(BPT) - Providing for a family. Getting an education. Striving for the American dream. Sarah Thomas of Bono, AR, was like so many others, trying to better her life. She got a master's in nursing in order to give herself and her son a bright future, but soon after found herself overwhelmed by loans.
'I pursued an education and ended up with a ton of credit card debt,' says Thomas. 'The American dream gone wrong.'
She's not alone. The average U.S. household with debt carries $15,355 in credit card debt and $129,579 in total debt, according to nerdwallet.com. And the Federal Reserve's interest rate hike this month means that you will be paying even more interest on your debt; that 0.25 percent rate increase equates to $2 billion in extra fees for Americans next year. For people like Thomas, the weight of paying off high-interest loans can be overwhelming.
Thomas was able to consolidate her high-interest debt and take control of her finances. If you want to take control of your financial future and eliminate debt, these simple yet highly-effective strategies can make a big difference.
Step 1: Build a solid budget
Use an online budgeting tool like Mint.com to organize your spending. Even if you aren't able to stick to the budget you set every month, it's important to know where your dollars are going so you can take action accordingly.
Step 2: Consider cost-cutting measures
Can you switch to a cheaper phone plan? Could you cut cable? What about buying generic brands? These are important questions you can ask as you audit your expenses and take appropriate measures to trim unnecessary spending.
Step 3: Research debt consolidation options
Marketplace lending, also called peer-to-peer lending, is an alternative to traditional loans through which borrowers get access to low, fixed rates (insulated from further rate increases by the Fed) with no hidden fees or prepayment penalties. The industry is growing rapidly, with one of the leading platforms, Prosper, surpassing $5 billion in loans this year.
For many, a debt consolidation loan helps simplify things. Instead of having multiple bills with varying high interest rates, you can take out a loan to pay off all your debt, and then simply repay the one loan at a lower fixed interest rate. For many people, having one payment versus many makes it much easier to feel like they are in control of their finances.
An added benefit is that rates are often lower than with a credit card. According to a WiseBread.com article, it's important to begin the peer-to-peer lending process by getting a rate quote. Then you can do the math to determine how much money you can save consolidating your debt and paying it off at an accelerated pace.
Thomas decided to consolidate her debt through Prosper. She went to www.prosper.com and selected the loan's amount and purpose. 'It's been the easiest, most streamlined process that I have ever had,' says Thomas. 'I am so thankful that we now have an attainable way to pay off debt. That way we can be proud of our hard work rather than forever burdened by it.'
To learn more, check out Prosper's blog at http://blog.prosper.com.