How to Consolidate Your Debts in Florida

3,722 families have filed bankruptcy using Upsolve. Learn More.

Written by Kassandra Kuehl.  
Updated December 11, 2019

Summary

If consolidating your debt could make your household budget more manageable, cut your high-interest rates, and help you to raise your credit score, you’ll need to carefully examine your finances and your consolidation options. If you determine that debt consolidation is the best way forward, you’ll need to commit to a consolidation approach and plan ahead so that you can keep on top of your monthly payments for your loan or DMP.

If you dread opening your monthly bills because you’re unsure of whether you’ll be able to make the minimum payments on both your debts and expenses, you may benefit from the debt consolidation process. Debt consolidation generally involves merging different types of debt so that you only have to make one Florida debt consolidation loan payment each month instead of many payments to multiple creditors. This arrangement can be beneficial for numerous reasons. First, by streamlining your debt and allowing you to focus on aggressively paying down a single account on time every month, you can improve your credit history and raise your credit score over time. Second, you can lower your risk of incurring late fees due to late payments on many accounts because you’ll only have one loan payment to keep track of. Third, debt consolidation usually results in loan terms that feature low-interest rates and lower minimum monthly payments when compared to your current debt structure. Unless you enter into a debt management plan, you’ll consolidate your debt by using a new loan or a balance transfer. You have many consolidation loan options, including personal loans, home equity loans, credit card balance transfers, and unsecured debt consolidation loans. After using the new (and ideally low-interest) loan to pay your debts, you’ll focus on making a single, timely monthly payment for your Florida debt consolidation loan.

Learn More Through Free Nonprofit Credit Counseling

If you’re unsure of whether debt consolidation is the best option for your financial situation, consider scheduling a free credit counseling session with an accredited, nonprofit credit counseling agency. Many of these agencies located in Florida offer a no-cost, initial credit counseling session to anyone who wants to take advantage of the opportunity. During the session, a credit counselor will ask about your income, household expenses, spending habits, and your financial goals. They will also evaluate your debts, from student loans and credit card debt to car loans and medical bills. Once your credit counselor has a strong sense of your financial circumstances, they will provide you with a personalized action plan. Included in these next steps may be a recommendation that you consolidate some or all of your existing debts.

↑ Back to top

How to Consolidate Your Debts in Florida

If consolidating your debt could make your household budget more manageable, cut your high-interest rates, and help you to raise your credit score, you’ll need to carefully examine your finances and your consolidation options. If you determine that debt consolidation is the best way forward, you’ll need to commit to a consolidation approach and plan ahead so that you can keep on top of your monthly payments for your loan or DMP.


Collect the Details About Your Debts

Before you can consolidate your debt, you’ll need to determine whether your financial situation can support a reliable Florida debt consolidation loan payment each month. It’s generally a good idea to begin this process by assessing your debt. Gathering detailed information about your student loans, credit card debt, auto loans, personal loans, existing home equity loans, and other debts will not only tell you important things about your finances generally, it’ll save you time and energy when determining which debts to consolidate. A good place to start gathering this data is your credit report. You can request afree copy of your current credit report and credit score online in just a few minutes. This document will break down what you owe and who your creditors are. The only debt that won’t show up on this document is personal loans from family members or friends, so you’ll need to account for these yourself.

Determine Your Monthly Income

Determining whether your monthly income is sufficient to cover a consolidated debt payment isn’t always as easy as comparing your income to your expenses and current minimum debt payments. Yes, you’ll need to complete that comparison once your expenses are accounted for. However, you also need to examine your income carefully and consider whether it’s reliable enough for you to make your consolidated loan payments on time. When gathering information about your income, take pay stubs and other income-related receipts from the past few months and evaluate each in turn. Which sources are reliable and paid at the same time every month? Which sources are more irregular? If you can’t pay your consolidated loan payments every month, on time, you may benefit from looking into other money management and debt relief options. Unfortunately, debt consolidation doesn’t always work well for those individuals who have more irregular income than regular income.

Put Together Your Budget

Now it’s time to assess your household expenses. Before you factor in your minimum monthly debt payments and compare that figure to your monthly income, you need to budget for all of your fixed, unfixed, and irregular monthly expenses. Leaving any predictable expenses out of this budget will leave you with an incomplete picture of your finances. Therefore, it can be helpful to sit down with your bank statements and credit card statements for the past few months so that you can be clearly reminded of how much you spend, what you spend your income on, and when during the month (or year) each expense arises. Fixed expenses are easy to note because they don’t change from month to month. Unfixed expenses, like food and gas, occur each month but change based on your circumstances at the time. Irregular expenses happen every year but not necessarily every month. Add up how much each expense costs you annually and divide by 12 to get your monthly budget figure for that expense.

Do the Math

You now have detailed snapshots of your income, expenses, and debts. It’s time to place this information in context so that you can make an informed decision concerning whether debt consolidation is a good option for you. Start simply by examining your income as compared to your expenses and minimum existing debt payments due each month. If your income is the larger figure of the two, then debt consolidation may still be worthy of your consideration. In addition to making your payment schedule easier because you’ll only need to make one debt payment each month for the accounts you consolidate, refinancing can help you to secure a better interest rate, and to bolster your credit over time. If your reliable income doesn’t stretch to cover your monthly expenses and debt payments, you’ll need to assess how great the gap between these two figures is. Debt consolidation will likely help you save on interest and will lower the amount you pay monthly on the accounts you consolidate. But if your debt is so overwhelming that your income won’t stretch to cover your loan payment reliably, you may need to speak with your credit counselor about alternative ways to manage your debt and build your credit over time.

Review Your Florida Debt Consolidation Options

You can either consolidate your debt by securing a loan and using it as a balance transfer to pay your existing debts or you can enter into a debt management plan. If you decide to take out a loan, you’ll have many types to choose from. Because secured debt agreements usually feature low-interest rates to begin with and/or serve as long term investments, it usually makes sense to consolidate your unsecured loans and other unsecured debt only. As a result, applying for an unsecured debt consolidation loan with a low-interest rate and low origination fee is likely your safest, most reliable option. However, you can opt to use a personal loan, home equity loan, credit card balance transfer, or an alternative loan option if that makes more sense for your circumstances. For example, if you already have poor credit and securing a loan will be difficult but your family is willing to advance you the money to pay off your debts, this arrangement may be preferable to taking out a traditional loan.

Apply for a Florida Debt Consolidation Loan

Before you apply for a debt consolidation loan, it’s important to remember that this process is different than debt settlement. If a debt-related offer asks you to pay portions of your debt in exchange for forgiveness of the remainder, that’s a debt settlement offer. Because so many scammers try to convince consumers to enter into debt settlement agreements, it’s important to research the reputation of your lender and to double-check that your loan terms and origination fees are fair before you sign a contract or transfer fees to an organization. The Better Business Bureau and the Florida attorney general can provide you with valuable information about a lender’s reputation and whether it offers legitimate debt consolidation services or debt settlement scams.

How to Stay Current with Payments After Consolidating Your Debts in Florida

When many Americans consolidate their debt, they experience a feeling of overwhelming relief followed by overwhelming panic. This is normal. Once you’ve experienced financial challenges, it’s easy to worry that you’ll find yourself right back in debt just a few months or years down the road. Thankfully, there are things you can do to better ensure that you remain “on top” of your consolidated loan payments until your total amount is paid. First, make sure to schedule your payment due date at a time of the month that works for you. Second, keep revising the budget you recently made as your financial circumstances evolve. That way, you can anticipate financial ups and downs and you can adjust your finances to fit the needs of the day. You may even want to create incentives for yourself. Perhaps consider setting aside $15 every month so that when you make your payment early, you can treat yourself to a movie.

↑ Back to top
Fresh Start Diaries
"I'm going to be honest with you, pre-bankruptcy my credit score went down to a 543. My score today is a 720. With the help of Upsolve, I feel free again. I have the ability to build myself into something new."
I filed with Upsolve. Read my story →

Florida Debt Management Plan

One of your consolidation options doesn’t involve having to secure a new line of credit. If you work with an accredited, nonprofit credit counseling agency to create a debt management plan, you’ll consolidate your loans (likely with a lower monthly payment and lower interest rate) without a balance transfer. A Florida debt management plan allows a credit counselor to negotiate new payment plans with your creditors. You’ll then make a single monthly payment to the agency, which will pay your creditors directly per your DMP terms.

↑ Back to top

Florida Debt Settlement

If you currently have bad credit, you’re concerned about having to secure a new loan, and you have significant funds available to partially pay down your debt, you may want to consider debt settlement. Florida debt settlement involves working with a debt settlement company to negotiate new debt repayment terms with creditors for each account you hope to settle. The debt settlement company will try to get your creditors to agree to forgive a significant fraction of your debt if you agree to pay the remainder of the total amount due in a single payment.

↑ Back to top

Florida Bankruptcy

Sometimes, the most beneficial approach an individual can take when managing their debt involves filing for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy doesn’t just restructure debt; it eventually leads to significant debt relief. Debt consolidation works well when individuals can reliably make their monthly payments. But when the total amount of debt owed and minimum payment amounts are overwhelming, filing for Florida bankruptcy may be the best debt relief option available. If you don’t earn much income, it can be helpful to research whether you’re eligible for free filing assistance.

↑ Back to top
About the author

It's easy to get help

Choose one of the options below to get assistance with your bankruptcy:
Page 1Created with Sketch.

Free Web App

Take our bankruptcy screener to see if you're a fit for Upsolve's free web app!

Take Screener
3722 families have filed with Upsolve! ☆
OR

Private Attorney

Get a free bankruptcy evaluation from an independent law firm.

Find Attorney
2572 people found attorneys this month

Upsolve is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that started in 2016. Our mission is to help low-income families who cannot afford lawyers file bankruptcy for free, using an online web app. Spun out of Harvard Law School, our team includes lawyers, engineers, and judges. We have world-class funders that include the U.S. government, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and leading foundations. It's one of the greatest civil rights injustices of our time that low-income families can’t access their basic rights when they can’t afford to pay for help. Combining direct services and advocacy, we’re fighting this injustice.

To learn more, read why we started Upsolve in 2016, our reviews from past users, and our press coverage from places like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.