When you’re looking at al the debt relief options available, you can easily become overwhelmed trying to decide which is the best for you. There’s credit counseling, debt consolidation, debt settlement, and of course, you can pay your debt off on your own. You can call up a few companies and interview them about the solutions you offer, but that could take several hours a day. An alternative is to use a simply debt planner calculator, like the one from CNN Money, to figure out the best way to get out of debt.
To start, you need to know some basic information about your debt: who you owe, the balance owed, your interest rate, and your minimum payment. To compare the alternative of paying on your own, you’ll need to know how much you can afford to put toward your debt each month.
Option 1: Paying on your own
To evaluate this option, put all your debt into the calculator. If you have more than 5 accounts, click the button that lets you add more. Then, choose the “Fixed payments” option and enter the amount you can afford to pay each month, preferably more than the minimum. The calculator shows you how long it will take to pay off your debt with that payment amount.
Option 2: Credit counseling
Credit counseling puts you on a debt management plan to pay off your debt. The goal is to lower your interest rate and minimum payment and have your debt repaid in 4 to 6 years. To see repayment under credit counseling, lower your interest rate by 1% and your minimum payment by 30% (multiply all your minimum payments by .7). Then, select the “Debt-free deadline” option and enter 4 years. The result will show you the monthly payment needed to repay your debt in 4 years. You can also do 5 and 6 years for comparison.
Option 3: Debt consolidation
Through debt consolidation, you pay off all your debts with a loan and then pay off that loan. The debt planner calculator would help you estimate debt consolidation too. To do this, total your balances. Then, enter just one debt in the calculator, with a balance equal to your total balances. Enter the interest rate you’d expect, preferably lower than your current average rates. For the monthly payment, enter anything, but make it low. Then, choose the “Debt-free deadline” option and choose the loan term you’d expect to get. The result would show you the monthly payment you’d make to pay your debt off in that time.
Option 4: Debt settlement
Debt settlement’s goal is to have repay your debt, but for a fraction of your total balances. Calculate debt settlement payments similar to what you did for debt consolidation. Use just one balance, but make the balance 60% of what you currently owe (multiply your total balances by .6). Enter 0% for the interest rate and $1 for the minimum payment. Then, enter 5 years for the Debt-free deadline. The result shows you how much you’d have to set aside each month to settle your debt at an average 60% in five years. You can play around with the numbers, for example use 40% of your debt, or 4 years for the Debt-free deadline.
Compare the results from each of your calculations to decide the best option for you. Base your decision not only on the monthly payment, but also the time it takes to pay off your debt. Finally, don’t forget to consider any drawbacks associated with each option.
This guest post was written by Eliza Collins, who is a personal finance writer specializing in saving strategies, alternative income and debt relief options. You can read more of her articles at the debt settlement blog.