsewhere for the same kind of help.
Many of them opted for Student Loan Hero, a similar service that helps you track, manage, and pay back student loans.
This is an especially helpful service if your loans have been farmed out to multiple collection agencies, and can help you find the best way to pay them all back - without the hassle.
3. Debt Payoff Lite
The team behind Debt Payoff has done their financial services homework.
This app works by helping you “snowball” your loan payments - that is, working to pay off the loan with the smallest balance first, and paying only the minimum on all other outstanding loans.
Looking for something a little more robust? You can upgrade to the “Pro” version of the app for only $0.99.
4. Debt Strategy
If you’re a visual learner, Debt Strategy might be the tool for you. Like Debt Coach, this app helps you identify the best strategy for paying off all your debts by helping you look at - and analyze - them in one place.
The app also comes with notifications that remind you to schedule your payments and robust graphing capabilities that help you understand your payment schedule. If you have more than two loans to track, it’s probably worth an upgrade to the Pro version.
While you’ve probably heard of Mint’s incredible budgeting resources, with a little bit of elbow grease you can use the application’s Financial Goals function to track and pay down your debt.
Just link up your credit card or loan account and make a savvy plan based on your income to start knocking down your overall balance. Mint will help you set a budget, track your progress, and estimate when that debt will be gone for good.
If you just need a simple, clean, and easy-to-use loan calculator, Unbury.Me can help you find a way forward.
Add data about your loans to the calculator and play around with your projected minimum payment to identify how quickly you can pay off all debts. The calculator can even help you account for snowballing your debt, too.
On the downside, this has fewer capabilities than apps like Debt Payoff or Debt Strategy. If you want a more robust tool, you may want to look elsewhere.
7. Suze Orman’s Smart Calculators
If there’s anyone you can trust to help you understand how to handle bigger debts - like a mortgage - it’s financial expert Suze Orman.
Head to her website for a no-nonsense calculator that can help you figure out whether refinancing your mortgage is a smart option.
While you’re there, be sure to check out her other free resources on everything from credit card debt to planning for retirement or paying for college.
8. Undebt It
Like Debt Payoff, Undebt It helps you use the “snowball” method or the “avalanche” method to pay down your debt as quickly as possible.
The “avalanche” method is similar to the “snowball” method - except you focus your energy on debts with the highest interest rates first. That way you don’t have high interest payments hanging over your head forever!
You can track your overall progress, how much credit you have tied up, and customize a plan that works for you.
Use the DebtTracker app to track all your payments in one place, whether that’s your credit card payments or money you owe friends for coffee.
While not quite as robust a service as Mint, DebtTracker is still a good option if you want to get a grip on your finances. In addition to tracking debt, you can also set savings and budgeting goals and back up data automatically.
10. Debt-Free Calculator
Gather up those credit card and student loan statements and crack open your budget spreadsheets before you head to CNN Money’s Debt-Free Calculator.
While the calculator won’t make suggestions about payment plans based on your income or debts, you can use the calculator to play around with how changing your minimum payment for your debts affects how long you’ll stay in the red.
It’s a good motivational tool for those who need a little perspective.
11. Debt Payoff Planner
The Debt Payoff Planner uses the same strategies as Undebt It to help you plan for a debt-free future - except you can track your progress on any Android phone.
In case you need extra support, the makers include free resources within the app to help you plan for each month. Check out articles on paying off debt faster or consolidating your loans without having to leave the app and surf the web.
12. Debts Monitor Free
Balancing a mortgage, car loan, and credit card debt? Try Debts Monitor Free to track and pay off your debts from one convenient dashboard.
You can set up payment reminders, plan your debt payment strategy, and generate helpful graphs using your own data. Upgrade to the paid version of the app for $0.99. For iPhone users only.
Smarter Debt Management
Getting out of debt is difficult, and it requires a lot of planning to finally accomplish. If you’re in significant credit card debt, carrying high interest rate cards, or simply want to tackle your debt for good, here’s a basic plan for making it happen:
- Stop using your high-interest card for purchases. That’s right - your should only pay down those high-interest cards, rather than continuing to make purchases on them. Seek out a low-interest card if you still need a line of credit, and don’t be shy about negotiating your rate on all credit cards.
- Don’t fall behind on payments. It sounds obvious, but if you’re overwhelmed, it can be easy to justify missing a payment. Not only will this bad practice mess with your credit score, you’ll also rack up interest and late fees. If you’re having a tough month, do your best to pay the minimum or transfer the balance to a card with a lower rate.
- Learn more about payment strategies. From snowballing to avalanching, there are plenty of strategies to keep up your morale while you tackle debt. Use credit resources at sites like The Balance and NerdWallet to learn how to manage your payments.
- Ask about refinancing. When it comes to credit cards, don’t accept your interest rate as a fixed quantity. Calling and asking for a new rate can sometimes lower your interest payments by as much as 3-5%. And as far as student loans go: know your payment options. Federal student loan providers want you to pay back your loans - so they offer multiple payment options. Learn more about what works for your financial situation.
- Seek help. Don’t feel ashamed to ask for help strategizing your debt. Use free resources like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling website to educate yourself about your options and make a plan to get your finances in order.
Don’t let debt take over your life - make a plan to tackle debt head-on using one of these free resources.
The sooner you take charge of your spending, the sooner you’ll be debt-free.
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