Home Equity Loans and Lines of Credit: Before the 2008 financial crisis, this was one of the most common methods of consolidating credit card debt. The benefit of a home equity loan is the low interest rate and the ability to deduct the interest. However, you put your home at risk and tempt yourself with extending the term. Credit unions offer particularly low interest rates. You can visit your local credit union, or work with a national credit union like PenFed, which offers home equity loan interest rates as low as 3.74%.
If you find that you're always struggling to have enough money in your account, establishing automatic payments is a simple way to pad your savings. "When you get your direct deposit from your payroll, you can set it up with your bank that a certain portion automatically goes into your savings account," says Danial Tariq, vice president at Quontic Bank in New York City. "The idea is that you do not spend what you get. You are not tempted to spend a portion of your income because you don't even see it. It's human [nature to think] 'Oh, I have $500. I can spend $500.'"
The earlier you find out about a credit report or identity theft issue, the easier it is to solve. To ensure that you find out about issues in the future, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. Some companies, like CreditKarma, offer free credit monitoring. Other companies offer daily three-bureau monitoring and resolution services. You can learn more about these options here.
We typically recommend fixing the rate as much as possible, unless you know that you can pay off your debt during a short time period. If you think it will take you 20 years to pay off your loan, you don’t want to bet on the next 20 years of interest rates. But, if you think you will pay it off in five years, you may want to take the bet. Some providers with variable rates will cap them, which can help temper some of the risk.
Next, estimate your monthly spending habits for other expenses such as gas, groceries and entertainment. Create a limit, based on your income, of what you can spend in each of the different categories of expenses. For example, if you tend to spend $400 a month on groceries, try to stick to $300 a month on groceries by making changes like buying generic brands, using coupons, and resisting impulse purchases.
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