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The Do’s & Don’ts of Debt Review

Debt review has been an important part of South African law since 2007. It has helped hundreds of thousands of consumers to repay their debt in an
affordable way each month.

Hundreds of consumers get totally out of debt each month due to this process, and have been able to go from being indebted to starting to build wealth.

There are some people who start the process and quickly fail, while others start the process and complete it successfully. What is the difference? Why can some people pay off their debts while others can’t?

Let’s look at 5 things you should do while in debt review and 5 things you should definitely avoid, if you want to pay off your debt successfully.

1. TALK TO YOUR DEBT COUNSELLOR

Throughout the debt review process, you are going to be relying on one very important person, your Debt Counsellor. This professional has the qualifications and experience needed to successfully navigate you
through the process.

So, it is important to know who your Debt Counsellor is. Not just the name of the practice they work at (there may be many Debt Counsellors working at the same practice). You need to know them by name. You need to be able to pick up the phone and talk to them directly (not just a random staff member).

This is the person who you want to talk to about any challenges that come along, to ask for sound financial advice and if you are worried or unhappy about something, this is the person who can get things done.

So, don’t go out looking for advice on random Face book pages, call your Debt Counsellor who knows your situation intimately and get professional, knowledgeable advice from someone who knows your situation well.

2. BE VERY ORGANISED

Before you started debt review, you may have had some bad financial habits like, ignoring your monthly statements from credit providers. Maybe you just left statements and invoices lying around or even threw them away. Did that work out well for you?

Probably not. It may well have contributed to making your situation harder to deal with when you first started struggling to make the required debt repayments.

So during the debt review process, it is very important to save and backup important emails and documents. It can help to print them out, file or electronically store important documents.

It will help you stay motivated if you accurately track your monthly progress towards your goal of paying off your debt. We all like to know if we are making progress or not, so get organized and keep track of how long you have got to go.

3. EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT DEBT REVIEW

When you first started debt review, you probably had several long chats with your Debt Counsellor about how the process will work.

Maybe you had some follow up sessions and even Googled useful articles about the process. The problem is that we tend to forget things over time. What was at first very clear in our minds, gets fuzzy after a while. Soon you might be pretty unsure about a lot of stuff.

This is why it is important to educate yourself about the process. Of course you might Google things and find a lot of incorrect information online (like everything these days) so, be careful of who you look to for information and don’t believe everything you see online. Choose reputable sources like the NCR or Debtfree Magazine.

Chat with your Debt Counsellor from time to time about questions you have. Their websites may contain helpful FAQ articles and you should always feel free to drop your Debt Counsellor an email if you are confused about something.

The process can also change a little over time, as new court cases happen or new adjustments are made to the law. So, it is good to stay current with things about debt review. Consider it one of your new hobbies, and dedicate a little time to it each week or month.

4. BUDGET

If you enter debt review and do not budget, then you are heading for disaster. It may not happen right away.

It might even take a year or even two, but if you are not planning your spending and tracking your payments, then trouble is going to hit you out of nowhere. Your Debt Counsellor may have initially helped you work out a monthly and annual budget figure, but it is up to you to stick to those figures or even better, beat them if you can.

Your budget will have a section for saving towards annual expenses (like car services or school clothes for the kids). If you are not managing to set those funds aside, then you are going to eventually have a problem, guaranteed. In the past maybe you never would have planned and saved, but that has to change.

You do not have to track every single cent of your spending every day, but you should be keeping an eye on this, in some shape or form, if you want to succeed. It is like keeping an eye on your speed while driving and occasionally also looking over to check that you have enough petrol in the tank.

If your budget is not working, then talk to your Debt Counsellor right away.

5. BE PATIENT AND READY TO GO THE WHOLE JOURNEY

Imagine travelling from Johannesburg to Cape Town for a much deserved beach holiday. That sounds like fun.

Now imaging that you are half way to Cape Town but you feel tired of all the driving so, you stop. How wonderful is your holiday in Cape Town going to be?

Well, you never reached your destination, so you are not going to have a great time are you? No, you need to keep making progress and travel all the way to your destination to enjoy yourself. It doesn’t help to pull over 100 km or even 50 km from your destination. So, when you start debt review you must be determined to make it all the way. Don’t start the process and then later decide to stop. You will not reach your goal of getting out of debt. You will have made a little progress, but you will not get the result you want if you are not prepared to follow though.

Debt review is a journey, not a quick little spin around the block. It will not take you just a month or two. No, realistically you will have to be patient and persistent and it will take you months, it could take years. But each year you will be closer and closer to your end goal. Each month you will have taken yet another step towards freedom. Each day you will be living a more manageable life without overwhelming debt stress. So, be patient and do not give up before you get there.

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