Oprah's Debt Diet Step 1: How Much Debt Do You Really Have?
Print this chart and track your debt!
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To get a free report, go to the website set up by the Federal Trade Commission, AnnualCreditReport.com.
You can also print out the form, fill it out and mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Or call toll-free: 877-322-8228.
If you can't get a free report, buy one from one of the three credit-reporting agencies:
- Equifax: 888-766-0008 or Equifax.com
- Experian: 888-397-3742 or Experian.com
- TransUnion: 800-680-7289 or Transunion.com
It's very important to know your credit score. Once you start paying down your debt, your credit score will rise. A higher credit score means lower interest rates.
Uncle Sam second: If you have the money to pay your taxes immediately, the IRS will generally work with you to come up with a schedule of payments. By all means, though, file your taxes when they are due. Not filing can result in penalties and interest of up to 25 percent of what you owe.
Most student loans are backed by the government. That means that, like back taxes, the government is allowed to come after these loans in a way that other creditors aren't. If you're delinquent in paying your back taxes or student loans, the government can seize your tax refunds and garnish your wages and, in some cases, your Social Security benefits. Fortunately, the government also has a number of solutions for people who can't afford to make their student loan payments, including putting those loans on hold if you're out of work or stretching out (and thereby reducing) the amount owed monthly. However, the longer you take to pay off the loans the more interest will accrue, so tighten your belt and pay as much as possible.
Everything else third: All of your other debts—bank-card debt, department store debts, payments for furniture and appliances—are back-burner debts. That doesn't mean you shouldn't pay them. You borrowed the money; of course, you should try to pay them. But if you're in a situation where you know that not every creditor is going to get paid, these are the ones you put on hold.
Step 2: Track your spending and find extra money to pay down debt
Get all of Oprah's Debt Diet steps