How to conquer your debt

How to conquer your debt

Australians are saving more than ever, but our household debt remains at high levels. According to the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), household debt has been consistent at 150 percent of household annual income for the past six years. This has a lot to do with Australia’s sizeable mortgages, but credit card debt and other forms of personal debt are also to blame.

Some people take on too much debt or fail to manage the debt they have effectively, placing themselves in a perilous situation. Here are some tips to conquer your debt before it gets out of control.

Take a look at your debt

It’s easy to think of your mortgage as the only debt you have. But what about credit cards, car loans, personal loans, student debt, furniture or other household items bought on interest-free loans? The starting point for managing your debt is to be aware of how much you owe in the first place.

Consolidate your debts

Greg Pride, financial adviser with Centric Wealth, advises debt consolidation – taking out a personal loan to pay off other debts, such as credit card debt or a big furniture or electrical purchase. “It can help people see the wood from the trees,” he says. “When you have unnecessarily complicated arrangements, it can be easy to shrug your shoulders and put off dealing with the situation.”

Learn to budget

“Whether you are focused on debt reduction, not overspending on holidays or planning for retirement, it all hooks around the concept of planning what you are doing and having discipline,” says Pride. His advice is to plan out your entire year at the start of the year and create a budget, including planned holidays and a buffer for unexpected expenses.

To create a budget, begin by listing all your regular expenses (rent or mortgage, groceries, utilities, loan repayments, meals at restaurants, even your weekly takeaway coffee) and irregular expenses (insurance payments, clothing, car and house maintenance). Next, list your income. If you’re spending more than you earn, you have a problem. If you don’t have enough left over after covering your bills, tweak your expenses until you find enough.

Use your credit card like cash

Credit card debt is the biggest debt trap of them all. Rethinking your approach to credit cards can save you hundreds of dollars on interest. “If paid off in full each month, credit cards can be a marvelous tool. Otherwise they are a recipe for disaster,” Pride says. “Credit card interest rates are in the high teens when you can get a term deposit for [less than 4 percent]. It’s easy money for the banks.”

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What is debt consolidation?

Debt consolidation is the process of rolling several old debts into one new debt, usually to save money or for the sake of convenience.

How do I consolidate my debt if I have bad credit?

The worse your credit history, the harder you will find it to consolidate your debts, because lenders will be less willing to lend you money and will charge you higher interest rates.

However, people with bad credit histories can make debt consolidation work by following this three-step process:

  1. First, find a lender willing to give you a bad credit personal loan. This process will be simplified if you go through a finance broker or use a comparison website like RateCity.
  2. Second, make sure the interest repayments on your new loan are less than the repayments on the loans being replaced.
  3. Third, instead of spending those savings, use them to pay off the new loan.

What are the pros and cons of debt consolidation?

In some instances, debt consolidation can help borrowers reduce their repayments or simplify them. For example, someone might take out a $7,000 personal loan at an interest rate of 8 per cent so they can repay an existing $4,000 personal loan at 10 per cent and a $3,000 credit card loan at 20 per cent.

However, debt consolidation can backfire if the borrower spends the extra money instead of using it to repay the new loan.

Can I get a no credit check personal loan?

Personal loans with no credit checks are available and called ‘payday loans’. These are sometimes used as short-term solutions for cash-strapped Australians. They often carry higher interest rates and fees than regular personal loans, and individuals risk putting themselves into a worsened cycle of debt.

What are the pros and cons of bad credit personal loans?

In some instances, bad credit personal loans can help people with bad credit history to consolidate their debts, which can help make it easier for them to clear those debts. This is because the borrower might be able to consolidate several debts with higher interest rates (such as credit card loans) into one single debt with a lower interest rate and potentially fewer fees.

However, this strategy can backfire if the borrower spends the loaned funds instead of using it to repay the new loan. Another disadvantage of bad credit personal loans is that they have higher interest rates than regular personal loans.

What can I use a bad credit personal loan for?

Generally, bad credit personal loans can be used for the following purposes:

  • Debt consolidation
  • Paying bills
  • Buying vehicles
  • Moving expenses
  • Holidays
  • Weddings
  • Education

Some lenders restrict how their bad credit personal loans can be used as part of their commitment to responsible lending – be sure to check before applying.

How can I improve my credit rating/score?

Your credit score will improve if you demonstrate that you’ve become more credit-worthy. You can do that by minimising loan applications, clearing up defaults and paying bills on time.

Another tip is to get the one free credit report you’re entitled to each year – that way, you’ll be able to identify and fix any errors.

If you want to fix an error, the first thing you should do is speak with the credit reporting body, which may take care of the problem or contact credit providers on your behalf.

The next step would be to contact your credit provider. If that doesn’t work, you can refer the matter to the credit provider’s independent dispute resolution scheme, which would be the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).

AFCA provides consumers and small businesses with fair, free and independent dispute resolution for financial complaints.

If that doesn’t work, your final options are to contact the Privacy Commissioner and then the Office of the Information Commissioner.

Can I get a personal loan if I receive Centrelink payments?

It is hard, but not impossible, to qualify for a personal loan if you receive Centrelink payments.

Some lenders won’t lend money to people who are on welfare. However, other lenders will simply consider Centrelink payments as another factor to weigh up when they assess a person’s capacity to repay a loan. You should check with any prospective lender about their criteria before making a personal loan application.

Can I get guaranteed approval for a bad credit personal loan?

Few, if any, lenders would be willing to give guaranteed approval for a bad credit personal loan. Borrowers with bad credit histories can have more complicated financial circumstances than other borrowers, so lenders will want time to study your application. 

It’s all about risk. When someone applies for a personal loan, the lender evaluates how likely that borrower would be to repay the money. Lenders are more willing to give personal loans to borrowers with good credit than bad credit because there’s a higher likelihood that the personal loan will be repaid. 

So a borrower with good credit is more likely to have a loan approved and to be approved faster, while a borrower with bad credit is less likely to have a loan approved and, if they are approved, may be approved slower.

Which lenders offer bad credit personal loans?

Several dozen lenders offer bad credit personal loans in Australia. These are generally smaller lenders that aren’t household names.

How are credit ratings/scores calculated?

Different credit reporting bodies may use different formulas to calculate credit scores. However, they use the same type of information: credit history and demographic profile.

They’re likely to look at how many credit applications you’ve made, which lender the applications were for, what purpose they were for, how much they were for and your repayment record. They’ll also look at your age and postcode. They’ll also look to see if you’ve had any bankruptcies or other relevant legal judgements against you.

Your score can change if your demographic profile changes or new information is added to your file (such as a new loan application) or existing information is removed from your file (i.e. because it has reached its expiry date).

What is bad credit?

A person is deemed to have ‘bad credit’ when they have a poor history of managing credit and repaying debts.

Can I get an easy/instant personal loan?

Some lenders are able to approve applications with little documentation and within minutes. However, there is a catch. People who take out easy/instant loans generally pay higher interest rates and are restricted to lower amounts than people who follow a traditional borrowing process.

How do I find out my credit rating/score?

You're entitled to one free credit report per year from credit reporting bodies like Equifax, Dun & Bradstreet, Experian and the Tasmanian Collection Service. You can also get a free report if you’ve been refused credit in the past 90 days.

Credit reporting bodies have up to 10 days to provide reports. If you want to access your report sooner, you’ll probably have to pay.