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What to do When You’re Struggling to Make Payments on Debt

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debt payments

Updated – November 28, 2018

When it comes to making good on debt payments, the struggle is real. One in 4 U.S. adults are behind on their bills, and almost 1 in 10 have debts in collections, according to a 2018 survey from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.We all know we’re supposed to pay our debts, but sometimes life happens. We run into an unexpected hiccup — a stint of unemployment, a medical emergency — and our budget falls apart.

A healthy emergency fund is by far your best protection, offering a safety net during tough financial times. Arielle Minicozzi, a Phoenix-based certified financial planner, tells MagnifyMoney that saving up three to six months worth of expenses is a good target. You won’t get there overnight, but earmarking part of every paycheck does add up over time, which will amount to a cash reserve you can draw on to cover debt payments when in a pinch.

If you’re learning this lesson after the fact, don’t sweat it. As for rebounding and getting back on the right track, you have more options than you might think. Here’s what to do if you’re struggling to keep up with your debt payments.

How to tackle these 5 forms of debt

Depending on the kind of debt you’re carrying, you have various ways of catching up or staying on time with payments.

Click a debt type below to learn more:

1. Mortgage

Your mortgage is a secured type of debt, which means that there’s an asset serving as collateral — in this case, it’s your home. If you fall seriously behind on your mortgage, your lender is within its rights to foreclose on your house. Fortunately, making one late payment isn’t enough to start proceedings, so you do have some wiggle room.

Generally speaking, most mortgages have a 15-day grace period from the due date where you can still make your payment. You could be hit with a late fee, which isn’t the end of the world if you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. But things get more serious if you reach the 30-day mark, at which point your lender may report your late payment to the credit bureaus.

When you’re 30 days or more late on a mortgage payment, you put your credit score at risk. It could drop anywhere from 50 to 100 points. Things vary from state to state, but formal foreclosure proceedings typically begin after 120 days.

What to do if you’re struggling with payments

“I’d say your mortgage is one [debt] you really want to prioritize paying, so the important thing is to make sure you don’t wait until you’re delinquent,” Minicozzi said. “As soon as you see that you have a potential issue on your hands — you’ve made a late payment or think you’re about to make a late payment because you’re struggling to pay — you want to call your servicing department right away for your lender.”

Lead with honesty. Minicozzi said a surprising number of lenders are willing to work with borrowers. This may mean reducing or suspending your payments for a brief period or temporarily lowering your interest rate until you get back on your feet. She emphasized that you’ll have the most options if you reach out before you’re way behind on payments.

Programs that could help

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommended connecting with a Department of Housing and Urban Development-approved housing counselor. They can provide free expert insights for avoiding foreclosure. Your mortgage servicer may also have mortgage assistance programs in place for preventing foreclosure so that you can resolve the issue without losing your home.

2. Car loan

Auto loans are another type of secured debt, which means your car is up for grabs if you default on your payments. But, unlike mortgages, Minicozzi said auto loans aren’t as heavily regulated. Translation: The window between missed payments and surrendering your car to repossession often closes fast.

So how many payments do you have to miss before this happens? Lenders in most states can swoop in and seize your car without warning if you’ve defaulted on your loan (i.e., missed a payment). Again, specific state laws vary, but the lender typically can’t breach the peace when repossessing your car. The CFPB said making threats, using physical force or removing your car from your closed garage without your permission all count as breaching the peace. That said, lenders in many states can use a device to deactivate your car’s ignition system.

What to do if you’re struggling with payments

If you have good credit, refinancing your auto loan could pull double duty — reducing your interest rate and bringing down your monthly payment to something that gels better with your budget. If that isn’t on the table, and you don’t see your financial situation changing anytime soon, a last-resort option is to return the car to the lender.

This doesn’t mean that your loan is forgiven, though. In most cases, they’ll sell the car and use the proceeds to pay themselves for costs associated with the sale before applying the remainder toward your loan balance. The only snag here is that it typically isn’t enough to cover everything, so any leftover balance will be on you.

Programs that could help

“Most [lenders] would rather work with you than go through the hassle of going after you,” Chris Jackson, a Los Angeles-based certified financial planner, told MagnifyMoney.

Check with your lender to see if it has any financial hardship assistance programs that could help. Even if it doesn’t have any formal programs in place, it may still be open to striking a deal with you, whether that be temporarily reducing or suspending your payments for a brief period.

3. Student loans

Student loans fall into two main categories: federal loans and private loans. The latter are doled out by private lenders, while federal loans are backed by the government, so they come with unique borrower protections. Grace periods, according to the Department of Education, come standard for federal loans, which gives new grads some time to breathe before they have to start making payments. But private loans are less clear-cut since every lender has its own rules and criteria.

You’re considered delinquent on your account the day after you’ve missed your first payment. If you haven’t made good on your federal loan payment after 90 days, your student loan servicer will report it to the credit bureaus, which can do a number on your credit score. Your payment history makes up 35% of your FICO score.

Your federal loans will default if no payment is received after 270 days — and a lot of repercussions could follow. For example, your wages could potentially be garnished or the total unpaid balance plus interest may suddenly be due immediately.

Private lenders may be more aggressive. They may report your missed payment to the credit bureaus immediately or mark your loan as in default after as little as three months. Besides the account being sent to collections — which dings your credit score and stays on your credit report for up to seven years — you could also be subject to a lawsuit.

What to do if you’re struggling with payments

The sooner you act, the better. This is where those federal loan protections come into play. If your loan payments are especially high compared to your income, you may be eligible for an income-driven repayment plan, which could significantly reduce your monthly payments. You might also be able to secure a deferment or forbearance, which temporarily stops or reduces your monthly payments for a period.

If you’ve got private loans, all hope isn’t lost. Refinancing your student loans could get you better terms or a lower interest rate — and significantly reduce your monthly payment.

Programs that could help

Jackson recommended looking to your employer to see if it offers any student loan repayment programs. Aetna, for example, matches employees’ U.S.-based loan payments up to $2,000 a year.

“These programs allow employers to make a regular contribution to the loan balance, typically $100 a month, while employees continue to make their regular payments,” Jackson said. “Unlike tuition reimbursement benefits, however, which are tax-free below a certain amount, the employer’s loan contributions are considered taxable income.”

What’s more, there are some federal loan forgiveness programs up for grabs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness. The Department of Education also recognizes certain situations, such as bankruptcy or permanent disability, where your loan balance can be discharged.

4. Consumer debt

Unsecured debts such as credit cards and personal loans fall into this camp. Credit card bills come with a minimum payment you have to make each month that tends to fluctuate as your balance increases or decreases. But personal loans have a fixed monthly payment that stays the same for the life of the loan.

Falling behind on your payments is no small thing. Remember: Your payment history accounts for over one-third of your credit score. That’s not to say that a single late payment is going to automatically tank your credit, but if you haven’t paid after 30 days, things start getting more serious. At this point, your credit score can go down anywhere from 60 to 110 points.

Why is your credit score so important? In short, it dictates your borrowing power. Whether you’re applying for a mortgage, an auto loan or a credit card, this magic number determines your interest rates (aka how much you’ll be charged to borrow). A low score could prevent you from being approved altogether. Regardless of what you’re financing, the best rates and terms go to those with good credit.

When you are making payments, the goal of the bank or credit card company is to keep you making those payments. They are very happy receiving the minimum due. By making the payments, you are demonstrating that you are capable and willing to pay. So, the banks are very keen that you keep doing it.

Having said that, you should still try to negotiate with them and see what they can offer. Just give your credit card company a call, and tell them that you are in financial difficulty and will no longer be able to make payments on time. Tell them that you won’t be able to make the payment next month, and you would like to see what forbearance options are available.

Most banks offer two types of forbearance programs:

    • You are having a temporary problem, so they look to reduce your payment for a temporary period of time. For example, you could pay interest only for a few months, and then have the payment increase once your temporary problem is over.
    • You have had a significant change in circumstance (e.g. death in the family and subsequent reduction in earning potential), and you need to have principal forgiven. Since you are reading this, you most likely are suffering from the second (more serious) problem. However, banks are much more likely to give you solutions to the first problem, especially if you are current on your debt.
  • When you are speaking to the bank, don’t accept a solution that only gives temporary relief. For example, if they offer interest-only payments for 3 months, reject that offer. You are looking for serious debt relief right now, not a temporary solution. Your chance of success is low.
  • But you should always give the bank a chance. And, some credit unions may be even more generous, working with you in person. I am still old-fashioned. Even though the banks probably won’t treat you like an individual, it is worth trying. See if you can negotiate a settlement that works. If it doesn’t work, then you may want to consider that you stop paying. Once you become delinquent, you will have more options with your bank. And, the more delinquent you become, the greater the chance that you can reach a settlement.

First Warning

Once you stop making payments, you will seriously hurt your credit score. In fact, once you start down this path, it will be a few years before you will be able to borrow again, and it will be 7 years before this mess completely disappears from your credit report. But just think about this: if you barely afford to make the minimum payment, it will be at least 30 years before the debt disappears. If you stop paying, it will be 7 years until the debt completely disappears from your credit report.

Second Warning 

Once you stop making payments, expect the collections calls, letters, texts and emails to start coming. And they will come with incredible intensity. You should expect to hear from every creditor every day for at least 6 months. They will then sell that debt to a collection agency, which will start to contact you daily as well.

Third AND BIGGEST Warning 

Your wages could be garnished. That means your creditor could sue you, and money could be taken out of your salary automatically to make payments on your behalf. There is a federal limit on how much can be garnished (and this only applies to the unsecured debt that we mentioned, not student loans, alimony and other debt).

At most, 25% of your disposable pay can be garnished. Disposable income is your gross salary minus most of your deductions, including federal income tax, social security, Medicare, state tax, health insurance premiums and any involuntary pension contribution. You can use this calculator to see exactly how much money you could have garnished from your wages.

What to do if you’re struggling with payments

Most things in life are up for negotiation. If you find yourself struggling to keep up, Minicozzi said it’s always best to contact the lender as soon as possible.

“You’re more likely to catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” she said. “Review your circumstances, reach out, work with them, and make a good-faith effort to make your payments. If they see that you’re trying to do that, they’re much more likely to work with you than if you hide and pretend like nothing bad is happening, which can lead to potential disaster for your credit.”

Beyond that, there are other ways to make your payments more manageable. Jackson recommended looking into balance transfer offers to consolidate credit card debt. This leverages 0% introductory promo periods during which you can hack away at your balances faster. Doing so typically comes with a 0% to 4% transfer fee, but that’s nothing if you’re up against double-digit interest rates.

Another alternative is to take out a lower-interest debt consolidation loan, then use that to pay off your credit card balances. The new loan will come with a fixed monthly payment, interest rate and repayment timeline, so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting from the start.

You can shop for debt consolidation loan offers using a free tool from LendingTree, MagnifyMoney’s parent company, and may help match you with up to five different lenders.

Programs that could help

Those who are in over their heads with consumer debt may find relief through nonprofit credit counseling. A credit counselor can help you make sense of your rights and work with creditors on your behalf. In some cases, a debt management plan may be the best option. Credit counselors can also help you create an effective budget to set you up for success going forward.

5. Medical bills

A typical employer-sponsored preferred provider organization, or PPO, health plan for an average American family of four will cost over $28,000 this year, according to the 2018 Milliman Medical Index. Some health care expenses, such as monthly premiums, can be expected. But an out-of-the-blue medical bill or emergency can be a shock to your finances, especially if you have a high-deductible health plan.

What’s more, some experts estimate that the majority of medical bills contain a minimum of one error that costs patients money. This includes everything from double billing to inaccurate insurance reimbursement.

Be that as it may, unpaid medical bills can wreak havoc on your credit score. Past-due medical debts are often sold to collection agencies, according to Experian, after which they’re reported to the credit bureaus like any other unpaid debt.

What to do if you’re struggling with payments

The silver lining, according to Jackson, is that medical providers have a reputation for working with patients to resolve billing issues.

“There is almost always room to negotiate your hospital bill, and in some cases you can get it reduced by as much as 90% or even forgiven completely,” he said. “Plus, collection agencies should be more impressed with an offer of a lump sum than with promises to make payments.”

In other words, brush off your negotiation skills and reach out to the provider. Jackson said that nine times out of 10, most are willing to get you on a monthly payment plan, often with 0% interest.

After receiving a medical bill, the CFPB suggests requesting an itemized statement and reviewing it carefully. If you find an error, send a written dispute to the medical provider. From there, you can negotiate to get your bill down even more.

“Don’t be afraid to push that number to see how low you can get the bill, especially if you’re able to pay in cash,” Jackson added.

Those who foresee a big-ticket medical expense on the horizon can also explore a personal loan that’s designed with medical bills in mind. This is an especially attractive option for borrowers with excellent credit as they’ll likely qualify for lower interest rates.

Programs that could help

If you’re on the hook for a medical bill you can’t afford, inquire about hospital-specific financial assistance programs. Sometimes referred to as “charity care,” these programs are designed to help low-income patients get the medical services they need, often by reducing or eliminating the financial responsibility.

The American Hospital Association reported that in 2016, community hospitals provided over $38.3 billion in uncompensated care. You can also see if you’re eligible for state-sponsored Medicaid coverage.

Putting it all together

No matter what kind of debt you have, being in over your head doesn’t have to be the new normal. Beyond the expert-backed steps mentioned above, getting yourself on track with a solid budget and prioritizing your emergency fund is the best way forward. This can help break the debt cycle and create a safety net to see you through whatever unexpected financial curveballs life throws your way.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Nick Clements
Nick Clements |

Nick Clements is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Nick at

Marianne Hayes
Marianne Hayes |

Marianne Hayes is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Marianne here


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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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Before you read on, click here to download our FREE guide to become debt free forever!

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Updated – January 10, 2019

Digging out of credit card debt can feel frustrating, intimidating and ultimately impossible. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be any of those things if you learn how to take control.

Paying down debt is not only about finding the right financial tools, but also the right psychological ones. You need to understand why you racked up credit card debt in the first place. Perhaps it was a medical emergency or a home repair that needed to be taken care of immediately. Maybe you’d already drained your emergency fund on one piece of bad luck when misfortune struck again. Or maybe you’re struggling with a compulsive shopping problem, so paying down debt will likely result in you accumulating more until the addiction is addressed.

You also need to understand what motivates you to succeed. Do you want to pay down your credit card debt in the absolute fastest amount of time possible that will save more money or do you want to take some little wins along the way to keep yourself motivated?

Here’s a couple strategies consider as you learn the best way to handle credit card debt — and pay it off quickly.

2 common credit card debt repayment strategies

These repayment strategies can help you pay off credit card debt quickly. Keep in mind, you can use these strategies even for non-credit-card debt:

  • Debt avalanche: Focus on paying off the credit card with the highest interest rate first. Then, work your way down. This strategy can save you money on interest and get you out of debt sooner.
  • Debt snowball: Pay off your smallest debts first. Doing so can motivate you to continue making payments as you climb out of debt.

You don’t necessarily need to pick the repayment strategy that gets you out of debt the fastest. After all, if your repayment strategy doesn’t keep you motivated, you may not stick to it.

Using a personal loan or balance transfer credit card

As you seek to repay your debt, you could consider a personal loan or balance transfer credit card with a lower interest rate than on your existing debt. Transferring your debt to one of these financial products could help you reduce long-term interest costs.

But you’ll first need to learn whether or not you’re eligible. Your credit score will play a big role in determining your eligibility for a personal loan or balance transfer card. Use our widget below to figure out if a personal loan or a balance transfer is the best option for you!

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If you have a credit score above 640, you have a good chance of qualifying for a personal loan at a much lower interest rate than your credit card debt. With new internet-only personal loan companies, you can shop for loans without hurting your score. In just a few minutes, with a simple online form, you can get matched with multiple lenders. People with excellent credit can see APRs below 10%. But even if your credit isn’t perfect, you might be able to find a good loan to fit your needs.

Not sure what your credit score is? Click here to learn how and where to find out. If you know your credit score needs some work but not sure of what can be done, click here.

If you have a score above 700, you could also qualify for 0% balance transfer offers. We will talk more about balance transfers below but this option is the best way to pay off credit card debt if you’re able to qualify for a 0% APR balance transfer credit card.

A credit score of less than 600 will make it difficult for you to qualify for either option. If you have a credit score less than 640, struggling to make monthly debt payments and would like to explore your options to reduce your debt by up to 50%, then please click our option below to customize a personal debt relief plan.

Custom Debt Relief Plan

Now let’s talk about the financial tools to add to your debt repayment strategy in order to dig out of the hole.

Let’s say you have $10,000 in credit card debt, and are stuck paying 18% interest on it.

You already know that putting as much spare cash as you can toward paying down your debt is the most important thing to do. But once you’ve done that, so what’s next?

Use your good credit to make banks compete and cut your rates

You could save $1,800 a year in interest and lower your monthly payments based on several of the rates available today. That means you could pay it off almost 20% faster.

Here’s how it works.

Option One: Use a Balance Transfer (or Multiple Balance Transfers)

If you trust yourself to open a new credit card but not spend on it, consider a balance transfer. You may be able to cut your rate with a long 0% intro APR. You need to have a good credit score, and you might not get approved for the full amount that you want to transfer.

Your own bank might not give you a lower rate (or only drop it by a few percent), but there are lots of competing banks that may want to steal the business and give you a better rate.

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MagnifyMoney regularly surveys the market to find the best balance transfer credit cards. If you would like to see what other options exist, beyond Chase and Discover, you can start there.

promo-balancetransfer-halfIt also has tips to make sure you do a balance transfer safely. If you follow them you’ll save thousands on your debt by remaining disciplined.

You might be scared of a balance transfer, but there is no faster way to cut your interest payments than taking advantage of the best 0% or low interest deals banks are offering.

Thanks to recent laws, balance transfers aren’t as sneaky as they used to be, and friendlier for helping you cut your debt.

Sometimes the first bank you deal with won’t give you a big enough credit line to handle all your credit card debt. Maybe you’ll get a $5,000 credit line for a 0% deal, but have $10,000 in debt. That’s okay. In that case, apply for the next best balance transfer deal you see. MagnifyMoney’s list of deals makes it easy to sort them.

Banks are okay with you shopping around for more than one deal.

Option Two: Personal Loan

If you never want to see another credit card again, you should consider a personal loan. You can get prequalified at multiple lenders without hurting your credit score, and find the best deal to pay off your debt faster.

Personal loan interest rates are often about 10-20%, but can sometimes be as low as 5-6% if you have very good credit.

Moving from 18% interest on a credit card to 10% on a personal loan is a good deal for you. You’ll also get one set monthly payment, and pay off the whole thing in 3 to 5 years.

Sometimes this may mean a higher monthly payment than you’re used to, but you’re better off putting your cash toward a higher payment with a lower rate.

And you’ll get out of debt months or years faster by leaving more money to pay down the debt itself. If you want to shop for a personal loan, we recommend starting at LendingTree. With a single online form, dozens of lenders will compete for your business. Only a soft credit pull is completed, so your credit score will not be harmed. People with excellent scores can see low APRs (sometimes below 6%). And people with less than perfect scores still have a good chance of finding a lender to approve them.



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If you don’t want to shop at LendingTree, you can see our list of the best personal loans here.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Brian Karimzad
Brian Karimzad |

Brian Karimzad is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brian at

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How to Manage Debt as a Single Parent in 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.


When student loan deferment ended for Samantha Gregory, a single mom and founder of site Rich Single Momma, she had one reaction to her payments: sticker shock. “The amount they were asking for was so astronomical, it was bananas,” she said.

As a single mom in debt, these high payments were added to the already steep financial demands of covering household expenses and supporting her children, including one with special needs — all on one income.

Adding debt to the significant challenges of single parenting “puts a strain on not just your finances, but your emotions, your mental health,” she said. “It’s like, ‘I have this burden over my head so how am I going to take care of it and take care of my family?’”

It’s a question any single parent in debt may find themselves asking. There’s no one right answer, but the good news is that there are smart steps a single mom or dad can use to tackle debt. Here are some tested and certified strategies for how to manage debt as a single parent.

8 strategies for a single parent in debt

1. Keep debt on your radar

A key to managing money as a single parent in debt is to keep an eye on what you owe. Gregory warned against letting debt slip in your money management juggling act. “I know for me in the past, I’ve tried to ignore it and hope it would go away,” she said. “But it doesn’t go away. It’s still there, lingering.”

Keep your debts on your radar, so you’re not losing track of them, falling behind on payments or damaging your credit. If you don’t know what you owe, pull your free credit report and look up each outstanding debt you have and record the balance, interest rate, monthly payment and due date. Start a habit of reviewing these accounts regularly.

2. Work with your lender

Once you know what you owe, see if your lender offers any help or accommodations that can make this debt easier to manage.

You’ll have the most options for dealing with federal student loans, as servicers must provide you with options to forbear or defer payments, or switch to a different repayment plan.

Even for other types of debt, it can’t hurt to ask your lender if they’re willing to work with you. They might be open to giving you an extension on your payment, and some lenders will let you skip a payment now and tack it onto the end of your repayment period instead.

3. Claim benefits and support

Help isn’t always easy to come by as a single parent, so make sure you’re claiming the benefits and child support to which you’re entitled.

Federal assistance programs such as Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and school lunch programs can ease pressure on your budget while keeping everyone fed, for example. Other programs can assist with fixed monthly costs such as housing, child care or health insurance. Many state and local programs can offer additional help.

Single parents should also consider filing for child support. If you’re already entitled to such payments but the other parent isn’t paying, or you feel it’s not enough, consider pursuing legal steps to get adequate support for your family.

4. Revisit your budget

As a single parent with debt, living within your means is the foundation of your financial security. Review your budget to see if there are areas you’re wasting money on things you don’t need or use, whether it’s a neglected gym membership or a house you’re realizing is roomier than necessary. Consider lifestyle changes and sacrifices — big or small — that you could make to lower your monthly costs.

Look for ways to free up some of the mental space you’re using for your money, too, Gregory suggested. She likes to automate payments, for example, to ensure they’re going out on time with less effort on her part.

5. Sell your extra time and stuff

To the single mom in debt, Gregory suggested looking for ways to generate some extra cash. “I’m a firm believer in side hustles,” she said. “There are so many options out there available to create a side hustle, start a business or just get another part-time job or work-from-home job.”

Then, “look around your house and if you have something valuable you can sell, sell it,” she said. Doing so can bring a fast cash infusion that can help you stay current on debt payments, or even make an extra payment.

It can be a tough and even emotional to sell some belongings, Gregory acknowledged. But, “It’s just things and they’re replaceable, whereas your peace of mind, your family and kids, and your health are not replaceable,” she said.

6. Make extra debt payments

If you can carve out extra savings, that’s money you can use to pay off your debts faster. One method to do so is the debt snowball:

  • Figure out how much more of your monthly income you can afford to devote to making extra debt payments. Include this as a line item in your budget.
  • Put that extra cash toward your debt with the lowest balance, and make the minimum payment on all of your other debts.
  • Watch the balance on your high-priority debt decrease faster.
  • Once your first debt is gone, “roll over” the funds budgeted for your monthly payment and the extra payment and apply them to the next low-balance debt.

Making extra debt payments will lower your principal faster which will, in turn, lower your interest costs. As a result, this strategy could avoid hundreds of dollars in interest and shave months or even years off your debt repayment.

7. Consider debt consolidation

For a single parent, debt consolidation can be another way to get ahead. Consolidating debt makes the most sense when doing so will lower the interest rates you’re paying.

A credit card balance transfer is one way to accomplish this. You can open a credit card with a 0% introductory rate. Then, transfer existing balances to this new credit card (note that this will often incur a balance transfer fee) and you can repay this debt interest-free.

If you have higher debt balances or prefer a fixed repayment plan, a personal loan could be the way to consolidate debt. To do so, you can take out a new personal loan with the rates, term or payments you would prefer and use the loan funds to pay off and replace existing debts. You can compare various lenders with our debt consolidation comparison page to get an idea of the terms and rates for which you could qualify.

8. Tap your community for support

Managing debt as a single parent can be hard on you because, at the end of the day, paying them comes down to you alone. “In the back of your mind, you’re thinking ‘There’s no one who can help me with this,’” Gregory said.

However, you don’t have to go it alone — there are often people who are ready and willing to help as close as your own backyard. So let them! Family and friends can help you out in a variety of ways, from spotting you cash in a tight month to helping with child care. You can also get assistance from your church, community and local nonprofits or programs.

Even if you don’t always find the help you need right away, asking around can start you on the track to getting the recommendation or referral that leads you there. Gregory also suggested online communities, such as local or single-parent Facebook groups, as a way to crowdsource solutions and get connected with helpful resources.

Pass your debt and money lessons on to your kids

Debt can be a big regret for many single parents. “If I had more information when I was going to college, I wouldn’t have taken out so many loans,” Gregory said.

But these ideas for how to manage debt as a single parent can help you push past regret into action. In doing so, you’ll be creating the financial security that your kids need, all while modeling what good money and debt management look like in action.

Gregory, for example, used her experience with student debt to warn her daughter away from borrowing to pay for college. As a result, “She’s really blessed that she doesn’t have to take out student loans, so she won’t be saddled with that big debt when she graduates from college,” she said.

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Elyssa Kirkham
Elyssa Kirkham |

Elyssa Kirkham is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Elyssa here


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