Five steps to take after your debt consolidation loan is approved
If you ask a LendingPoint customer what they plan to use their loan proceeds for — and we do — a clear pattern emerges. In 2017, 44% of people who got their loans with us said they plan to use that money to pay down credit cards or consolidate debt.
What happens after those loan proceeds show up in your bank account? Based on our experience and from talking with people who have improved their credit story after a consolidation loan, we have some tips and suggestions of what should come next.
1. Pay off your debt
Looking at your suddenly healthier bank balance can be tempting. There’s so much that the money could buy.
But remember, you took out this personal loan to consolidate other debt. Stick to the plan. Write those checks or send those payments to the credit card companies and other creditors. Don’t wait — do it on the day you get your funding. Your funds are available to you immediately — no need to wait for a check to clear.
There are two moments where a personal loan that you are using to pay off your debts can go right or wrong. This is one of them. When you have the money in your hand, be sure to use it as you planned. As credit.com notes, “For it to truly help you get out of debt, you have to stick to the plan.”
2. Put away your cards
We said there are two moments. This is the other one. When your cards are showing a zero- or very-low balance, it’s tempting to use them for other needs and wants. It’s normal — thinking about it doesn’t make you bad. But actually doing it could make your credit story worse. Remember, you didn’t wave a magic wand and make your debt disappear. You moved it into a more manageable and, often, more economical personal loan.
So put your cards away. Cut them up if it helps you resist the urge to use them. In a true emergency, your credit card issuer can always get you a new card if you keep the account open.
While you get your financial health in order, it’s best to spend only from cash on hand and not pile up new debt.
3. If you have other higher interest debt, pay it down
If you have other cards or loans that are costing you a lot in interest charges, and you can afford to do so, pay more than the minimums on them whenever you can. That debt will disappear faster, along with the high interest you’re paying.
4. Start or grow your emergency fund
What would you do if your job went away today? A majority of Americans already have trouble coming up with cash for an unexpected expense, according to a 2017 bankrate.com survey. Imagine how much worse that would be with a sudden interruption in income.
That’s why financial experts recommend that everyone build up an emergency savings fund to cover 3-6 months of expenses. Even one month is better than nothing at all.
Of course, this will be difficult as you’re working to rebuild your financial health. But whatever amount you can set aside in a savings account will grow faster than you think. Try to “Pay yourself” a fixed amount from each paycheck first and put it in the savings account. You’ll be glad you did when the unexpected happens.
Looking for more help getting started? Nerdwallet has a simple calculator to help you customize your own personal savings plan.
5. Make your budget
For many people, the reason the money just seems to disappear every month is that they’ve never taken the time to make a simple monthly budget. For a lot of us, “making a budget” is something we always seem to put off. You can correct that with just an hour or two of effort one evening.
As Investopedia puts it, “A budget forces you to map out your goals, save your money, keep track of your progress and make your dreams a realityhttps://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1109/6-reasons-why-you-need-a-budget.aspx.”
Looking to get started? mint.com has a short and simple list of what you need to do to get a family budget going. You won’t need any special tools except some paper and possibly a calculator.
If you’re handy with spreadsheets, HuffingtonPost has some excellent templates that you can plug into Excel, Numbers, Google Sheets or any other similar program. These will help you automate some of the daily, weekly and monthly updating once you have your baseline numbers in place.
And, if you’re ready to take on this budget challenge like a champ, there are free and paid services that will help you tame your budget. thebalance.com has a great survey of some of the best online apps to get you started.
The best part about all of these tips? The more you put into them, the more you’ll get back as evidenced in improving financial health and, if you stick to the plan, a better credit score.