Why the recession can be a good thing for those in debt

(ARA) – It’s been a tough few years for most Americans, facing a constricting national – and world – economy, job losses, pay cuts and a tough employment market. It can certainly be difficult to see the good in those circumstances, but helpful things can come out of these challenging times. You don’t need to be a Pollyanna, but taking a practical look at how the recession affects your personal finances can show that there are some positives.

One of the biggest benefits that can be seen in the recent recession is that it is forcing many people to change their behaviors. Where before, many Americans had a “buy-it-now-and-worry-about-paying-later” attitude, which led to racking up huge credit card balances, more are now buying only what they can afford.

What people are discovering is that this is not only a good time to stop accruing personal debt, but also a good time to work on paying it down. Even on tighter budgets, people are finding ways to chip away at their existing debt, thanks to refocusing their spending more on necessities and less on desires.

The effect of tightening your belt to pay down your debt is doubly positive in the current economic atmosphere. Not only will it help you balance your finances, bit by bit, so that you’ll eventually get to a healthier financial situation, but it may also help to improve your credit. As a result of the recession, banks and lenders have severely restricted their lending practices, making it tougher to get loans without above average credit. Typically having a smaller debt to credit ratio, or owing less than your total available credit limits, is a good position to be in if you’re applying for new credit.

Keeping an eye on your credit and paying down debt go hand in hand, but it can be difficult to know where to start. One good first step is to take advantage of the free credit report that you’re entitled to each year – it can help you get a bird’s eye view of what you owe and to whom you owe it.

Another option that can simplify matters is to automatically integrate monitoring your credit report with your efforts to pay off your debt. Equifax, one of three nationwide credit reporting agencies from which you can get your free annual credit reports, offers Debt Wise, an online program to help make paying down debt easier. It synchs automatically with your credit report, allowing you to select which debts to include in a payment plan. A feature called “Debt Stacking” shows you the best way to prioritize debts so that paying them off is simpler.

For most people, it’s a fantasy to be able to pay off debts in a single payment and not have to worry about them any more. But if you take a dedicated, measured approach to paying down debt – even when times seem to be at their tightest – it’s possible to get rid of it faster than you would imagine. In the long run, your new perspective on debt and spending, forged in the latest recession, will help your family be even more financially secure.