Editorial - How to get out of the debt trap“Think what you do when you run into debt. You give to another power over your liberty.”
“Think what you do when you run into debt. You give to another power over your liberty.”
Those words, penned by Ben Franklin, were included in a news release from Lutheran Social Services (LSS) last week. The LSS is urging people to put Ben Franklin’s values to work in the new year.
Debt is more than a personal problem. It can affect relationships, lead to domestic problems, trigger unhealthy escapism such as alcohol or drug dependence, hurt businesses that rely on people’s ability to pay, and increase crime when people turn to more drastic ways to deal with their mounting debt.
As paralyzing and pervasive as the problem may be, there is hope. People can beat debt.
A longtime financial counselor and current program director for LSS Financial Counseling Service, Darryl Dahlheimer, puts it this way: “Debt can feel like a trap with no way out. The good news is that people can face down their debt with a plan to pay it off. In the spirit of Ben Franklin, we want to help as many people as possible to develop financial stability and get their freedom back.”
Here are some tips the LSS provided:
•Pay your debt off faster: Pay more than the minimums on your own, or sign up for a debt management plan, so you’re not paying mostly interest
•Pay yourself first. Make sure your budget includes dollars allocated to a savings account, even if it’s $5 a paycheck.
•Enroll in matched savings: If your employer offers matched savings through a 403b or 401k program, be sure to participate. It’s free money!
•Cook at home and bring your lunch to work. With an estimated $5 you save each day by bringing your lunch and not going out with co-workers, you can save well over $1,000 annually.
Help is available. Certified credit counselors can work with consumers to develop a workable spending plan and set up a structured debt management plan that could result in creditors reducing interest rates and stopping late fees.
LSS Financial Counseling Service, a member of the Better Business Bureau and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, helps more than 20,000 people every year with free budget and debt counseling, foreclosure prevention counseling and monthly debt management plans. For more information, call 1-888-577-2227.
The newspaper would like to hear from people who have escaped the trap of having too much debt or have some good “penny pinching” advice to pass along. Send your money-saving ideas to Echo Press, Attn: Editor, P.O. Box 549, Alexandria, MN 56308, or make a comment to this editorial online at www.echopress.com.
We’ll run the best ideas in a future issue of the Echo Press. People who provide their name along with their suggestion will go into a drawing that will earn them a free one-year subscription to the Echo Press. They can get a new subscription, extend their existing one or start a subscription for a friend. The deadline for submitting ideas is January 17 – Ben Franklin’s birthday.
Battling debt can seem a lonely uphill battle. Let’s attack it as a community by sharing strategies, secrets and success stories.