Friday, February 17, 2006 marked the first of a multi-part series for The Oprah Winfrey Show, where Oprah challenged Americans to get out of debt. Oprah teamed up with three of the nations top financial experts to create a step-by-step action plan to show her viewers how to get out of debt. Oprah featured Jean Chatzky, Glinda Bridgforth, David Bach as her top financial experts.
Oprah compared Americas over-spending habits to our similar over-eating habits. She showed how compulsive spending is much like compulsive eating and how America doesn’t just have a high rate of obesity in our body, but obesity in our debt.
Oprah featured three families that were suffering from their high debt. First, there was the Widlund’s, who had the lowest annual income at over $75,000 and $81,000 in debt! Then there was the Eggleston’s, making about $92,000 a year and with $115,000 in debt. And the Bradley’s topped it off with over $100,000 a year income and $170,000 in debt.
The Four Steps of the Debt Diet, WITH some Special “Secret Sauce” added… Enjoy!
Debt Diet Step 1: How much debt do you really have?
Calculate how much debt you really have so you can begin paying it down.
Often times, many people do not even know how much debt they really have. Adding up your current debt is an important first step to getting your debt under control.
It’s a good idea to pull your current credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TranUnion). Whether you regularly get monthly statements or not, running this kind of credit report will show you any old debts that you still may owe, along with anything that may be being reported to the bureaus for which you may not be responsible.
Special “Secret Sauce” for Step 1 of the Debt Diet: What “kind” is just as important as how much…
Knowing your “Point A”, your “current reality” or where you’re starting from IS the best place to start. If you were driving to New York, how would you know where to go if you didn’t know where you were starting from?
…But knowing how much debt you have is only one side of the coin.The other side of the coin is knowing what kind of debt you have.
Knowing how much of each type of debt you have will make a HUGE difference in understanding which options are available to you, AND how each option will impact you.
Organize your debt into these categories:
o Secured Debt – This includes any debt secured by a title or asset, like a house, car, motorcycle, boat, RV, etc. This may also include dirt bikes, quads, jewelry, or furniture.
o “Qualified” Unsecured Debt – This includes all unsecured debt (debt NOT secured by a title or asset) that may qualify for debt management programs iva such as credit counseling, debt negotiation/settlement or other debt management programs.
Qualified unsecured debt includes credit cards, personal loans, credit unions, hospital & medical bills, collection accounts, and deficiency balances.
Some examples of unsecured debt that is not qualified for debt management programs are payday loans, cash advances, MAC tools, Military accounts (Star, Omni, etc.), public utilities, personal loans from family or friends, and student loans.
o Other Unsecured Debt – All unsecured debt “not included” above
o Student Loan Debt – Self explanatory.
o Tax Debt – Any debts owed to the IRS or State TAX authority.
Once you know how much of each kind of debt you have, document it and keep it handy. If your situation changes, update your info and keep it current.
Debt Diet Step 2: Track your spending and find extra money to pay down the debt.
Cut back on daily extras and find savings where you least expect them.
Track Your Spending:
This is a multi-part step. The first part is to track your spending. Track each and every penny that you spend, whether it’s food, coffee, gum, bills, etc., track it and write it down for review.