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How to Get Out of Debt

It’s no secret—Americans really know how to get into debt. U.S. household debt climbed to $17.06 trillion in the second quarter of 2023. The numbers are even more staggering on a personal level. The average family with credit card debt owes $9,000 whereas the average auto borrower owes about $29,000, student loans average $28,950 for a Bachelor’s degree, and average mortgage debt is around $177,000.

Fewer Americans understand how to get out of debt. While it starts with willpower, there are proven financial strategies to consider. Dominion Energy Credit Union offers a variety of financial tools and resources to help you improve your financial wellness, including low-interest loans, credit card options, and calculators.

Make the Commitment to Lower Debt

If you’re carrying a lot of debt, be prepared to put about 15% of your income toward reducing it. Making only minimum payments on your credit cards and other loans will cause interest charges to pile up, meaning it will be difficult to break the cycle and get out of debt.

·         Find online assistance. Consider investing in debt-elimination software to help you run the numbers and set priorities. Popular choices include Quicken, Zilch Works, and Smartphone apps, such as Debt Payoff Planner and Debt Free, are also available. Dominion Energy Credit Union’s free Home Equity Debt Consolidation Calculator will help you understand how rolling your debt into a single loan can save you money in the long run.

·         Tighten the belt. To free up money for debt payments, you’ll need to reduce spending. Come up with a monthly budget, put it in writing, and stick to it. Use Dominion Energy Credit Union’s How To Create A Simple Budget article and Budget Worksheet to learn how to keep tabs on your income, expenses, and opportunities to save. Cut back where you can by cooking rather than dining out. Cancel cable and opt for a more cost-effective streaming service. Bargain hunt for great deals on discount sites like Groupon and Slickdeals. Small adjustments to your spending habits can add up over time.


·         Seek bigger savings. Take stock of what rates and fees you’re paying. Could you refinance or consolidate higher rate credit cards and save on monthly payments? Evaluate your insurance policies to see if you can find less-expensive coverage that still meets your needs. Dominion Energy Credit Union can help you find affordable alternatives to your GAP insurance policies.


Use Credit Cards Wisely


Credit cards offer convenient buying power and can earn you valuable rewards. Problems arise, however, if you charge too much and carry a balance, causing interest to accumulate. Use this Credit Card Payoff calculator to see how long it will take you to pay off debt, and how you can pay it down faster.


·         Set priorities. If you have multiple credit cards, identify the one with the highest interest rate. Pay that card down as aggressively as possible while making minimum payments on the others. After the first card is paid off, allocate your largest payment to the card with the second-highest interest rate, and so on, until you eliminate your debt. Use Dominion Energy Credit Union’s Snowball Debt Elimination Calculator to see how this strategy can have a positive impact on your finances.


·         Look for 0% interest rates. Another technique is to apply for a new credit card that offers a promotional 0% interest rate, usually for a period of 12 to 24 months, then transfer all outstanding balances to the new card. This will buy you time to pay down the balance without accruing additional interest charges. Dominion Energy Credit Union offers a number of credit cards to help our members keep their debt under control.



Be Strategic About Your Loans


Buying a home, getting a new car, sending your children to college—these can all be worthwhile investments, and borrowing money is a great way to make them happen. While loans can afford you the opportunity to make major expenditures, keeping up with the payments can be a challenge.


·         Make mortgages manageable. Most homes are financed with 15- or 30-year mortgages, but you’re not obligated to keep the original loan that long. If interest rates drop, consider refinancing. Even a 1% rate reduction can trim payments on a $200,000 mortgage by well over $100 per month. If rates haven’t dipped, switching to a loan with a longer payoff period will reduce monthly payments and free up cash to pay off shorter-term debt. If you are buying a home, you may want to consider an Adjustable Rate Mortgage to help keep monthly payments more affordable early on, depending on the market and your specific situation. Dominion Energy Credit Union can help you navigate our mortgage refinancing and homebuying options.


·         Shift gears on your auto loan. Consumers often drive away from an auto dealer with a vehicle they love and a loan they don’t. The solution is to trade in that unsatisfactory loan on your new car, motorcycle, or RV. Refinancing to a lower interest rate or longer repayment period will reduce monthly payments and minimize stress on your household budget. Dominion Energy Credit Union provides a range of auto loan refinancing options to help you get back on track.


·         Simplify student loans. Student debt can be crippling. One solution is to consolidate all those years of school loans into a single new loan to reduce overall monthly payments and simplify your finances. College grads with federal loans can apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan.


·         Get it together. Debt consolidation is an effective tactic. Dominion Energy Credit Union offers great rates on personal loans, home equity loans, and lines of credit. You can use money from those sources to pay off credit card balances, medical bills, and even school loans, bringing your debt under control.


·         Beware of debt-relief companies. Many debt-relief companies can be scams. In November of 2019, a student loan debt-relief scheme siphoned millions out of former students’ pockets, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Contact your state Attorney General’s Office or consumer protection department to vet out debt-relief companies before giving them your business. You can also reach out to your partners at Dominion Energy Credit Union for help consolidating loans and paying off debt.


Developing a smart strategy to pay down your debt and consolidate loans will help you get a handle on your finances. Dominion Energy Credit Union provides a variety of resources to help members understand their options and improve their overall financial health. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you manage your debt.